At 50, the Jahman Anikulapo I Know

By ‘Fisayo Soyombo
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It was nearly a decade ago. I was only a 100-level student of Agriculture but I had suddenly been thrust into The Guardian’s newsroom on a two-month internship.
“This small man with big tie, I just hope you can write,” a middle-aged man addressed me smilingly on one of my first days. “I hope your writing ability is half as good as the quality of your tie. In fact, I cannot wait to read your first story.”
“It would be such a big disaster if after harassing me with all your big ties, you cannot write,” he said to me another time, wearing a wide grin.
Mr. Jahman Oladejo Anikulapo, as I soon found his name to be, was Editor of The Guardian on Sunday — the desk to which I had been deployed. (And as events eventually played out, this was the man I would later owe my media career to.) But he was more than an editor.
He not only edited your works, he called you into his office to dutifully point out your errors to you. That, I suppose, is the hallmark of a teacher. Every Friday, from his pocket, he gave all interns, male or female — whom he knew were only remunerated with a transport allowance — some money for the weekend; that’s a father. (In the end, it wasn’t the worth of the cash that mattered but the beauty and sincerity of the underlying intention.) There were times he called interns into his office to advise them on personal matters; that’s an uncle. And occasionally, he took time off his constricted work schedule to — like a friend would — exchange banters with interns and other staff.
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With a full page story and several news clippings in my file, I ended my internship two months later a very grateful boy — grateful to Jahman Anikulapo. But I never knew the extent of gratitude I would exude towards him until the following year, when the Group News Editor of the defunct Comet Newspaper denied me just four weeks in the newsroom. The Guardian had, in actual fact, approved my second internship stint, but it would not take off until another four weeks. That was too long a break for me, so I tried Comet. Its management approved the training but a defiant Group News Editor would have none of it. My offence: I was attempting to “cut corners” and enter the media through the “backdoor” because journalism was not my academic discipline. A letter of introduction from a campus press organisation made no difference, too. “Well, everyone cannot be a Jahman,” I consoled myself. “Not everyone gives a young knowledge-thirsty boy a chance at life!”
I was back again at The Guardian for my National Youth Service. That one full year under Jahman’s supervision formed the foundation of my career, as my boss was the quintessential editor. Day and night he worked and toiled, and many times I wondered if he was human or machine, if he was mortal or immortal. He read nearly every word that graced the paper, and he was the only editor in the newsroom who always literally jumped from his office to the graphics room to personally design the newspaper’s pages. He didn’t need to preach hard work to me or anyone else; he simply exemplified and embodied it.
Jahman was that editor who motivated all his staff, even in the littlest manners. One of such examples: on one of the many occasions when I passed the night inside The Guardian newsroom just to beat the deadline for submission of stories, my editor was exiting the newsroom when he sighted me at a far corner and walked up to me. It was some minutes after 11pm.
“You don’t have to sleep inside the newsroom, Soyombo,” he said, his right arm nestling on my left shoulder. “Here, have the key to my office. When you’re tired, you can go in, switch on the air conditioner and sleep on the sofa. My fridge is not locked and there are drinks in it.”
As Editor of The Guardian on Sunday — a post he willfully relinquished (just a day before his 50th birthday) after 10 years in the saddle and 26 years in the newsroom — he was loved by all standards of the word; beyond the usual workplace mutual respect or camaraderie, or subordinate sycophancy. And that was because he earned it, because he maintained a bond with his people — the lowliest of them, even. The security men could enter his office, the women at the canteen, the typists, and the lower-cadre staff. And on Saturdays, the busiest days for the Sunday desk, a visitor would think a party was ongoing, because Jahman ensured that there were drinks and chops for everyone to thaw production-day tensions.
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All these qualities helped him to raise a fairly stable editorial team. In mid-2009, some seven or eight months after the advent of the now-rested NEXT Newspapers, I asked Tope Templer Olaiya, a senior back at the University of Ibadan whom I came to know during our internship days, why he was not ditching The Guardian where he was only a stringer at the time for a better earning at NEXT.
“You see, Soyombo, I am not freaked by the rush to NEXT,” he answered calmly, assuredly. “To have Jahman Anikulapo as Editor is the best that can happen to a young man’s career. I want to continue working under his supervision, so I’m staying.” Less than two years after, Templer would go on to become one of the mainstays of the Sunday desk of The Guardian.
As Jahman was good to Templer and me, so he was to everyone he encountered. And Armsfree Ajanaku Onomo, unarguably one of the cleverest writers in The Guardian’s employ, would readily agree with this. Of his Editor, he once told me: “One can never fault Jahman on fairness. Never!”
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On and on, anyone could write on him, and even the smartest, most concise raconteur would have the trouble of his life winding down a novel on this talented and most multi-faceted consummate professional. So how do I summarise the Jahman who’s celebrating the golden jubilee of his birth as I write these words? A tireless, indefatigable hard worker who’s striven all his life to be the best there is to be; a graceful soul with a large heart for everyone around him, his subordinates especially; a boss who will not, in anyway, muffle a subordinate’s progress — one quality I find so utterly un-Nigerian; and a man who has achieved all the successes anyone anywhere in the world could ever hope to achieve, for the simple reason that through his painstaking contributions to the careers of several young people, he has succeeded in replicating and reproducing himself, in following up his own modest successes with worthy successors.
The only danger for such successors is that having worked with Jahman, they must now have to deal with the catastrophic temptation of benchmarking future bosses against his standards. Yet, there can only be very few people like Jahman. And I know so: in my still-fledgling but fatefully itinerant media career, I am yet to meet another!

Fast Fire Outbreaks, Slow Emergency Response


View of the Ebute-Metta plank market fire captured from Third Mainland Bridge, Lagos

View of the Ebute-Metta plank market fire captured from Third Mainland Bridge, Lagos

IT’S been a fiery start to 2013 across the country and like most events taking precedent in Lagos State, the fury of fire, which rocked the Centre of Excellence in the last few days of last year is spreading like wild harmattan fire across the country.

From the incidents at the international wing of Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos to NAFDAC’s laboratory test centre at Oshodi and the Boxing Day explosion at Jankara Market, it is becoming one too many leaving in its wake deaths and destruction.

It has often been described as the greatest servant but the worst master difficult to control when it turns into a conflagration, burning and destroying everything in its path.

And in the rage of its fury, it has no respect for anyone, not even the monarchy. A raging inferno, which started in the early hours of Wednesday and lasted three hours, razed the palace of the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi III, destroying 21 rooms and almost wiping out all the historical relics and artifacts in the palace.
The ‘god of fire’ as if angry at the nation, also visited ex-president Olusegun Obasanjo’s Hilltop mansion in Abeokuta. Though the billow of thick smoke enveloped the area and rose high into the sky, the former president described the incident as minor, but said if not for providence that made the fire to occur in the daytime and not at night, he would have suffocated to death and become history.

On New Year’s day, fire destroyed five houses near the Ikoku spare-parts market in Port Harcourt, capital of Rivers State. According to witnesses, the fire started at about 10am at the dumpsite of the market in Gambia Street, Port Harcourt. The fire destroyed disused cars and other spare parts at the site and later spread to surrounding buildings.

Last Friday at the Mbiama, East-West road, Port Harcourt, two people were killed with 10 others injured among many other houses and vehicles burnt when a tanker fire fell on its side and spilled its content on the road before it gutted fire.

The first reported incident in Lagos this year was on Monday, January 7 when fire razed three buildings at Ajegunle in Olodi-Apapa area of the state. The buildings, which housed a pharmacy store, boutique, transport equipment, electronic shop and a supermarket were razed after a suspected power surge from a shop in one of the buildings sparked the fire.
Just when the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA) was deploying its earth-moving equipment from Jankara market, Idumota to the scene of the incident, an early evening fire gutted the biggest plank market in Ebute-Metta on Tuesday, resulting to the loss of goods worth several millions of Naira, 50 makeshift houses and the displacement of over 3,000 Lagosians.

Balls of fire and thick smoke coming from the scene could be seen from major parts of the state, while men of the Lagos State Fire Service made frantic efforts to put out the fire. According to sources who suspect an electrical fault, the fire started from one of the shops and immediately spread despite efforts of residents and shop owners to extinguish it.

The next day, it was another disaster as an explosion on board a ship servicing MRS Oil and Gas tank farm at the Tin-Can Island port sparked a major fire, disrupting operations at the depot. The explosion occurred as an oil vessel belonging to MRS discharged petroleum products at one of the company’s tank farms, witnesses said.
While dry weather has been identified as the major cause of the recent spate of incidents, storing of petrol in living houses and markets, careless disposal of cigarette stubs, adulterated fuel, power surge, electric sparks and illegal connection of electricity are all sources of fire outbreaks.

Many people have faulted the responsiveness of fire services and emergency first responders in the country, who have been reputed to always arrive late and without sufficient equipment to the scene of fire incidents. There have also been renewed calls for the federal and state governments to adequately fund the fire department and emergency agencies, while the culture of insuring properties should be imbibed by Nigerians to mitigate the damage and misery of the misfortune.

Iju-Ishaga…Residents’ Endless Wait For Dana Succour

By Tope Templer Olaiya

The crash site at Olaniyi Street, Iju-Ishaga

The crash site at Olaniyi Street, Iju-Ishaga

IT’S over seven months since the quiet Iju-Ishaga community of Lagos lost its serenity after it was robbed of peace by the cruel angel of death. Thankfully, its former state has been restored and the shock of the disaster is wearing off.

For residents of the area, particularly those on Olaniyi Street, where the Dana Air Flight 0992 crashed into, last week’s resumption of flights by Dana Air has brought to fore gory memories of June 3, 2012, the black Sunday afternoon, when in a moment, their places of abode became a crash site, and hours later, turned into a tourist spot, attracting citizens and dignitaries alike.

While the incident has been reduced on one hand to bickering between the National Assembly and aviation authorities on the restoration of Dana’s operating license, and on the other hand between the airline and families of victims over compensation, the crash site has been left to waste.

The bare space of land measuring about 10 plots has been cleared of plane fragments, building debris and burnt bodies, where a six-storey building, warehouse and a publishing firm once stood. But as the clock gradually ticks towards the first anniversary of the crash, residents eagerly awaits the fulfillment of promises made in the wake of the incident to the community.

Wreckage of the ill-fated Dana crash of June 3, being removed at Iju Ishaga, agege, Lagos.

Wreckage of the ill-fated Dana crash of June 3, being removed at Iju Ishaga, agege, Lagos.

Owner of the six-storey building and publishing firm, Daniel Oluranti, has instituted legal action against the carrier, same for the community through the Akande Community Development Association (CDA). Oluranti is claiming N500 million for building structure consisting of a six bedroom duplex with penthouse, four bedroom bungalow with two large sitting rooms, two standard warehouse and four fish ponds valued at N172,530,960.

Others are factory equipment, plants, machines valued at N15,380,000; electronics/appliances worth N4,527,000; livestock fish in the pond costing N2,025,000; kitchen utensils and many other valuables estimated at N40 million, which were all lost to the air tragedy.

He explained that after the delivery of his letter of claim dated June 20, 2012, the representative of Dana Airlines got in touch with him and requested for a meeting. “The meeting was held at my solicitor’s office where the airline’s representative offered me N500,000 as a temporary relief.

“I felt insulted by this high level of insensitivity on the part of the airline and I questioned how the N500,000 offered me will address the inconveniences and torture my family have been subjected to. Naturally, I rejected the offer.” Oluranti disclosed that since the incident, his family has been surviving purely on the grace of God and assistance from friends and the church.

President Jonathan wiping tears during his visit to the crash site, while Fashola looks on

President Jonathan wiping tears during his visit to the crash site, while Fashola looks on

Chairman of Akande CDA, Mr. Adewale Oriowo, told The Guardian that the community had engaged the services of a lawyer to negotiate compensation on behalf of the community, particularly those who lost properties. “Up till now, nothing has happened. We have not heard anything from Dana and we are not captured in their compensation scheme.

“The only concluded case we followed up was the children taken away by Governor Fashola, as they have been handed over to a family member. The Deputy Governor called sometime last year to inform me that a Major General came forward as a family member and the children have been handed over to him.

“At the moment, the community needs to be reimbursed for the money we spent to make the area conducive to the throng of visitors who trooped here immediately after the crash. Many of the access roads to the site were not motorable and we immediately had to mobilise for it to be graded so that emergency agencies such as LASEMA, NEMA and Red Cross, can carry out their rescue operations effectively.

“Up till now, the bill has not been refunded. However, we heard from the media that some roads in this area have been marked for reconstruction, which we hope would be captured in the 2013 budget. The governor also promised a cenotaph in memory of those who died, but we have high expectations that before the first year anniversary in June, most of the demands by the community would have been met. We have, however, not heard a word from the airline,” he said.

There are ongoing concerns about the fate of Oluranti, who among other things wants to reclaim his land. This is a subject of controversy as the crash site has been taken over by the state with plans to immortalize the victims with a mausoleum.

The Mango tree that clipped the right wing of the ill-fated craft

The Mango tree that clipped the right wing of the ill-fated craft

Paul Anozie of No. 5 Okusanya Street, Iju Ishaga, recalled how his building was saved by a tree planted in front of his house. “In all things, we have to thank God for life though nothing has been given to those whose properties are destroyed. I know this because I am a casualty.

“My fence and gate was razed down but for the mango tree, it could have been more. The right wing of the aeroplane was caught in the tree. The wing was cut off while the plane veered off and crashed into the building on Olaniyi Street. They said they would come and we waited for weeks without seeing anybody.

“I can’t keep waiting for them while my house remains exposed. I spent over N300,000 to erect a new fence and gate. The only thing government did here was to erect concrete electric poles to replace the wooden ones brought down by the plane. We were also lucky there was no electricity at the time of the incident.”
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According to company sources, the airline has paid a 30 per cent part compensation of N4.95 million ($30,000) each to 90 of the 153 vicims of the ill-fated plane crash, with a promise to redeem the 70 percent balance of N11.55 million ($70,000) each as soon as possible.

“The crash was a very shocking incident for us. We have visited every family that was affected in the crash. Of the 153 victims’ family, only 125 submitted back information for the processing of their insurance claims. So far 90 families have received their 30 per cent interim payment. The insurance companies are still processing the remaining 35 victims’ claims,” Mbanuzor Obialor, Head, Commercial of Dana Air, said.

Jankara Market Fire: Trader To Sue Govt For Illegal Demolition


The conviviality of the Yuletide and New Year season is still very much strong in the air, but it is a numb celebration for residents and traders, whose Boxing Day feasting was shattered by firecracker explosions that devastated the Ojo Giwa, Okoya and Jankara market areas of Lagos Island.
While some are fortunate to count their losses in a few thousands of Naira, many of the victims are starting 2013 with a huge deficit running into millions of Naira.
In fact, Alhaja Basirat Bolanle Ibrahim, owner of a three storey building at No. 41, Ojo Giwa Street, had to be heavily sedated days following the incident that eventually razed 12 buildings, to cross over into the new year alive.

Jankara Market Explosion... The morning after

Jankara Market Explosion… The morning after

With the effect of the drugs gradually wearing off and reality fully dawning that the building erected 18 months ago and valued at N85 million now lay in rubbles, it’s time to spill the beans.
Ibrahim, a generator dealer, who claims she recently stocked her wares for 2013 amounting to over N20 million, says she would sue the Lagos State government for illegal demolition.
“My building was not gutted by fire, it was demolished to pave way for the building behind mine, which was facing Okoya and was burning in the attempt to stop the spread of fire. I was standing here when the governor ordered that my building should be demolished; they didn’t even allow me to carry my goods.

Owner of a three-storey building affected by the explosion, Alhaja Basirat Ibrahim, who plans to sue the Lagos state government for illegally demolishing her structure.

Owner of a three-storey building affected by the explosion, Alhaja Basirat Ibrahim, who plans to sue the Lagos state government for illegally demolishing her structure.

“Despite giving my approval that only the roof should be removed to create access for the fire fighters and rescue operatives to work, they said if they didn’t demolish my building, there was no way they could quench the raging fire. I was not allowed to take a pin out of the building with goods worth N50 million. I just got a supply order of N20 million and the least of the generators is N25,000.
“All we were told was that they were saving our lives and we should not go near the building, while the emergency officials demolished everything in sight. I am taking the government to court. I will collect my money back because they gave the instruction for demolition. They didn’t stop at demolition, every useable item, including irons, were carted away.”
Ibrahim is not alone in her misery. For Mr. Ozokolie Sunday, a resident of Idumota, December 26, 2012 will go down as a day he would live to regret. Ozokolie owned four shops in the Jankara market. Looking dejected and unable to control his emotions, he told The Guardian that he lost goods worth over N15 million to the disaster. The shops were located at Numbers 43 and 45 Ojo Giwa Street in the thickly populated Lagos Island Business District.
Ozokolie said he was still in celebration mood when news of the disaster reached him. According to him, “I received the information with shock because I was not around.” The trader, who described the disaster as the most unfortunate incident that ever happened to him, explained that he temporarily passed on when the news of the incident was broken to him via a phone call.

General Manager/CEO, Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA), Dr. Olufemi Oke-Osanyintolu, pointing to the debris of the Jankara market building collapse

General Manager/CEO, Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA), Dr. Olufemi Oke-Osanyintolu, pointing to the debris of the Jankara market building collapse

Speaking with journalists at the site of the incident, the General Manager/CEO, Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA), Dr. Olufemi Oke-Osanyintolu, said the agency had to quickly demolish buildings affected by the explosion and make the area safe for people to do business because they do not want to further cause financial distress to so many families.
“We have demolished the area, we are now clearing the debris and enumeration is being carried out by the operations and logistics department of LASEMA. In due time, we will get into matters of compensation. At the moment, we are concerned about giving out financial assistance to victims to cushion the effect of this disaster.
He noted that other affected buildings in the area had been subjected to integrity text by the Lagos State Raw Material Testing Agency to determine their present structural stability status to avoid another disaster in the State. He said buildings examined to be unfit would be demolished while those needing adjustment would be recommended for appropriate and necessary action.
According to him, “our work here is to make the area safe and calm; agencies like the Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency (LASEPA) have carried out environmental impact assessment of the explosion in the area, while the Lagos State Building Control Agency (LASBCA) and the Lagos State Waste Management Agency (LAWMA) have been on ground to clear the debris and other waste items from the site.”
Hassan Bolaji, resident of No. 39, Ojo Giwa Street, said money was paid to the state coffers for an integrity test to be conducted on the neighbouring buildings.