By WALE ADEDURO
Jahman Oladejo Anikulapo, the outgoing Editor of Guardian on Sunday joined the golden club of those who have lived for five decades on January 16, 2013. This tireless man who, as an undergraduate of Theatre Arts in the University of Ibadan acted in Professor Femi Osofisan’s play, “A Restless run of a locust” is not just an enigma. He is a restless ubiquitous man with a sense of mission and passion for humanity.
Though his obvious forte are journalism, the arts and culture, the Agege born and bread “adire” (tie and dye dresses) loving dark complexioned man, has his strength embedded in humanism. His greatest strength lies in elevating and celebrating humanity.
His daily quest is for everyone to discover his or her talents and pursue it to the nadir of good success. For the man popularly called Jahman, every man or woman has a right to be distinguished through the exhibition of his or her talents.
This explains why Jahman and his soul mate, Toyin Akinosho, a trained Geologist, have, over the past two decades, devoted their lives and financial resources into the celebration of arts and culture through the Committee For Relevant Arts (CORA).
Jahman has left no stone unturned in the pursuit of his passion for the elevation of humanity through arts and culture. He is one man who, though appears soft spoken, is erudite and fearless in expressing his convictions. This of course, has made him, on several occasions, appear as either an enemy who must be crushed or an irritating nuisance to some Government and Public Officials.
As this scion of the Ben Tomoloju led tribe of arts journalism and cultural advocacy joins the club of those who celebrate the golden age of fifty years on earth he must be exposed. For over two decades, Jahman has not only exposed the ignorance and arrogance of those in government. He has also exposed some of us who have been close to him to unnecessary risks. It is either you are a victim of his cerebral criticisms or you are a victim of his relentless arts and cultural activism.
I stand to be counted among the beneficiaries and willing “victims” of this lemon grass tea loving Nigerian. First, Jahman, is always the first person to discourage anyone from relocating abroad. He rightly believes that we “cannot all jump the ship” and allow charlatans to shipwreck the project called Nigeria.
It is for this reason that he proudly adorns his “adire” or any made in Nigeria fabric everywhere he has been over the past two decades. For Nigerians who he knows who have relocated abroad, Jahman ensures that he puts pressure on them to contribute to the “Nigerian Project” especially through arts and culture.
Over the years, Jahman has insisted, whenever I told him I was traveling abroad, to “capture the arts and culture of the place for us”. Even when you tell Jahman that you are traveling from Lagos to Ajaokuta he extracts a promise from you “get me a live story or an interview from the place”.
When you resist him, then he throws in his subtle “whitemail”, “okay, capture your experience through a travelogue”. Therefore, with Jahman, you are always on duty either as a writer, reporter or interviewer.
It has never been a dull moment since I met this man in the front of the Arts Theatre at the University of Ibadan in October 1985. I was an undergraduate of Political Science in the University then but my preference had been to study Dramatic Arts at University of Ife.
Therefore, I excited myself by going to the Arts Theatre daily to buy snacks (the kind that Professor Dapo Adelugba preferred). For me this was convenient because I was, at that time, squatting in Tedder Hall. So, leaving the Faculty of Social Sciences I just passed through the Students Union Building to connect the Arts Theatre.
This late afternoon, I met one of the most dark complexioned young man. He smiled at me. We exchanged greetings. Then he asked if I was a “jambite” (new student). I gladly told him my story. Little did I know that I was entrapping myself.
By the time our discussion ended, I was already sitting in front of “Baba Adelugba” as we used to call Professor Dapo Adelugba then. Baba Adelugba convinced me to immediately register for the Extra Mural Theatre Arts Programme. I explained to Jahman that I would not be able to cope combining an Evening Programme with my undergraduate Programme in Political Science. But the man I saw as “Black boy” insisted that I was brilliant enough.
In fact, he quickly encouraged me that I should, after the Programme, proceed with the Diploma in Theatre Arts! Of course that was the beginning of my entry into the world of thespians. From that moment, I lost interest in Political Science but for one of my uncles Dr Olu Akinkoye, a senior lecturer in the department of Sociology, who encouraged me to manage my time better.
For him, if I excelled by making a Second Class Upper Division degree in Political Science, it would be easy to convince people in future that I did not abandon social sciences because I could not cope. That counsel has been a prophecy fulfilled.
“Wale, this is a betrayal!” Jahman was disappointed that I accepted a job offer at Zenith Bank Plc in July 1990. To him, I was betraying the arts by taking up a bank job. So, he extracted a promise from me: “I will always be there when the arts need me”. I paid for that promise five years later.
In late 1995 Jahman informed me. “MUSON Centre is looking for a Marketing Manager” He was convinced that I was the most qualified person for the job because of my training in arts, Political Science, Management and Banking. “And you will be representing the arts community there”.
That was why, for Jahman’s sake, I quitted my bank job I took a pay cut to become the Marketing Manager of MUSON Centre. The very week I resumed, Jahman came to congratulate me. When he was leaving, he gave me an agenda: “To open up MUSON Centre for the arts community!”
He felt the founders of Musical Society of Nigeria were too Eurocentric with their passion for Classical Music. We needed to broaden the focus. He made a commitment there and then. Guardian Arts desk would publicise all the concerts provided I worked towards getting the arts community into MUSON Centre. Of course, one thing led to the other and MUSON Centre started encouraging the arts and artistes beyond classical music.
Along the line Jahman had turned me into a columnist by encouraging me to write a weekly short story based on my growing up years in Obalende. That was how “Obalende: A Nation in Motion” became a Sunday story that started running in the Guardian.
Long after I rested “Obalende: A Mation in Motion” Jahman convinced me to start another humor column in Guardian on Sunday to support his appointment as Editor of Guardian on Sunday. After a lot of arguments I agreed to write the column “Heartwritis”.
In the performing arts,when Jahman could not succeed in taking me back to the stage, he made me an unofficial script and drama critic. He would always insist on my doing a critique of drama presentations because “the world wants to hear you!” Of course, I had to oblige him on several occasions because that was the only way to be free from this unrelenting man of arts and culture advocacy.
One aspect that most people may not easily notice about Jahman is that he loves children and youths with a passion. He is a man who is always concerned about our future. That is why he is at the fore front of the “Bring Back The Book” project and other initiatives that will encourage our children to grow intellectually and culturally.
Unfortunately, this globally acknowledged selfless and tireless arts and culture advocate has been ignored by several levels of government in Nigeria. People who have not contributed ten percent of what Jahman has used his resources to achieve in Nigeria have received state and national awards.
Jahman is an asset for any government that truly wants to transform the arts and culture of Nigeria. Though he is not a transactional personality, his transcendental credentials should qualify him to be recognised as a positive force for arts and cultural development.
However, if Nigeria vacillates in harnessing the potentials and treasures in Jahman, the world out there, from Ghana to Germany that daily beckons at him may get his attention. Jahman Oladejo Anikulapo, at fifty, is another Professor Wole Soyinka who Nigeria cannot afford to allow to be disillusioned about the Nigerian project.
Jahmo, my brother and friend, as you begin the second half of your sojourn on earth, let us get closer to the God who has kept us together. The finishing line is still far. You now need more spiritual strength for the journey ahead. Choboi!