Jahman @ 60: Salute To A Boss, Buddy

Steve Ayorinde 

He was a workaholic!
He still is. 
But in the newsroom at The Guardian of early 1990s, something stood him out – an unmistakable mystique around his persona.
His dedication to work was also legendary. 
He just loved the arts and the creative sector. And he cherished writing about them; reporting them passionately.
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 artsman. A cultured mind too; who just happened to find an effective vehicle of communication through the platform of The Guardian, which was then widely celebrated as ‘the flagship’ of the Nigerian media.
Then there was the mystique of his person… and his name. 
“Ngozi will take you to Jahman,” said Mr. Ben Tomoloju. “He will help you settle down.” 
Mr. Tomoloju was the super-brilliant boss of the vaunted Arts Desk of The Guardian in those days. And he was handing me over to his unofficial deputy, through his secretary/typist, to help me settle in as the latest ‘test candidate’ seeking to join the best Arts & Culture reportorial team in Nigeria. 
But Jahman bawo? What type of a name was that, I wondered silently. 
Who could the reggae man at ‘The Flagship’ be? Ras Toma I knew at Great Ife. And Ras Kimono, everyone knew, even to the point of asking him to stick to his rumba stylee (and leave ‘Ajakubo’ alone). 
But this journalism’s Jahman without rasta was surely going to be a new discovery; and he should be ready to open himself up for scrutiny o! 
I was damn curious to meet and work with him, that son of man called Jahman Oladejo Anikulapo.
The Arts section was a desk full of star writers, circa 1991.
There was Yetunde Adjoto, Sonny Aragba-Akpore, Bankole Ebisemiju, Bode and a few others. 
Ozolua Uhakheme crossed over from Guardian Express after his youth service. 
Sola Balogun would soon join a few months later. And Olayiwola (Lai) Adeniji came a year or so later. Chido Okafor in tow much after him. 
While Oga Ben T (Tomoloju) was the Commander-in-Chief and honcho of the desk, Jahman was the field marshal and navigator; the go-to man. 
He was the one who worked like his life depended on it and played as though he was working. 
Yet, he was never tired of putting neophytes like me through.
With his name and disposition, I knew that not only was I at the right place at the right time; I was also cock sure I had found a life-long buddy.
And so, until 1999 when I left The Guardian, Jahman played the buddy-boss role so well that I was afraid I would sorely miss his direct mentorship and the access that his name provided.
He was tough and thorough. Firm but fair. 
With him, playing hard and working hard should go hand in hand. Neither must suffer on account of the other.
Many arts journalists in Nigeria today would easily salute his courage, discipline and pathfinder role.
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. 
It looked impossible at the beginning, but Jahman assured us that the culture space was vast enough to feed daily pages. And that a daily arts page was one of the innovations that would stand The Guardian apart in its bid to fight for market share after a whole year off the newsstands. 
He was right. 
More than 27 years after, arts, culture and entertainment reportage are flourishing today, I reckon, because a newsman who had death in his pouch managed to convince The Guardian management, and his own footsoldiers, that his beat could be as productive and revenue-generating as Sports, Business and Politics beats.
When he was later promoted as Editor of The Guardian on Sunday, the first Arts Editor to rise to that position at The Guardian, Jahman had unwittingly opened the door of possibilities for his mentees who would later tow this same line of getting to the pinnacle in various newsrooms.
For all of the 10 years he spent in that position, he was a symbol of pride to all; a shining light of professionalism and credibility; and one who was never unequally yoked let alone being compromised in the discharge of his duties. 
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.
He has never failed to ask after ‘Olori’ as he prefers to call my wife. No subject is too private to broach with him. Nor have we totally slowed down in forever exploring the underbelly of the Lagos artsworld and culture spaces, especially afterdark! 
Let’s hope his new age won’t slow him down to the extent of losing steam. 
With the Committee for Relevant Arts (CORA), the Lagos Books & Arts Festival (LABAF) and the I Represent (iRep) International Documentary Festival and a few other arty commitments of his, one can bet that 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 his earthly existence, may the bright light of Eledumare shine anew in his life.
Rise for a toast boss, for you deserve all the accolades.
Happy birthday Oga mi.

**Ayorinde, a mentee of Jahman and former Lagos State Commissioner for Information, Culture & Tourism, is publisher of The Culture Newspaper.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *