One afternoon in 2005, my boss and I stood in the vast newsroom of The Guardian and watched time whizz by.
It was 4,5pm-ish. The reporters were back, as usual, sliding across the glazed floor, nearly crashing into the concrete, to rush their stories to the typists and graphic designers who would set the pages for the next day. At this moment, my eyes were locked on a certain senior correspondent—there was something about his tie.
I thought the tie was too wide. It was knotted rightly, not askew or anything. A perfect inverted pyramid at the neck. But the rest of it? Way too wide.
Then my editor, aka my boss, said: “You know, I’m a man of few wants.”
“My entire life. I’m not asking for a lot of things, you know. All I want is a house to rest my head and enough cash to raise my kids.”
I was utterly disappointed. What kind of a man is this?
If I were in your shoes, Editor, I’d squeeze the last of the benefits out from wherever they could be unearthed. With my gatekeeping power within Nigeria’s biggest newspaper, as the venerated editor of The Guardian on Sunday? I think I could edit my way to wealth in this town. Now, even if I, a first year full-time staff reporter, could figure out the tricks to this game, I believe you should be captain of the team.
But Jahman wouldn’t play that type of ball. We knew he wasn’t an absolute saint—an unmarried good looking man with clout to wield in Lagos, what do you expect—but in place of the turpitude of chasing coins by any means and at whatever cost, he’d rather be “nice” to people.
He’d sit you down to discuss your rent. And fight the establishment to get your back pay resolved asap. He’d offer you a room in his house if you worked too late and needed a place to crash for the night. And if he could guess you were willing to work nearly as hard as he did — no one outworked Jahman who also had a life beyond the newsroom — he would go to bat for you, every day of the week and twice on Sunday.
These days, 15 years after my oh so naïve judgment, Jahman is on his way to getting a monument erected in his honour. I know this because, from time to time when those of us who once worked for him run into one another, one thing we always want to know is how Jahman is doing and how best to idolise the icon, the self effacing man who helped us build our talents and sold us to the world.
And when I say some of us… we are plenty:
Steve Ayorinde, former Lagos commissioner for information (and later tourism); Sam Umukoro, head of communications at Oriental Energy; Erhumu Bayagbon, head of corporate affairs at Airtel; Dafe Ivwurie, head of brands and corporate communications at Providus Bank; Chris Ihidero, MNET consultant and CEO of Pinpoint Media, and several others.
Right now, the editor of The Guardian Weekend — Kabir Alabi Garba — used to be a reporter on the Arts Desk when Jahman edited the art pages. Chuks Nwanne, deputy editor Saturday, was a long-term reporter and correspondent on Jahman’s Sunday edition and Life Magazine; Eno Abasi Sunday, directly headhunted for The Guardian by Jahman is now deputy editor, Sunday.
There’s more. Alabi Williams, was appointed editor of all of The Guardian this February, and he had worked with Jahman for many years as reporter, correspondent, and deputy editor of the Sunday paper.
I asked Chuks what he thought of the rise of Jahman’s protégés in the media and the organised private sector. Chuks said, “That guy is something else. Great manager of men.”
I cannot agree more.
Jahman’s philosophy on executive development, ethics, and hard work lives on in the heads of everyone who’d ever seen him get persnickety about pegs, headlines, paragraphs, and idioms. And in turn, we continue to share what we learnt with everyone we’ve ever led.
Mr Anikulapo’s incorruptibility might have translated into a curbed desire for flashy things, but with this six degrees of Jahman currently playing out across the country, it appears to me the man has, via a happy accident, become one of the truly wealthy men alive.
And yes, speaking of long pieces of cloth affixed to the neck, I happened on another newsworthy tie today and wondered what it must feel to never have to wear a tie. Do I know someone who’s never tied a tie, ever? Of course, I do. His name is Jahman and not brooking the necktie is just one his many style signatures, continually copied by many today.