•By KABIR ALABI GARBA
He left the newsroom 10 years ago (January 15, 2013 precisely) 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 news-room management, talents hunting and mentoring (human capital development) as well as uncom-
promising attachment to work ethics.
With variety of assaults pummeling journalism practice from management, professional, socio-political and economic points of views, reference, at The Guardian, is regularly made to “how Mr. Anikulapo handled this” when similar circumstance arose in his days. He stood out as an embodiment of exceptional capacity (skill), competence (experience), character (good behaviour) and contact (networking). These virtues are known to be the basic ingredients a leader must possess not only to achieve corporate goals and aspirations, but also to tower above his peers and contemporaries.
Interestingly, Mr. Anikulapo did deploy these virtues in the discharge of his responsibilities throughout his sojourn in The Guardian. But he also deposited, in good measure, these elements in those associates
who were patient enough to drink from his fountain of knowledge and wisdom.
Today, they are referred to as Jahman BOYS and it is not by accident that strategic units of The Guardian newsroom are manned mostly by these journalists as well as others whose paths, in one way
or the other, crossed his. No week passes without the phrase, “Jahman is a good man” being uttered by today’s Chief Servant of the Newsroom in reverence to Anikulapo’s exploits as a rare manager of men and materials.
Mr. Anikulapo solidified the profile of Arts Desk as the real training ground especially for interns, freelancers and ‘test candidates’, who desired to pursue a career in Arts reporting or journalism generally. A personal narrative will illustrate this point better: The recruitment policy of The Guardian, which is still in force till date, provides a window of entry for new recruits through an assessment programme involving, then, “three days of written tests and three months of practical, on the field:’ I was in the batch of 23 candidates that showed up for the programme in May 1998, and after the completion of the first leg, we were led to newsroom for the second phase that Monday afternoon and the then Deputy Editor (News and Feature), Mrs Harriet Lawrence was to anchor the ‘distribution’ of the new set of test candidates to various desks.
Within minutes, every other member of the group had been placed on such desks as Science and Health; Sports; Politics; Education; Business; Property and Environment Metro; Food and Fashion; even weekend titles (Saturday and Sunday), except me … she couldn’t ‘fix’ me, and at a point she asked, “Gentleman, to which desk should I post you? Reluctantly, as I wasn’t expecting such question, I replied, “Religion Desk!” after all, in my previous employment, I had had encounters with The Guardian reporter who said he came from ‘Religion Desk’. But the suggestion fell flat, Mrs Lawrence didn’t buy it, she simply said, ‘just a minute, I will soon get back to you:’ She did, but late in the evening. She had begun conversation with an averagely tall and slim man; he was in his late 30s, wearing a fairly decorated ‘adire shirt atop a pair of black trousers. I did not notice when he entered her office, but she suddenly
beckoned at me and when I entered, she simply said, “Jahman, this guy said he studied Arabic Language and Literature at the University of Ibadan plus a PGD certificate in Journalism at Nigerian Institute of Journalism (NIJ), I hope he would be useful on your Desk.” And the rest they say, is now history.
That was how I joined the Desk, met senior colleagues such as Bankole Ebisemiju, Sola Balogun, Layiwola Adeniji; Ozolua Ukhakeme; Steve Ayorinde (then on a study leave in France) and another ‘test candidate’ Andy Orewere; and began a career as senior Arts Reporter. It must however be stated that I was the only ‘test candidate’ who eventually got employed in The Guardian out of the 23 that participated in the pre-employment training exercise.
But two weeks after joining the Desk, I was thrown on the field to cover a concert at the MUSON Centre, Onikan, Lagos. I came back from that assignment and when I was asked to submit my report, the response was, “Won o ko onn nbe” meaning “no singing took place” because the instrument of engagement throughout the duration of the classical music night was violin as well as piano and before then, my understanding of musical show was “there must be actual singing and rendition of lyrics;’ I
wasn’t familiar with the use of musical tools such as violin that dominated performance that night. Surely, similar narratives abound today of how Mr. Anikulapo drew water from stone transforming raw
neophytes into superstars in various genres of artistic expression, joumalism inclusive. I join everyone in wishing Jahman a very Happy 60th birthday and many more years of creativity, service to humanity and celebration of the good life on this earthly plane.
Kabir Alabi Garba, Ph.D. is the Editor, The Guardian on Sunday