In the past seven days, the Nigeria’s former capital and the entertainment hub of the nation, Lagos, has been buzzing with activities put together to celebrate one of Nigeria’s most prominent cultural ambassadors, quintessential journalist, culture advocate par excellence, literary enthusiast and actor, Jahman Oladejo Anikulapo, who turned 60 years penultimate Monday, January 16. And deservedly so given his sustained selfless service to the promotion of Nigerian arts and culture, as Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka notes his tribute, Jahman promotes others without promoting himself.
“I always think of Jahman as ghost worker. By that I mean you don’t know how he achieves what he does. If you give him a task, you don’t ever see him at work on it. I think he’s an instinctive artistic facilitator. He promotes others without promoting himself. He has assisted me in theatrical productions and worked behind the scenes. He should just continue the same way as he is doing.” To celebrate him, a committee of friends, comprising some of his colleagues and mentees at The Guadian, where he was The Arts Editor and later the Editor, Guardian on Sunday, friends, associates, among others, put together a special birthday bash.
Held at the alluring Freedom Park, Broad Street, Lagos, the two-part event – An Open Forum and Dinner – titled ‘Celebrating Jahman @ 60’, as expected, was marked with glowing tributes, inspiring music, dance and spoken word performances. It began with ‘Open Forum’ on the topic ‘The Artman As Interventionist: Celebrating Jahman@60’. Renowned theatre scholar and former Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Management Services), University of Lagos, Prof. Duro Oni led the discourse in his keynote entitled, ‘The Art Man: Celebrating an Indispensable Interventionist’, and followed by the panelists comprising Molara Wood, Lookman Sanusi, Kle Odutola, Nobert Young, Ayo Arigbabu, Segun Adefila, some of who participated virtually (via Zoom) as they paid glowing tributes to ‘artman’, Jahman.
The dignitaries at the event included Ben Tomoloju, Taiwo Ajai-Lycett, Joke Silva, Martins Oloja, Koko Kalango, Tam Fiofori, Benson Idonijie. Prof. Oni described Jahman as a hardworking and focused person. “Jahman is quite a bundle. He is more than an octopus.
He is creative. He is diligent. He is consistent. He is hardworking. He is focused. He is very confident. And let me say he is very prudent,” he said, adding that “Jahman would not be part of a wasteful exercise in terms of having budgets that are just padded. He is also loyal with very high integrity.” He also drew the attention of the audience to the long list of individuals that constituted the Committee of Friends that organised the event as well as the many personalities who came to celebrate Jahman as evidence of the sacrifices the celebrant has made to celebrate others in the past.
Oni also spoke about Jahman’s uncompromising attitude to the arts, the groundbreaking efforts he had made to bring artists into the limelight by giving them visibility through the art pages of The Guardian, his literary and art criticism that made many artists and writers better and how he put the establishment to its toes. According to Oni, “in those days, those of us that are in the theatre, until Jahman and Ben Tomoloju (Ben T) came, there was only one little column tucked away in one side of the newspaper that they called The Arts Review. I mean it was one-quarter of a page and they put everything inside. And from nowhere we are now getting so much attention. We must thank all these people who have been involved in all of this. Of course, Jahman has also expressed himself at festivals all over the world and has mentored quite several things and events.”
Prof. Oni described Jahman as a living legend that is so knowledgeable about the things that he does, noting also that Jahman has influenced a lot more in the direction of culture, and arts in Nigeria than anyone that I know of recently with his journalism and his advocacy. “He is the person who keeps the chief executives of information and culture parastatals on their toes. I have the privilege of being the chief executive of one of the parastatals and you will not believe that the chief executives were used to organising parties and envelopes at the end of the year for journalists and all of that and then they would get very bad reviews, because Jahman would not be part of it. “At 60 there is no doubt that Jahman has given so much in the area of serving as an interventionist in the growth of the arts and culture in Nigeria, Africa and indeed globally.
However, considering his boisterous energy, I think his best is yet to be seen and the work is just about to begin.” As all the speakers shared their experiences working with the celebrant, one thing was evident, Jahman’s commitment and selfless service for the promotion of arts and culture. Veteran actress, Taiwo Ajai- Lycett, described Jahman as epitome of the true strong society, virtues of dedication, selflessness, respect, civility and focus. “Jahman represents all that is lacking in our society. He doesn’t care much about himself, and when you get to that stage, it means you have attained freedom.
He is the epitome of the true strong society that I want. “We are all here to pay tributes to virtues, qualities and values that are lacking in our society at the moment. And he represents all those virtues of dedication, selflessness, respect, civility and focus above all else,” Ajai-Lycett said. She also used the opportunity to enjoin everyone to cultivate those virtues. The celebrant was full of praises for his mentor, Ben Tomoloju, who was his former teacher in secondary school and later boss at The Guardian.
“If I had not encountered Ben Tomoloju, I probably would have ended like people where we learnt boxing, how to use a knife, and bottles to attack other people and how to disarm an opponent having a weapon in Agege. We used to go from one part of the town to another, to go and do area boy fight and use weapons,” Jahman recalled. While tributes continued to flow, there also series of performances at the Dinner, among which include the joint rendition of Ben T’s ‘Epo Biriki’ by the composer himself, Yinka Davies and Edaoto; Crown Troupe of Africa; Gifted Steppers; and spoken word performance by Akeem Lasisi.
Jahman: A good man who oils my career relevance – Oloja
The MD/Editor-in-Chief, The Guardian, Martins Oloja, described Jahman as a good man whose goodness paved the way for his relevance and significance at The Guardian. “He is a good man who can also be described as a good tree that has produced good fruits for The Guardian. That is why the three title editors at The Guardian today Alabi Williams, (Editor, Daily), Kabir Alabi, (Editor, Sunday), Chuks Nwane, (Editor, Saturday) are coincidentally journalists who have worked well with this same Jahman as editor. Besides, there is a sense in which we can call out Deputy Editor, News, Coordinator (Life) Greg Nwakunor, News Editor (daily), Templar Olaiya are Jahman’s men. “I can’t wait for the next milestone before proclaiming Jahman as a good man. I pray every day to have a double portion of ‘annointing’ of Jahman as a good man. A godsend, whose goodness paved the way for my relevance and significance at The Guardian,” Onoja stated.
A quintessential artman, his dedication to work was legendary – Steve Ayorinde
For Steve Ayorinde, a mentee of Jahman, former Editor of The Punch, MD at National Mirror, and Commissioner for Information & Strategy/Tourism Arts & Culture, Lagos State, Jahman’s dedication to work was legendary. According to him, Jahman just loved the arts, and cherished writing about it. “His commitment to duty might, at first, appear simply as good work ethics and great journalism, from professionalism point of view. But it was more than mere journalism. He was simply a quintessential artman, and a cultured mind too, who just happened to find an effective vehicle of communication through the platform of The Guardian. Many arts journalist in Nigeria today must salute his courage, discipline and pathfinder rol. It was under his leadership in 1995, immediately after The Guardian was deproscribed by the military government that the arts pages became a daily offering. “I have come to know, respect and appreciate Jahman more, beyond the period we spent together at The Guardian in almost all of the 1990s. “The relationship I have developed with him, in all the 23 plus years after leaving him at Rutam House, has been exceedingly rich and rewarding. “Let’s hope his new age won’t slow him down. But with the Committee for Relevant Arts (CORA), the Lagos Book & Arts Festival (LABAF) and the I Represent (iRep) International Documentary Festival and a few other arty commitments of his, this won’t be a boring decade for him. Diamonds are forever and they aptly define the stuff that Jahman is made of. As he climbs the sixth floor of this earthly existence, may the bright light of Eledumare shine anew in his life. Rise for a toast boss, for you deserve all the accolades.” He’s the quintessential editor of editors, culture impresario – Abraham Ogbodo He’s the quintessential editor of editors, the indefatigable culture impresario, the audacious home affairs director who controls both half and a full cast, the man with a near infinite acumen to rise above challenges and till make a strong point. The man, so passionate that he can stand alone and still weighs agains the majority. A man so reserved (or should I say introverted) that he contradicts his very essence. “I stand up for Jahman, my Oga for life and among the very few human beings on earth who can sound the bell and I will truncate my own comfort to answer.”
A veritable source of inspiration – Sola Balogun
Tributes are not always the simplest of writings about someone you enormously admire. Either your words lack the required adequacy – words are never adequate – or the effusion of praises fall short of the intention. What do you say when a single person embodies the enigma of a friend, a confidante, mentor, sparring partner (in every way), a veritable source of inspiration, someone who always understands, the midnight voice of wisdom, the antidote to aloneness, the refuge…? Well, Jahman, as you arrive at the bottom rung of the sexagenarian, I wish you a successful climb of the ladder to septuagenarian age. I wish you many more years of glorious achievements and many more moons soaring at great heights.
He’s a bundle of energy, fun to be with – Kayode Ogunbunmi
“Jahman Oladejo Anikulapo is not only a boss and friend, he is also the link through which I found my wife (and always treated me as an in-law, although he is usually the one that services the relationship. Jahman (I usually shout his name with prolongation of the Jah part – Jaaaaahman) and he will respond with that half way smile (half amused, half irritated). But it is the half irritated part that motivates me! Jahman is a bundle of energy and a lot of fun to be with. He is as comfortable writing about culture players, critiquing and advocating about culture policies as an activist, or as a promoter of upcoming culture players or managing cultural events. He is a force of nature that has refuced to slow down over the years. I recall our years at the newsroom when we have spent hours to produce the weekly paper. As the rest of us looked forward to a night of rest and recuperation, Jahman was already off to one cultural event or the other. I have no doubt that Jahman gives to the cultural industry more than he gets from it. He has always gravitated to where the hard work and heavy liftings is needed in the sector – and we know that is usually not where the money is. I sometimes wish he would be more ‘strategic’ that way. But it is what it is. He is who he is.”
Jahman is a workaholic – Alabi Unuagbo Williams
“Jahman is a workaholic. That is one of many aspects that thrilled me about him. If he came into the Newsroom at Rutam House for the day, he walked straight to his office, looking neither left nor right, except when it’s super necessary to acknowledge regards. He was not materialistic. He didn’t bother with much then about what next. He helped a lot of people realise their artistic goals for the love of the sector. He identified talents and groomed them. His disciples are everywhere. Little wonder a lot of people are eager to acknowledge him today. I pray for him and his family, that as he grows older, his crowd of admirers does not diminish. Above all, I wish him the ultimate, God’s love.”
Jahman’s footprints have remained indelible – Kabir Alabi Garba
For Editor, The Guardian on Sunday, Kabir Alabi Garba, who is also one of the mentees of the celebrant, Jahman’s footprints have remained indelible. “He left the Newsroon 10 years ago (January 15, 2013), after 27 years’ stint as Senior Reporter, Line Editor (Arts & Media) and title Editor (The Guardian on Sunday), his image still looms large in the newsroom. Indeed, Jahman Oladejo Anikulapo’s footprints have remained indelible talking about newsroom management, talents hunting and mentoring (human capital development) as well as uncompromising attachment to work ethics.”
He’s a man of many parts, an enigma – Okungbowa
For the News Editor, Saturday Telegraph, Andrew Iro Okungbowa, the celebrant is a man of many parts, an enigma, mentor extraordinaire. “Jahman is a man of many parts. It is difficult dissecting and more difficult penning a tribute to this great man of the pen profession, an art and culture advocate and aficionado whose religion is humanity, who today we gather to honour and celebrate as he marks his 60 years on mother earth. “He is an enigma, a philosopher – king of sort, moulder and mentor extraordinaire, who has devoted his life and resources inn discovering and nurturing talents to greater heights,” he said.