By Damiete Braide 

Friends in the arts, colleagues, and family members gathered to celebrate Jahman Oladejo Eniolorunda Anikulapo, art connoisseur, culture activist and journalist as he marked his 60th birthday last Monday, January 16, 2023. 

The event was organised by Friends of Jahman, and held at Freedom Park, Broad Street, Lagos. Dignitaries who graced the occasion included Ben Tomoloju, Joke Silva, Martins Oloja, Koko Kalango, Tam Fiofori, Benson Idonijie, among others. The event was spiced with glowing tributes, music, dance and spoken word performances from various theatre groups.

The programme started with a forum with the theme, “The Artman as Interventionist: Celebrating [email protected]”, featuring panelists like Molara Wood, Lookman Sanusi, Kole Odutola, Nobert Young, Segun Adefila, Akin Adesokan, among others. 

In his keynote address, former Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Management Services), University of Lagos, Prof. Duro Oni, said the programme had been put together by a long list committee of friends and “it is because Jahman himself has celebrated so many of the people who are listed here as members of this committee of friends.            

“Jahman Anikulapo; the fear of the critic is the beginning of wisdom and Jahman does not suffer fools gladly. He has played a vital role in giving visibility to a lot of people.

“Jahman has influenced a lot more in the direction of culture, arts in Nigeria than anyone that I know of recently with his journalism and his advocacy. He is the person who keeps the Chief Executive Officers of Information and Culture parastatals on their toes. Jahman is quite a bundle; he is creative, diligent, consistent, hardworking, focused, very confident, prudent, and he will not be part of a wasteful exercise in terms of having budgets that are just padded. He is loyal with very high integrity.”  

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Según Adefila, Artistic Director, Crown Troupe of Africa, noted Jahman often had a very high standard and “if you are unable to meet up with his standards, he is also very generous with his criticisms and encouragements. You cannot be an artist and be relaxed with Jahman.” 

Lending his voice, Ayo Arigbabu said: “This is a strong man who has also turned himself into a strong institution, referencing that into that argument that Africa needs strong men and strong institutions. Jahman has somehow curated himself to be both. Just from his passion, from the way he engages with people. He doesn’t engage as if he is an individual but operates as if he is an institution. The way he organises himself, he applies himself.” 

Nollywood actress, Taiwo Ajai-Lycett, described Anikulapo as a brother and a man of all seasons, adding, “He has integrity. He is dedicated to what he does. He is selfless. This is a man who cares about others. He is respectful, civil, focused, and honest. Jahman gives you what you need while you are alive. He is a picture that I want Nigeria to evolve into.”

Lookman Sanusi, on his part, said the modern history of culture in Nigeria couldn’t be written without some pages referencing Jahman Oladejo Anikulapo: “I have always argued that Jahman is a better actor than he is a journalist. When on stage, Jahman reveals his true self without inhibitions; whereas he can be coy as a journalist, because of the constraints. Jahman is Igbakan Orisha (next to the gods) of culture, a walking library that everyone keeps borrowing from. Yet his fountain of knowledge swells.” 

Professor Wole Soyinka, in his tribute, said: “In just a few words, the best expression I have for him is that of a ghost worker. I always think of Jahman as a 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.”