Annus Horribilis, an expression made popular by Queen Elizabeth II of England in 1992, means Dreadful Year (horrific, terrible or very bad year) and she made the remark because it was the year fire destroyed more than one hundred rooms in Windsor Castle and when three royal marriages collapsed. It was also the year when the marriage of Prince Charles, the heir apparent and his wife, late Lady Diana reached dire strait and beyond redemption and when the infidelity of Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York and spouse of Prince Andrew, the second-born and second son of the Queen came to public knowledge.

Annus Mirabilis, the opposite of Annus Horribilis, translates as the Year of Wonders or the Year of Miracles or Remarkable Success, and this is my prayer of what 2021 should be for all the readers of my column. That is a year of good health, great achievements and joy for all.

Twenty-twenty is a year I pray no one in Nigeria and anywhere in the world will experience again. Can a year be worse than 2020? A leap year in which coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) which began in 2019 in China became a global phenomenon, affecting eighty-five million people and killing one million, eight hundred and fifty thousand (1,850,000) in many countries across the world.

Twenty-twenty was the year COVID-19 reached Nigeria and when Boko Haram insurgency and terrorism which began in 2009 became worse and claimed the highest number of lives and witnessed large-scale destruction of property. There were also herdsmen attacks across the country as well as banditry, ethnic and religious clashes which also led to the death of hundreds of people and loss of properties.

I thank God that none of the dozens of the readers of my column who in the past five years have been reaching out to me once a week or twice a month or in two months died in 2020. But I lost two friends to non-COVID-19 diseases. One was Ilesa-born, Mr. Joe Abiola (alias Atuma), a cousin of Chief Ebenezer Babatope (EbinoTopsy), a former Minister of Transportation between November 1993 – February 1995. Like me, Joe too was born in 1944 and also a journalist. He worked with the Daily Sketch in Ibadan while I was with the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (1971 – 80) and later Concord Press of Nigeria (1980 – 94). We met in Ibadan Grammar School in 1964 when he came in for the 2-year Higher School Certificate (HSC) course. I was then in my final year. He and I were also the only Nigerian and black African journalists who in July 1978 covered the meeting of the Ministers of the Non – Aligned Nations in Belgrade in the defunct Yugoslavia.

My second pal who lived in Abuja and also passed on in July, a few days after Joe, was Imo State-born Mr. James Chukwuemeka Okechukwu Johnson, an actor, better known as Jimmy Johnson and as Okoro in the rested popular Village Headmaster drama programme on the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA). He died about six months after he clocked 81 on January 11.

Jimmy who was born and bred in Akure and spoke the dialect very well had his elementary education at St. David’s Primary School, Ijomu Street, Akure where he was a classmate of Oba Olu Falae who was three months and three weeks older than him. He was at Aquinas College, Akure for his secondary education. Like Joe he was a friend we often phoned each other and did so until about a week before he died.

Twenty-twenty was also a year in which I lost two colleagues in my undergraduate years at the University of Ibadan in the late 1960s to COVID-19. The first was Aiyedun-Ekiti-born Sir Remi Omotoso, the Leader of the Laity of Methodist Church of Nigeria and a former Chairman of Odu’a Investment Company, who went to glory about six or seven months ago. He was admitted into the University of Ibadan in September 1967 in my final year at the premier university in the country.

The second person was Ilesa-born Professor Femi Odekunle who like me belonged to the 1965 – 1968 set. He joined the Saints Triumphant last week in Abuja where he lived. May the souls of all those who died in Nigeria in 2020 rest in peace and have the grace of the Lord to make the Kingdom of Heaven.

With the outbreak of the second wave of COVID-19, I don’t think Nigerians will welcome another lock-down as we witnessed last year. Consequently, the Federal, State and Local Governments need to take steps to curb the spread of the disease. The first thing they have to do if the situation becomes alarming is to enforce the wearing of face masks in public places and the imposition of fines on defaulters. Say ten or twenty thousand naira for first offenders, fifty thousand naira for second-time offenders and one hundred thousand naira for a third offence and jail sentence without the option of fine after that.

It is also necessary to limit the number of passengers that can sit in cars, buses and planes while drivers and pilots who flout the order should be made to pay a fine of one hundred thousand naira.

If the Federal, State and Local Governments do not act promptly, a time may come when total lock-down as witnessed last year will become inevitable.

Hereafter advice to Nigerian leaders – Babangida in focus (3)

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I begin with the observation on Page 9 of last Wednesday’s Daily Sun in the WORDSWORTH column of “Sir” Ebere Wabara, on whom I have conferred the title of the Knight of Writing Good English. It is his criticism of the caption I used in last week’s article and which I have stuck to today because nothing is wrong with it. Instead of Hereafter Advice to Nigerian Leaders – Babangida in focus, he believes it should have been Babangida on focus.

As I told him when I phoned on Thursday, I read his column every week and he is doing a nice and very commendable thing in trying to get Editors in Nigeria to publish news stories and articles written in good English and casting appropriate captions. I too intend to do this in this column this year especially with hyphenated words.

As I also told Ebere there have been a few occasions (about one or two per cent of the time) when I did not agree with the corrections he made, as was the case with the headline of this article last week. As can be seen in the dictionary, the prepositions on and in can be used with the noun – word focus not on alone as he believes, but this has to be done properly. You bring someone or something into focus while you focus on someone or something.

My ongoing series is on four Nigerian leaders – Generals Muhammadu Buhari, Ibrahim Babangida and Abdulsalami Abubakar and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, a civilian. Two weeks ago, the attention was on General Abubakar and last week on General Babangida. What the latter part of the title on them should have been is bringing into focus Abubakar and Babangida.

But because of space I had to shorten it to Abubakar or Babangida in focus. It could not have been otherwise because it would have been wrong for me to have written bringing Abubakar or Babangida on focus. The proper way to have used on with focus would have been: Hereafter advice to Nigerian Leaders – focus on Abubakar or Babangida.

Next week: The continuation of the Babangida story




Weekly sales of Sunday Times under Gbolabo Ogunsanwo (3)

As shown in last week’s column Alhaji Babatunde Jose, the Chairman of Daily Times Nigeria Limited (1968 – March 1976), gave 355,000 as the average weekly sales of the Sunday Times, when Gbolabo Ogunsanwo was the Editor (1972 – 1975). While information online has it as 400,000.

But it has come to light that the highest weekly circulation figure of the Sunday Times in the early 1970s was 532,916, but information is not available on the day the newspaper made the history and if it sold up to half-a-million copies more than once. The revelation on the peak sale made by the Sunday Times came up on Page 23 of The Nation of Thursday, December 24, 2020 in the column of Lawal Ogienagbon. His friend, Prince Kolade Roberts told me he got the record sales figure from Lade Bonuola, who was a Sub-Editor with the Daily Times Nigeria Limited in the 1970s and later became the pioneer Editor of The Guardian in February 1983. But the Sunday Times is not the newspaper that has sold the highest number of copies in one edition in the history of journalism in Nigeria as Tunde Rahman, the Chairman and members of the Nation’s Editorial Board and others have claimed. The honour of the record of circulation figure belongs to the defunct Sunday Concord published by late Chief Moshood Abiola which on Sunday, November 9, 1986 sold 542,733 copies out of the 581,394 printed for that day.

To be continued next Wednesday.