SOYINKA: ‘Jahman is a Ghost Worker’
It was accolades and a moment of review for hard work, humility, and honesty on January 16, as Nobel Laureate, Wole Soyinka, former Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Management Services, University of Lagos and President Nigeria Academy of Letters, Duro Oni, among distinguished personalities pay glowing tribute to culture activist, curator, and former Editor, The Guardian on Sunday, Jahman Anikulapo, who turned 60 earlier in the week.
Speaking at an open forum organized by a committee of friends to commemorate the celebration with the topic, “The Arts man as Interventionist: Celebrating Jahman @60”, and held at Freedom Park, Lagos, Soyinka said: “In just a few words, the best expression I have for him is that of a ghost worker.
“You hear about the expression ghost worker in negative sense. Some of them have never been anywhere near the establishment. But someone somewhere is collecting salary.”
“I always think of Jahman as ghost worker. By that I mean you do not know how he achieves what he does. If you give him a task, you do not ever see him at work on it. He is an instinctive artistic facilitator. He promotes others without promoting himself.
“He has assisted me in theatrical production and worked behind the scenes.
He should just continue the same way as he is doing,’’ Soyinka added.
Oni, who was the keynote speaker, described the celebrant as a “creative, diligent and literary legend. I have never heard anyone say he or she paid Jahman for all he has done, and I often wonder how he does it; how he makes a living.”
During the panel session, actor, Nobert Young, described Jahman as a spontaneous and workaholic person, stressing that Jahman is naturally energized.
“He is an actor, dancer, and a director. His major is directing. Our paths crossed during our days at the University of Ibadan. The Arts Association was celebrating its week, and there was a drama rehearsal going but it was as if the drama troupe were not getting it.
“Jahman produced a concept, ‘Lagos Confusion’, a five minutes playlet, and by the time we finished presenting it, the audience was asking for more. We did ‘Gba Jesu’; I am sure many of us, except the new generation, know the popular man called Gba Jesu in Lagos then.”
He added, “Jahman is a critic. Like Prof Duro Oni said, the fear of an art critic is the beginning of wisdom. Criticism is one turf that our entertainment is lacking. Jahman’s table is always scattered like that of one Prof Ajayi in the University of Lagos, but he knows where everything is on the table.”
The co-founder and artistic director of Crown Troupe of Africa, Segun Adefila said, “Jahman sets a very high standard, which he expects you to meet it. He is very generous; his push helped us have a sense of direction.
“If you are going into or having a meeting with Jahman, you must do your background check properly. He is a run-to-uncle in times of trouble.
For Ayodele Arigbabu, a writer, architect, and creative technologist, “Jahman is a strong man who has turned himself into a strong institution. He does not see himself as an individual, rather he sees himself as an institution. He gave me a platform and pseudo-journalist name.”
In commending the celebrant, his selflessness and development of the younger generation, Joke Silva, a notable actor, noted that with the Lagos Book & Art Festival (LABAF), he has always expanded the mind of the younger one.
Describing Jahman as a son, brother, and husband, celebrated actor, Taiwo Ajai-Lycett said, “he is a man of principle. He knows life is not about him but for the collective. He is respectful, civil, focused, and not philandering. I like his integrity.
“Jahman is love. We need love around us; we need to cater for one another. This is what Jahman exemplifies. He is an honest man; he gives you what you want while you are alive. I occasionally let him out.
“Our moral value has gone down the drain. So, when we have opportunity such as this, we remind ourselves of the need and importance [of moral values].”
On his part, Kole Ade Odutola, a Yoruba lecturer in the Department of Languages, Literatures & Cultures, University of Florida, USA, who joined the forum via zoom described Jahman as a king and a long-distance runner.
“Jahman is king, and as we know, kings don’t speak much; they give commands and things happen. His energy is exceptional. He told me he was a long-distance runner, and anytime he tries to quit I remind him of the phrase.”
For the Managing Director, Guardian Newspapers Limited, Martins Oloja, the celebrant is a good man who has made himself to be more significant than most prominent men who are not significant before God and man.
“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), and 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 as Jahman’s men.”
Other guests at the birthday culture colloquium include broadcaster, Benson Idonije; dramatists, Ben Tomoloju, Shaibu Hussein, and Pamela Udoka.
Photo credit: Gbenga Akinfenwa/Guardian Newspaper