Thursday, August 16, 2007

Funke — A calm dream halts

Funke — A calm dream halts
(Published in The Guardian in 2002)

Today from 6pm, artistes and friends of the National Troupe of Nigeria will converge for a rite. Not for the type of high performances that the apex performing troupe in the country is renowned locally and international. No! It is a dirge.... a dark rite to send forth one of the troupe’s bright stars who died unripe last Saturday after an illness. Venue is the Artistes’ Hostel within the National Theatre Complex.
SHE was thin. Perhaps too thin for a dancer, or so one thought. Yet the light-face young lady was always in the heat of dance sessions. She would never be missed in a show of the National Troupe of Nigeria. Her bosses said it was because she had the first requirement: right attitude to work. She has the others too: talent; skill; zeal; energy and; resourcefulness. Besides, "she is well brought up, with the right manner", said Ahmed Yerima, the bereaved boss of the lady dancer.

Olufunke Ajibaiye.

Pretty and calm. An artiste of the National Troupe of Nigeria passed on at 25 last Saturday. She lost a brief battle to fever.
With this sad song, she cast a huge pall of grief and hopelessness on the artistes’ community at the National Theatre.
Dampness reigned on Monday and Tuesday at the artistes’ camp where Funke in the last 18 months, had lived with her fellow troupers, as news of her death tore through the soul of the already distressed National Theatre, which fate is noosed by fangs of privatisation.
The infectious darkness traversed the breath of the Artists’ Colony in the National Council for Arts and Culture in the southernmost of the sprawling theatre complex. For here, Funke had planted her spirit too as a friend of the unofficial resident artists.
It was here that Steve James, former trouper and chairman of Guild of Nigerian Dancers, GOND, encountered the shock. Gangling Steve had seen a poster on the community’s notice board?
"I thought it was a notice for audition. I moved closer and... (tear-faced now)... I almost dropped down", declared the dejected six-footer founder of Ivory Culture Ambassador in the office of Yerima on Tuesday. Steve had come to commiserate with the artistic director of the Troupe.
Same Tuesday afternoon, shortly after Steve James left, a disheveled Joe Adekwagh, ex-Trouper and chairman of National Association of Nigerian Theatre Arts Practitioners, NANTAP (Lagos chapter), rushed in?
"Doctor, what is this I just heard? Why? Haba!
Such a nice girl?"
"Ha, we were all shocked. That girl?", Yerima hanged mid-tense; then he recalled Funke?s last time out on the rehearsal stage:
"They were on stage rehearsing, then I saw that she was very casual in her approach and I knew that was not in her nature, so I called her down from the stage?
"I asked her what was wrong". She said: ‘Sir, it was when they said I don’t know how to dance well, so I thought I should slow down.’
"I told her to go there and give us her best shot. And she did. Can you imagine that? Now she is dead!"

FUNKE was indeed sensitive. She was quick to tears. Quite emotional. Very passionate too; about her work. But she was the type that would always go back to apologise for uttering the wrong words in a fleeting moment of anger. It happened once while on a tour of Mexico with the play Yemoja last October. She had had a little row with her room-mate. As is usual with women, they had bickered; bleached each other neat with touchy words. An older artiste on the trip had cautioned them; warned them to stop the quarrel. But young and tigerly, the two dancers had continued the verbal expletives. The senior artiste withdrew his unsolicited intervention.
Few minutes after, there was rasp on the senior artiste’s door?
"Uncle? I said to come and apologise for not listening to you. I was too angry at what happened because I felt cheated by her (fight-mate). But I should have stopped when you told me to do so. I wasn’t brought up to disrespect elders".

That was Funke.
She would do that. Her fight mate, no doubt older in age, didn’t bother.

That was instructive indeed about Funke’s strength of character.
This was the story being relayed on Tuesday in
Yerima’s office when the troupe’s head gave other
instances when Funke displayed humility, sign of good upbringing; a sense of honesty.
"And she had a sense of humour, you know", said
Martin Adaji, the troupe’s deputy director, who
recalled Funke’s comment about the strange way of
Beninnoise during the yearly FITHEB international
theatre festival in Cotonou last year where Yemoja had been staged after Mexico.
"She would throw her joke so calmly and if you are
not careful; or attentive, you will miss it and catch
only the laughter it generated".
"And you know she is on the September page of our
annual calendar. The calendar is all over Benin
Republic because they loved the dance concept",
concluded Adaji.
"She didn’t have much energy to do some of the
strenuous dances but she will always give it a try.
Her best dance in our repertory is the maliki dance of the Borno people and she starred in it in the calendar too", volunteered Yerima.

SHE was always so calm. So clean. Harmless in
appearance. If she had fire, it was buried in that
huge cauldron of serenity around her personage. That dimple laughter always adorning her bright wondering, wandering face.
And she looked so pepper-less and mummy’s pettish
that once in rehearsal of the troupe for the Mexico,
the actor Tunji Sotimirin humoured: "this girl must be an ajebutter?" a humorous lingo for a pampered child.
Funke wouldn’t take that labelling easily, she shot:
"Ha, Uncle Tunji, I am a real paki o; original
grassroots".

TRUE, she was down-to-heart in her carriage, on
stage; offstage.
But there was always this distance about her;
especially in her looks.
In the various long drives through cities and
streets of Mexico, she would soon get tired of
sleeping through the sometimes, 16 hours journey —
shortly after a hectic show; discard the music
earphones she always spotted and sit on the arms of
the bus seat, her eyes roving like the camera;
wandering; engaging some distant objects!
Dreams?
She only knew.
No one would ever know now, what Funke saw or
contemplated. Her dreams. Her fears. Her anxieties.
Her joy. Her sadness. She bore it all. Now she has
left with them; all of them.
Funke has escaped the pain and anguish of this
clime. She is perhaps lucky!
Who knows?
She made her eternal trip on Tuesday in her native
home, Ilorin, causing much grieving to her aged
parents whom she once recalled mounted the pedestal of happiness and became instant celebrity in their neighbourhood, the day she collected her call up letter to the apex performing troupe in Nigeria.

Olufunke Jumoke Ajibaiye was born on July 27, 1977 in Ilorin, Kwara State.
Said a release by Bisi Ayodele, public relations officer of the National Troupe, "she joined the troupe on April 17, 2001 on secondment for a period of two years from Kwara State Council for Arts and Culture."
Funke is described by the troupe’s management as a "character performer" and featured "in all the
National Troupe’s productions since her joining it one and a half year ago. She performed internationally and locally. Her last international performance was as part of the contingent to the 2001 edition of Cervantino International Festival in Mexico".
The release continued: "The management, staff and
artistes will continue to remember the wonderful role she played in Prof. J.P Clark?s Song of a Goat".
Funke was the gossip and tale-bearer in the play.
And she did it so well; like a natural.
"We commiserate with the family for the irreparable loss. May her gentle soul rest in perfect peace", said the Troupe's release.

— Jahman Anikulapo

Thursday, August 2, 2007

The Perpetual Pain: 10 years after Hakeem Shitta)

A Season Wed. Text 28/8/2002
A season for distressed artistes
By Jahman Anikulapo

(It was 10 years ago in June that Hakeem Died)

Only the Festac Town access bridge separates the two distressed men. The one lives in a black of flats in the Amuwo Estate, which he won in 1973 through a ballot. The other lives in a type-8 house 'loaned' to him in 1994 by his in-law.
But the men created a coincidence on February 10. They rode the news in culture town. While the one in Amuwo was formally presenting his latest novel publication to his colleagues and friends at the National Theatre, Iganmu, Lagos, the Festac Towner was on the airwaves, as guest on the afternoon belt magazine programme of Radio Lagos, The Beat.
The coincidence however testifies to a season of distress, not only for the two men, but for the artist.
While the National Theatre's heart palpitated to the appliances and backpating that heralded the ingenuity of Hakeem in producing perhaps, the first ever compendium of names, professional specialities and addresses of artistes, a sad song played underground impressing itself on the souls of the guests, composed largely of a few of the expected notable artistes, reporters and photographers, and less of Hakeem's colleagues and friends who are part of the 1,671 artists listed in the Handbook of Nigerian Artistes.
Hakeem, to use the humorous description by geologist, art critic Toyin Akinosho spotted an unintended "cap twisted disjointedly at bad angles" He actually looked like a character from a horror movie. "People think I am a ghost, and they look at me as something from out of this world," Hakeem later told a reporter, Presently, Hakeem still wears his bizare "headstyle", badly sculpted from the surgeon’s knife or what he himself calls 'Mack the knife'.
A recurring tumour at the back of his head, had had to be continuously scooped out; six times already; three of which was at the University Teaching College Hospital Ibadan. The last operation has left him in the present distasteful shape; and dangerously hanging in the precint of the unwelcome ultimate opinion- death.
The surgeons, while scooping out the returnee outgrowth at the back of Hakeem's scalp reportedly met a sensitive blood vessel, which they suspected might be the last link to the brain cavity to hold on, while they referred him to a test at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, LUTH, to determine the function of the vessel, and the likely conseqlkuence of its being touched.
But Lagos holds no tangible answer, because though the hospital has part o f the necessary equipment, they are not functioning. Thus, the usual scaring option had to be recommended....
Hakeem's head like he joked recently "would have to be examined overseas. They have to conduct a survey of the affected area, through what is called 'Angiographic' test before they sculpt my head further."
For that, N3.5 million is needed to cover travelling expenses, hospital bills (#20,000) hospital welfare and other expenses.
The reality of the sad tale was what was decolouring the modest event at which Hakeem's books was being presented. Infact, exphasis soon shifted from the main event, as words of sympathy flowed ceaselessly from the house, including Chief Segun Olusola, Mrs. Ajoke Murtala-Muhammed, Kolade Osinowo, Naiwu Osahon, Gbenga Sonuga, Yinka Craig, Duro Oni, among other notable and patrons of the arts.
An expansive committee dedicated to sensitising the public to the need to save Hakeem Shitta and consequently raise the N3.5 million from compassionate public pure has since been working, but obviously with very little success. A proposed programme of concert and a mini-film festival are yet to hold because the committee is even yet to raise what could serve as working money; to facilitate the two programmes. Networks to Hakeem's artistes colleagues overseas are yet to yield results too although graver moves are being made by influential members and sympathisers of the committee to connect certain institutions within and outside the country.
But "save Hakeem Shitta" still remains a dream unfulfiled. The photographer, painter, documentarist and cultural activist has an awesome credentials of having photographed 837 events at which he expended at least three rolls and at most 15 rolls, of film, in his photographic history, he has recorded 180 play titles (some plays recorded in as much as 10 times); 81 concerts, 67 exhibitions and 326 other human interest events.
Interestingly, but for his colleague on the other side of the Festac Town access bridge - Pa Benjamin Aderounmu aka Kokoro, who is presently the next most distressed artiste.
Kokoro's neck is now noosed by a tough request by his landlord to vacate the House No 8, B Close residence which he has occupied, with his wife and two daughters since 1994, at no cost by the grace of one of his in-laws.
Infact, the "ultimatum" has since expired and Kokoro only hoping that his in-law, the landlord, would find cause to say awhile at his Abuja base before coming to Lagos. But the landlord, who had given the house to the septuagenarian bind minstrel out of compassion, while he was on transfer to Abuja, has insisted he wanted his house back, having retired and desirous of resettling himself and family back in their only house, the duplex in Festac Town.
Kokoro has since been making frantic calls to the public to come to his aid. "I don't want to live under bridge," he told a reporter recently adding but "I have no choice if my landlord returned and I haven't still found a home; myself and my family will be in danger."
The old man's cry may however be going unheard. Except succour comes from a recent initiative the publishers of Festac News, the community paper serving the interest of residents in Ojo local governmdent area of Lagos.
Festac News has launched a 'Shelter for Kokoro' campaign which it hopes to take first to (as specific targets) the homes of the big-purse residents of First Avenue (otherwise called Cocaine Avenue) in Festac Town. The paper's publisher Mr. Toyin Akinosho told the Guardian on Saturday "we hope that these men of means and power who have much money to build those beautiful mansions on First Avenue Festac estate, would not watch as their equally influential neighbour, the internationally known Kokoro is thrown onto the street. All it takes is a little compassion."
And to the target first Avenue friends Akinosho said: "Rent a place for him, or just give him your boys quarters which presently is most probably unoccupied or serving to house disuse furniture and other properties."
Same day that Hakeem's Handbook of Nigeria Artist was drawing attention to his tragic plight, Kokoro was in the studio of Radio Lagos, relating his bitter predicament, but acknowledging an initiative by actor, video producer Dele Odule.
Odule, who played King Alapatira of Apatira in Mainfrance's video hit 77 Oluwa Nile I,II,III and has played leads and sub-leads in over 60 home videos recently produced and released a video work, titled Lakunle Alagbe, the story of a blind artiste who lives at the mercy of bitter fates and consequences.
The actor, said that the work was a ctually inspired by the saga of Kokoro, the old dexterous singer, drummer who is dertimined to triumph above his fatalistic handicap condition to sing of hope for humanity.
Odule told listeners of The Beat that he intends to pay a regular stipend to the old man, from the proceeds of Lakunle Alagbe. Aside from this, Odule announced that he was commencing work on a new video wholesomely designed to permanently rehabilitate Kokoro."
"The proceed, from the film will go wholesomely to Pa Aderounmu. But I need a sponsor to be able to do the film," said Odule who equally proposed a weekly programme to Radio Lagos, in which Kokoro would perform as a forum to provide regular income for the old man and thus discourage him from his risky engagement of straddling the streets of Lagos to perform to earn money. Kokoro has often defended that his street beat was not to beg for alms, but to give him avenue to perform regularly.
The radio programme proposal would have the management of Lagos State Broadcasting Corporation providing free air time on Radio Lagos while the Dele Odule Organisation pays the artiste's fee to the blind minstrel.
Yet Kokoro is on his way to the street as no concrete help has surfaced to provide him an alternative accommodation, when his philantropic landlord arrived to reclaim his house in Festac Town.
Few months back actor Julius Duateme was stranded in the Eko Hospital, Lagos, after he accumulated about half a million naira hopsital bill for treatment of a strange nervous disorder.
When the popular humorous houseboy, J.B in the rested network television soap opera, Supple Blues collapsed and was rushed to the Eko Hospital, the humanitarian trio doctors, proprietors of the hospital on Mobolaji Bank-Anthony way, Ikeja conceded to treat him without even asking for the usual scaring deposit. They had hoped that after tr eatment they would be able to recoup their money.
But Julius stayed so long in the hospital and accumulated an almost half a million Naira expenses, including his general welfare lbill. When he got well, it dawned on the generous doctors, that there was no point holding him because he definitely would not be able to pay the bill; too soon.
They released him and requested that he should clear the bill gradually. That decision was buoyed by the fact that a 'Help for Julius Duateme campaign had been launched by a very few of his friends and colleagues led by actor Nobert Akpojeraro Young. The friends had reportedly pleaded with the hospital management that whatever money was realised from the campaign would be passed on to the hospital to clear the huge bill.
Only trickles of donations have however come in, and even now the donations have dried up, leaving Julius still heavily indebted to the hospital.
Hulius Duateme by all exidences is not fully healed of the ailment. He still talks with a droo! and walks in funny short steps. He is unable to quickly recognise even his friends and has worrisome antics that suggest that his nervous system is still uncoordinated.
He needs to go back to the hospital for reexamination or a resumption of treatment but he has no money. He has not been able to work as no producer or director would hire an actor in Julius state of mind. He has been living on the meager income of his wife, a civil servant staffer of NTA, with whom he now goes everywhere, including to the office.
There is no hope for Julius, none perhaps in a near future.
And the song of distress continues... Yinka Davies the petit, multi-talented artiste, who dominated the news late 1994 to early last year would soon return to public attention.
A mtor accident she had while on break from an afternoon a rehearsal of Tempo Productions' Mekunu Melody in early 1994 had left one of her legs broken. She needed an operation that was to cost about N400,000.
Six months of pains and helplessness, Yinka Davies was going to sink in distress when a horde of her colleagues and sympathisers decided to launch a 'Yinka Davies Fund" with the institutional backing of the FAME weekly magazine. There was a concert, a night of drama skits and public appeal. The money was raised, Yinka made the operation and was resettled, as the fund provided her with an accommodation and a little bit of welfare package.
Now, Yinka's broken leg has supposedly healed. There is the need to remove a metal sheet inserted in her to hold the bones together. Money is needed; estimated at numerous thousands of Naira. Yinka is broke. As she has never been able to work full time since the operation mid last year, she has never really made much money.
She has to raise the money. And the bank account opened for the Yinka Davies Fund has since dried up, since some members of the giving public have failed to redeem their pledges, lrunning into about N100,000.
Functionaries of the Yinka Davies Funds have since wound up their operation; distracted by some other exigent distressed calls. This leaves Yinka almost dumped and back on her own.
Presently, Yinka Davies has proposed to go out there on the live stage and risk a public concert to at least "raise something." But that is riddled in danger. Her surgeons had advised that she should not risk any rigorous activity such as dancing or any stressful engagement of the healing leg. But if there is no other means, Yinka has no other option - she has to endanger herself for a tokenist thousands of Naira.
Yinka Davies' case throws the issue back into history. A past riddled with tragic innuendoes of neglect and hopelessness.
* Poet, actor, art and culture journalist Kolosa Kargbo suffered Tuberculosis, was ill and emaciated even as he pounded the streets of Lagos for little means to survive for over a year. He died.
* Segun Ayo Taiwo, actor, founder of Ayota Arts centre, the first private artiste-owned arts complex was a fflicted by a problem in his abdominal cavity. He could only seek medical attention in a local clinic in Ajegunle. He died.
* Sesan Ajayi author, poet, critic and teacher suffered jaundice for almost three years. He died.
* Authur Modupe - Alade elder entertainer, musician suffered paralysis. He was at LUTH for several months. He died.
* John Chukwu, entertainer, nite dubber had a prolonged case of paralysis of brain. He died.
* Wale Olomu, entertainment writer, capitulated to a prolonged case of typhoid fever.
* Demos Deniran, musician, band leader, Kim Lawani showbiz organiser and promoter, and Jelili Sorungbe, band manager, all died after one ailment or the other.
* Lately Apostle I.K. Dairo, the juju highlife macstro died after a serious bout with diabetes.
* Dr. Bayo Ogunjimi, literary critic, teacher was inflicted by typhoid fever, he did not leave The Baptist Hospital Ogbomosho alive.
* Dr. Femi Johnson and Prof Ayo Mamudu both poets and University Teachers were both victims of a deplorable health care system.
These and many more have crowded the graveyard but not failing to leave behind one constant song - the artiste. More daunting is the fact that the children wives and relatives they live behind continually sink into hopelessness and despair.
From the government, there is no endownment fund though the first official promise to institute one is over a decade now.
It had been possible, at the instances of some of the cases to commit the various culture parastatals and agencies to donate to any of the "Save the Artiste" campaigns. But that was when the agencies themselves had good fortune.
Now, the agencies are partially distressed. The 1996 budget allocated only a little above N600 million to the entire information and culture ministry, which got over N1 billion last year. Thus, the extras with which the agences normally assist distressed artistes cannot be expected.
Infact the hopes placed on the agencies to boost the Save Hakeem Shitta campaign has since crash-landed, by the reality of the 1996 budget released shortly after the campaign was launched.
From the artistes, it is the old song of helplessness, occasioned by an orchestrated inability to moved and act.
The artistes organisations that had dreamt up launching individual welfare funds, never really acted beyond the dream stages. The National Association of Nigerian Theatre Arts Practioners inspired to life by the trialsome experience of the 'Save Becky Musa' campaign of 1989, had proposed launching a Performers Endownment Trust Fund; but the dream has glowed onbly on the tongues of the assocaition's executives.
In the heat of the 'Save Julius Duateme' campaign the Lagos chapter of the assocaition sought to revisit the fund project, but it could not even hold the Night of Stars programme it had proposed to herald the launching. The project remains a pet drawn living buoyantly in executive files.
Worried by the recurring case of distressed musicians, the Tony Okonji-led executive council of the Performing Musicians Employers Association of Nigeria (PMEAN) decided to launch a musician trust fund to provide welfare hope for the members in need. After having earned more that N15 million from federal goernment purse, and several millions of Naira more from a music-friendly public, the fund has only registered a minimalist impact. More musicians and music makers have been distressed and unable to benefit from the fund.
The songs have grown ever more desperate as the socio-economic onslaught against the artistes begins to manifest itself in another dimension.
Play performances, recorded songs, concerts and even visual arts exhibitions are being critically studied and sometimes censored by state security apparatus. To wit, the works of some famous artistes, potential big money earners, and providers of reasonable means of livelihood for the remaining un-distressed artistes cannot be performed.
And there is no one to protect the Artistes. No succour from the government, nor a disinterested public. No home for the Artiste to run into, as certain sections of the artistes themselves have of recent risen, for still inexplicable reasons, to hack down foundations being laid to build any Home at all.

On air with Danielle

NIGERIA WILL RULE THE WORLD; JUST WAIT, WATCH… AND SEE

(Interview conducted in 2004 for the Radio Nigeria by Danielle Badagri in 2004)

Danielle: It is my pleasure to bring to you Jahman Anikulapo, the editor of The Guardian on Sunday. He is an artiste extraordinary, a culture activist par excellence; a journalist of hhigh repute… How are you?

Jahman: I’m fine, but … eh… . that was very heavy.

Danielle: Well, having you here with me defies monetary quantification, I can tell you that. How has it been since you took over the helm of affairs of The Guardian on Sunday. What are the challenges and prospects?

Jahman: Well, it’s indeed a challenge. It was offered to me a long time ago but I didn’t want to take it because I thought I was just made to write on arts and culture. But when it was represented -- always by my M.D.-- I decided to take it up; and I think it has been very challenging in many dimensions. The first one is the fact that on the Arts desk, while I was Arts Editor, I was used to training my own reporters. I used to mould my reporters in line with the kind of vision I had for my department. At the Sunday unit now, for the first time, I had to work with reporters that had been cast. But this time around, I’ve had to work with several visions that had been cast already. It’s working out and we’re grateful to God almighty.

Danielle: Okay. So far, would you say it has been a successful journey?

Jahman : Well, I think the public should be left to decide. But when you go out and you meet some elderly fellow in the society and they tell you that you are doing a good job but you can do this and this better, I think it is a measure of some acknowledgement, and for me, it goes a long way.

Danielle: Yeah, it’s a lot of praises when people above you tell you what you are doing right and what they want you to do better. You were at the Book fair held a couple of months ago in Lagos where some of the participants complained of low attendance, which they of course attributed to the decline in our reading culture. What do you think can be done to stimulate good reading habits among Nigerian populace considering our literacy level?

Jahman: I think the 5th Lagos Book and Arts festival organised by the Committee for Relevant Arts in September to mark the National Creativity Day, for this year, was a lucky one because there was a larger participation by the public… that is considering the fact that low attendance had been the bane of the festival since its inception five years ago.
I think that the reading culture in Nigeria is a very complex situation. I would not say that people don’t read. People read, but I think what we should ask ourselves is: what are they reading?

Danielle: (chuckles). That’s a good one. What are they reading? So, what would you like to see Nigerians read?

Jahman: I said that people read considering the volume of religious tracts that come into the country and the fact that virtually everybody that goes to church reads a Bible and virtually everybody that goes to the mosque reads a Q’uran. If you take a good look at these, you will agree with me that people actually read. But the extent to which you read and apply this information is what we are talking about because if you are so committed to the holy books and read them religiously, you are expected to learn some lessons from them. But I keep on wondering why the society, in spite of all these readings, continues to go down in terms of crime, immorality, and even leadership questions and the rest of them. We are just insisting that creative books and writings have a way of elevating the mind. That is the argument that we are on now; that people should endeavour to read creative books. Many of us were students of Herbert Lawrence, John Keats, John Don, and the rest of them, and some of the things we learnt from those classics are what we are applying today in our private and professional lives. We are very afraid for the younger generations that are not reading these books. Where do you begin to form your own philosophy of life if you have not read other peoples’ experiences?

Danielle: So, what kind of music do you love?

Jahman: If I’m permitted, I’ll say that I’m crazy about jazz, especially trado-modern jazz. I don’t mind the classical jazz. I am also very much impassioned by classical music. Then I’m in love with highlife and I check out the beat of reggae.

Danielle: In modern times, there has been a growing relationship between science and culture, and I hear that in countries like India, China, and even the U.S., they are exploring ways of expanding this relationship to the maximum, bringing the two together. One begins to wonder why Nigeria, with her large cultural menu, is failing in this regard. Or is it that our culture cannot be propagated through the medium of science?

Jahman: I’ll tell you that we missed the chance to behave like an intelligent society in 1988 when the UNESCO launched the World Decade for Cultural Development (WDCD). The objective of the WDCD then was to use culture as the basis for development. What they were saying was that we should look at the examples of societies that have moved from near derelict state to admirable states in terms of development. If you look at the way the Asian countries, Japan in particular, have progressed over the years, you’ll discover that they used culture – what they had. They faced this war situation and they decided that ‘okay, we’ll start from where we are, and that’s our culture’. They were not dreaming of transferring technology, but they were thinking of building technology from its base.
And when UNESCO came with that ten-tear package, 1988 to 1997, Nigeria was actively participating. That was when we started the craft development policy and the rest of them. But in Nigeria, there is this culture of inability to sustain dreams… everything would start and drop, start again and also drop again… so we missed that chance.
It’s very sad when you’re discussing this bit; because you’ll then begin to wonder if we have people who are capable of intelligent reasoning in terms of development in running the our affairs in this country, because when technology is not transferable, then it’s going to be useless. That is why so many facilities are abandoned no sooner they had been built. You know the case of incinerators, and even cars that have been brought into this country only to stop functioning after just one month and so on.
Everybody is adapting technology to his/her environment, but we are bringing technology from other places. We just plant them there and they mess up the whole system.
It is not as if our culture is non-compliant with technology, it is the fact that management has always been our problem; and management comes even with planning. So I am talking about planning and its application. After all, when you talk about arts, you talk about "fine" and how it is applied to arts. So what do you apply from your cultural resources?

Danielle: So how do you think we can get to the place where your vision is going? What do you think we can do? Get the people who know how, in the right offices, or change our orientation totally?

Jahman: Well, I will say it will take a blend of all. We need to change our orientation, then we need to get the right people. You see, there is no need going to look for materials anymore because all these things have been studied and packaged. All they need to do is to open up the shelves, take those materials, and change the orientation of the civil servants who are applying these developmental projections and will manage it … all the documents have been prepared and stored up in dusty shelves in the various ministries.
In 1989, immediately after the launch of the cultural policy, there was a seminar that was held at the ASCON in Badagry. All the experts, scientists, culture workers, artists, and everybody were brought together in a hall to decide how to use the letters of the cultural policy to develop a development model; and they did a very comprehensive report that is still there. Up till now, I don’t know what happened. Copyright is the only thing that we brought out of that place because copyright was re-engineered in terms of ideas from that workshop. I was just starting my journalism around that time and exciting to me that we could bring culture and science into the same pot and get very delicious soup.

Danielle: There is problem with journalism in Nigeria. The brown envelope issue has assumed a large proportion almost to the point of eroding the credibility of journalists who are in turn complaining of either low wages or unpaid salaries. As an editor, how do you think that our standards can be elevated? How can we uphold the essence of journalism in journalists to push this allegation aside?

Jahman: I think you are a troublemaker, you want me to offend a lot of my friends.

Danielle: (Laughs). No, definitely not.

Jahman: But I’ll do. I don’t mind stepping on toes, especially if it will get all of us on the right track. Brown envelope? I think I have said it somewhere before that brown envelope is not peculiar to journalism; but that does not mean that it is accepted. I am just saying that the society is in a state of flux, and there are so many impurities that have come into the system, and everybody seems to be going into that room where we have impurities and just take his own share. So when you talk about bribery, you have to remember the case of bribery in our parliament, you know. So it is a general societal thing. But for journalists, it is very dangerous because they are the people who influence and shape public opinions, and who make certain decisions for the public. The public relies on them before making its resolutions on issues.
The brown envelope syndrome became more pronounced, I’d say, from about 1985 after the Structural Adjustment Policy. Actually, most of our problems are usually dated back to that policy. That was when some people came into the media profession and started media houses without a plan of even how to pay the salaries of their workers five years ahead. And somebody came up, Ben Tomoloju, when he was still at The Guardian, and said that anybody who was coming in to start a newspaper or broadcast house should be made to deposit the salary of his workers for five years ahead.

Danielle: (Chuckles)

Jahman: Yeah. So that the reporter is sure that at least there is something at the end of the month. Now you have media houses that are not paying their reporters for 10 months, one year, and so on. How do you expect such reporters to cope? Of course, they will be looking for ‘Communique’... you know what they call ‘Communique?’

Danielle: Of course, last paragraph and the rest of them.

Jahman: It is not just last paragraphs alone, when they come to your event, they ask for ‘Communique’. You know, it used to be " oga, we wan deh go o", and they will say it so many times, until you dip hand in the pocket or as they say: ‘settle’ them. But now, it’s ‘we are waiting for Communique’. And if you don’t ‘communique’ them, the story will die. I think it is first of all the responsibility of media owners to decide if they really want to run a media house or not. I saw an advert recently in one of the national dailies. They owed their workers for almost two years, and they were yet advertising for new reporters, and I asked why. It means that you bring in young people, you use them, and waste them; then when you see that they begin to ask for their salaries, you quickly send them off and get new people to replace them. There is a newspaper house too that is trying to expand internationally, but their workers are not being paid and are complaining all the time. When such reporters go out there, why won’t they collect bribes; after all they have families to feed. So, you see, it is a moral question. But I’m very happy that I work in a place where it is strongly discouraged. If you are caught, or even if there is a sign of it, you are gone. I am not saying that people will not try to cut corners, but at least, every media should make laws that would prohibit such acts.

Danielle: Yes, I think that if the law is promulgated that reporters’ salaries should be in the bank five years ahead…

Jahman: (Cuts in). It is only a suggestion.

Daniella: It is a good suggestion, yes, but I think we should take it to the National Assembly where we can make it work so that those journalism ethical and moral standards can be upheld.
Have you always wanted to be a journalist or was it something you found yourself doing and decided to stick to it?

Jahman: Well, I was rescued from being a lay-about -- an "area boy" –- by a character called Ben Tomoloju. He came to my secondary school to conclude his youth service. In school then, I was one of the people who disturbed the dramatic society. He called me one day while I was playing pranks and said ‘you come in and play that role’. I did and he said ‘there is some kind of talent there’. So against my will, he pushed me into joining the dramatic society and from there to the literary and debating society. There, his own dramatic society was such that one had to write a review every week as a member.
Then when we left school he recruited some of us from different schools around Lagos then, and we founded the "Kakaaki" in 1978/1980. So we kept on writing. When I got to the university, I studied theatre and directing, but I made sure I specialised in dramatic theory and literary criticisms. So I had to be writing constantly under Professor Dapo Adelugba. We were made to write reviews everyday, so there was virtually no day I never held a pen. That was why I went into journalism. If not, I could probably have been at Obalende now, harassing people or snatching vehicles.

Danielle: People wonder for instance when I said that my guest is Jahman Anikulapo. People must have stopped in their tracks to say "Anikulapo", is he Fela’s cousin or where did he get that name from? Where were you born? Where did you school? Just tell me about yourself.

Jahman: Well, there is a joker I always give that: "Jahman takes this thing, Anikulapo takes the other". Anikulapo is my family name. I know from a story that my Dad told me that the Anikulapos were like warriors from Abeokuta, and that the real Anikulapo man was the chief warrior. And you know that in the Yoruba culture, when you have gone to war and saw so much blood, you are banished from the city so that you don’t threaten the stability of the state by confronting the king. So he was pushed out and he moved to a place called Temidire, that’s on the outskirts of Lafenwa in Abeokuta, and that was where he formed his own clan. I tried to make a research into Fela Anikulapo because I believe that he didn’t just pick the name; and once, he told me that its actually a name from his mother’s lineage. So I reckoned that his mother must have come from that lineage. "Jahman" is just one of the names I was given, because I have up to twenty names.

Danielle: Are some of them "orikis"? (Chuckles).

Jahman: I was named Oladejo, Olasubomi, Olaiya, Oyindamola and a host of others. There is a place where I wrote them down. But Eniolorunda is one of the names, and if you shorten it, it means "man of God’. So when we formed the Kakaaki in1979, we were kind of trying to live in an Utopia. I mean we were saying that we didn’t belong to this society, we wanted to create a cult for ourselves and in fact, we called it the Kakaaki Arts Kult. So we gave ourselves names. But we gave one of us who seemed to be prophetic in terms of his projections the task of giving us the names. And called himself "Spark". I don’t know what he means by that. You know Antar Laniyan, he had been Antar, but was reinforced as "Antar or fire order" or so; then he just looked at me and said: "you are Jahman". I had never used that name "Eniolorun" anywhere before, and I just told one of them that I have a name called "Eniolorun" which means "man of God". I have always told myself that I don’t want to be called man of God, or Godman, or Godson. I don’t want those English names. So when he said "Jahman", well, everybody started calling me the Jahman.

Danielle: (Interrupts) quite unique.

Jahman: And it really defines my person. The two names "Jahman Anikulapo", I’ll say define my person. I’ve got death in my pocket… (laugh)

Danielle: Let’s talk about your life now. Where did you grow up? Where did you school?

Jahman: We started in Lagos Island. My dad decided that we were getting too much into the Island culture. You know what I mean by that. So he moved us to Agege. But I think it was a further mistake on his part because Agege turned out to be the worst of it all. So, I was brought up in Agege area, but I left home early, at about 14 because I was playing football and then into theatre arts. So I kept on returning, you know the way women are, my mum... she always made sure you returned home whenever you strayed off… So I was brought up there deep in Agege.
But one significant note for me about my upbringing is the fact that many of the people I grew up with in that environment have turned out to be what I said I could have been if I had not encountered the man who rescued me. They’ve not really gone further in their education and they have been more of lay-abouts. And that is some note recurring in my system; so I am working, fighting and struggling so that no young person will ever get into that kind of trap. I’ll rather do something to bring them out. And that is probably what defines my involvement with the arts so deeply. That is why my work in journalism embraces developmental programmes that would bring young people out of that kind of situation. This is because anytime I see what we call "area boys"; I look at myself and say I could have been there.
I went to school, of course, in Agege. I started with St Peter's Primary School and then an Anglican college that is United City College in Agege area towards Ota; on of the best equipped schools in Lagos then. Then when Obasanjo’s Government took over the private schools, we were transferred to a Muslim School, Saka Tinubu Memorial School which is the second arm of Ahmmadiya College because the school had to be broken down into two. For my H.S.C., I went to Ahmmadiya College, and then the University of Ibadan. I have done courses in German culture and language. I have undergone so many training in journalism and... that’s all.

Danielle: In the days of Lade Bonuola, Femi Kusa, and Sully Abu at The Guardian, the paper was generally regarded as the flagship of the Nigerian press. But these days, some people are declaming that assertion. In your own estimation, do you think The Guardian is still the flagship of the Nigerian press?

Jahman:Do you have any other one?

Daniella: (Cuts in with laughter).
Jahman: I think The Guardian still remains the flagship. You will see that it has suffered the same problems that many institutions have suffered in Nigeria. You know there has been a decimation and devaluation of the intellectual class in the Nigerian society. The society has gone anti-intellectual. It is more of how big your car is, or how flamboyant your dress is. So The Guardian itself had had to go through that. Don’t forget that the more you change your workers, the more you bring in new influences. So some of the young people who eventually came into The Guardian did not probably come with the kind of intention that the earlier reporters or the people you mentioned (some of them are still there) and so many others came with. They did not come with the intention of really coming to work in an intellectual institution. They came to make a living, and there is a difference between art and merchandising. Coming to make a living is different from really coming to make a statement; to express yourself. Those who came earlier came to express themselves. But you’ll still find out that it is still a good training ground. Go to any media house now, most of the editors, line editors, and even reporters have been trained by The Guardian. And The Guardian keeps on regenerating itself. And of course, they are still winning the awards – newspaper of the decade, newspaper of the year and so on, so which one is the flagship?

Danielle: But would you say that the quality of reporters that come in now is a fall out of the kind of education we have in the country right now?

Jahman: Of course, of course Danielle. I mean, you can’t imagine that there were students who once came to me for a research on their final year projects… and were asking me for the questions… they didn’t have questions! Somebody came to talk to Mr Benson Idonije recently from a Nigeria university. She wanted to do something on Fela and Idonije asked her what have you learnt about Fela that you want us to help you develop, and she had nothing to offer. Look, she was writing a project on Fela and she had never heard of the words "quintet" and "quartet". I am not castigating her here, but that is just an example.
Sometimes, you read write-ups of some graduates and you know… I mean, it is a function of the present quality of education. And as I said, the educational institution too is not insulated from the rot that has come into the system. But I can assure you that we are cleaning up the system. The fact that we are discussing it means that we want a change. Supposing we aren’t discussing it at all, then there is a problem.

Danielle: In the next ten years, where would you like to be? What would you be doing? You want to be a minister, senator, or publisher? How do you view yourself in the next ten years.

Jahman: I want to run a little Repertory theatre with a Library, okay. I want to run a place where young people can come and express themselves. Where I cannot force them to read, but where I can engineer them in order to produce some models that can then go out to spread the gospel and teach other people. I am not too ambitious about making money, but I just want to run a place where I can sit down, relax over drink, and watch young people express themselves, the way I had been opportuned to.

Danielle; In essence, you want to make a difference, a very positive difference.

Jahman: If God assists me, that is exactly what I want to do.
Danielle: I pray your dreams work; because we need more of you. Well, aside from the vast issues of arts, music, and culture, what other interests do you have?

Jahman; I enjoy being on stage; that is performing, and I enjoy watching other people perform to my delight. That was the first time I’ll be on holidays in the 16 years I’ve spent at The Guardian; that I’ll sit down and watch other people perform. I had been used to performing for others. I was at a dance festival in Madagascar. I sat down and people were dancing and I said so this is what it takes to just sit down and watch others sweat it out… that’s the passion. Then reading of course. I don’t get to read as much as I used to, but I love to read even though I am not doing enough of that at the moment. Again, I’ll like to work, not in an N.G.O. situation now, but a situation where I am just doing programmes and bringing people together.
Yoruba people will say "ako’ yan jo", just bringing people together and watching them have fun, that’s what we do with the Committee for Relevant Arts. Let them bring their families and all have fun. Heaven will fall, but it won’t fall on only one person’s head, so I just like everybody to have fun

Danielle: That’s great. What we seem to be having in the Nigerian music industry right now is music hastily concocted in the computer while leaving out the experience of seasoned men. Do you think that is good for our music industry or would you rather call for an equal blend?

Jahman: In fact, it’s really very dangerous. When we read the thing about the death of philosophy, some of us were screaming that it isn’t possible. But with what we have seen coming from some of our artistes, you may tend to believe that philosophy may actually have died. Maybe we are just trying to bring it back. If you look at the lyrics of the musicians of old and look at what musicians of today are doing, you’ll ask yourself what happened to Thinking. Why should you think you could just rush into a studio and produce a work. They call it Afro-hip hop, rap, and all those stuffs, although some of them have actually come up… I was surprised about what Baba Fryo did in "Notice me" and "Denge Pose", because it is capturing the philosophy of the current times. He might not have expressed it in such depths as you might want, but he has captured the soul of it. And I think what an artiste like Seyi Solagbade is trying to do is okay. There are so many young others like Seun Olota, and they are bringing in new ideas. But my greatest disappointment is in my friend, who is the musician I thought would be the voice of my generation. He left that and started doing "show your colour". I have not been able to reconcile myself to it. We’ve not been as close as we used to be. I am talking about Lagbaja, because he is an icon. Whether we like it or not, Lagbaja is an icon. He is the major artistic musical character that has come unto our stage in the last 10 years. But I think we will need to (I am being selfish now) get him to go back to what he did in 1993 and just review it against what is going on now. Are you an entertainer or are you an artist? They are two different things.

Danielle: Well, I believe that if anybody can get him to do that, you’ll be one of those people who can. I know your modest nature would not want this, but I have seen you a lot of times and you always come to me as a study in humility – something you will not find in other practitioners who probably have not even been as successful as you are. Tell me, what keeps you on the ground?

Jahman I think it is the willingness to respect and serve man, because I believe that you cannot respect and serve God if you cannot respect and serve man. It’s in my upbringing that you must give respect to that next person because you have no choice, because if you don’t respect him, you cannot respect yourself. That is it. It’s just willingness to show maximum respect for the other person’s interest.

Danielle: It’s a been a pleasure having you for this interview. But before we go, do you have any word for Nigerians? Just a word!

Jahman: As my president told us, I see hope. I believe that no matter the problems we are currently facing, no matter how darkly the lane seems to look, there is light out there for us at the end of the tunnel. We are going to get there, this country will rule the world, I believe that.