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Annus horribilis


[file photo] Shekau

I must state from the outset that crafting of this heading is not original to me. It was first publicly used in 1992 by the Queen of England, Elizabeth 11.

It was in her speech at an anniversary lunch given in her honour to celebrate her 40th year on the throne. If she were to celebrate the anniversary today it would be her 67th.

Why would she use a Latin phrase in place of English, it may be asked. She is head of English speaking world as far as the English language is concerned.


Her usage of the language is the benchmark against which the usage of the language by anyone else is measured. Hers is believed to be the purest and most living, hence the reference to Queen’s English.

Linguists do not seem to agree as to whether most of the English words are derived from German or Latin. In any case, the British throne traces its origin to Germany—Anglo-Saxon.

Be that as it may, me thinks the reason the Queen used the Latin language on the occasion must have been the vivid picture of the subject she sought to paint and the consequent impact it was intended to make on her audience which I believe was the whole world — “Annus Horribilitis.”

As I did say on the occasion, I threw away my Clarendon many decades back following Tai Solarin’s insistence that my generation did not need Latin in the world of that time, and much less so in the world of today.

Dr. Solarin waged a relentless war on the language: It must be thrown out of the window.

I had to draw on the expertise of the polyglot and Cicero, Bola Ige to confirm if my translation of the powerful phrase was correct.

If my memory was going to serve me right, I dared to suggest that “annus horribilis” means a horrible year. What was it that made the Queen describe the year under consideration a horrible year? Hear her:

“1992 is not a year I shall look back on with undiluted pleasure. In the words of one of my sympathetic correspondents, it has turned out to be ‘annus horribilis.’ I suspect that there are very few people or institutions unaffected by these last months of world –wide turmoil and uncertainty.”

What has the situation been like since 27 years ago when the Queen made her frightening speech? There is no doubt that to chroniclers of these times, the uncertainty she sensed has grown worse and the turmoil she observed and read about has intensified and accelerated.


These are clearly demonstrated in endless columns of refugees from war-ravaged territories fleeing and streaming to Europe and America, and from Africa youths taking all the risks to cross the desert and jumping unto crowded ships to sail across the Mediterranean Sea to seek succour and peace in the ordered countries of Europe.

Mr. Trump is sorely troubled about the influx of refugees into his country. The step he is taking to curb this has put him on a collision course with the Congress and many Americans.

As of today, going to three weeks in the next two days, the United States government is partially closed down after the Congress blocked his request of $5.7billion to fund a wall at Mexican border to prevent migrants from crossing over to the US.

He is determined to forge ahead and indeed invoke a State of Emergency Act to outsmart the Congress. No kidding, he is, in fact, billed to travel to the Mexican border today.

In Nigeria, the population of our IDPs is in the region of three million, the bulk of them in the North East. And President Buhari has just said there have been more deaths recorded in Zamfara than killings in Benue and Taraba states put together. Last year must have been our own “annus horribilis.”

Undoubtedly those who worry about peace, growth and development must be greatly troubled over the state of our world. There would be those who are asking themselves privately and in their closet: Whither our world? In the upheavals good people are suffering and the wicked prosper.

The question on most lips is predictably: Why do good people suffer and why do the wicked prosper? The experiences of neighbours, friends, acquaintances and people in communities generally have led to the same questions being asked. A great many dismiss the experiences as the mysteries of life.


Several others explain them away by saying the ways of the Most High Creator are inscrutable. And we leave things at that –as they are—contented.

The inference from the conclusion we draw, consciously or unconsciously, from this is that we cannot rule out arbitrariness in the ways and activities of the Creator. In other words He either imposes sufferings on some people, or He looks on and allows them to suffer.

It is being suggested that he decides whom to make happy, and those to make sad, indeed joyless. It is thus concluded that suffering, joylessness, happiness and triumph are all normal in life.

Attention is drawn to history. Has there been any age you did not have people who suffered? Are wars not a regular feature of human existence in this world? So, they ask.

So, what is new? They add dismissively. Another outbreak of a war; another volcanic eruption or earthquake, or devastation by a hurricane brings another opportunity for moaning, grumbling and or for reflection.

If we have agonized for centuries; if mankind has grumbled for ages and moaned for ages and rather than abating the situation has been getting worse with time, it should suggest to us that our conclusions have been wrong even in the age we have reached the zenith of reasoning, depth of reflection and the height of technological miracles.

This means we have to go beyond the peak of reasoning and climb down to the level of humility and humble seeking for knowledge.


The Creator has had nothing to do with human suffering. He does not go out to make some people suffer and apportion happiness to others.

Indeed He does not interfere in wars, miseries and sufferings of human beings. His perfection, love and justice do not permit of partiality and arbitrariness.

His mechanisms with which He governs life have been perfect from the beginning. None of the conclusions is the case with the Creator.

If an earthly father does not discriminate against his children, discrimination cannot rightly be imputed to our heavenly Father. An earthly father falls out with his son or daughter if he or she does not abide by the rules of the house.

What I am getting at is that the conclusion of arbitrariness and injustice arises out of ignorance on the part of we human beings, and the notion of a world without rules and regulations.

As far as we are concerned the laws passed by parliament and decrees of dictators are the only valid laws, and all institutions of state, social, political and economic, political are made to comply with them.

These laws emanate from the thoughts of man and are governed by the limitations of the organs of thought.

It may bear restating that it is inconceivable that the Most High, He who is generally acknowledged as perfect, just, omniscient, who is all Love and Justice and Perfection would bring worlds and worlds—visible and invisible—into being without rules, without laws.


The world’s population is now more than eight billion, yet our universe, Ephesus, is no more than a tip of a fountain pen, even immeasurable as it may seem to us; and there are seven universes, each with its own solar systems and galaxies which are in billions each with its own planets of which the earth is one—all Creation in living activities, working and weaving, weaving and surging, and sparkling, energy fields far away from and to regions incomprehensible to human reasoning, and indeed, immeasurably vast.

Human beings enact laws and draw up constitutions which they regard as the supreme law of their respective nations, to guide them and their relationship with the state and their fellowmen, and spell out duties and responsibilities.

Strangely, human beings, a majority of whom have come to realise that they are creatures can ascribe to themselves wisdom to enact order through their constitutions and grant the enforcement of same, but have hesitated to ascribe wisdom to do likewise and greater to their Creator.

There are rules governing the use of cars, of aircraft and ships. If the rules are obeyed, the automobile gives joy, pleasure, and peace of mind to the user and promotes his health.

Non- observance of the rules as spelt out in the manuals brings harm and in many cases shortens life.

This is the only key to the understanding of the so-called mysteries. The world is not an accident; like cars, television and radio sets, aircraft, the world is a work.

As a living work, it bears the Will and Aims of its Maker. These aims are achieved through the application of certain self- acting mechanisms. Turn the key in the ignition and the car starts.

Engage a gear and fire the accelerator and it moves. Slam the brake and it slows down or stops.


Before constructing a house, engineers must determine whether the soil is solid enough to bear the weight of the building. They must also determine the nature of reinforcements and balance the load here and there.

In other words the engineers recognise the existence of certain natural forces which they are powerless to annul; they bow themselves to the nature of these forces in order to get along with them. The world or better still, Creation is no different construction.

Laws govern the whole of Creation and are uniform in their operations. These laws have been sensed and hinted at here and there in different cultures, but they have not been fully grasped, nor have their origin and their operations.

Consequently, ignorance has led men to all kinds of conclusions, and to blasphemous accusations against the Creator.

It is knowledge and understanding of His Principles that reveal how sublime His ways are and how unrelenting, ceaseless, immutable, perfect, incorruptible and just the mechanisms that govern life are.

It is in this the understanding of inequalities, why good people suffer and why wicked people prosper lies.

The grasp of these mechanisms, the Laws of creation helps us to adjust our ways, our thinking, speeches and deeds to them in our own interest.

A driver who ploughs through the market or a gathering of school children and kills any of them will return, and in his childhood as a school pupil or a market chief get killed by another driver with tendencies similar to his in his previous lives.

A man who preaches violence and armed struggle will in lawfulness of life be allowed to experience it in fulfillment of his own longing.


The threads of his weaving will lead him to circumstances that will afford him the opportunity to satisfy his unflattering yearnings. The same law applies in cases of killings or corruption.

A great many will appear in front of their mansions as in another earth life and in new re-embodiments as beggars, stretching out their bowls seeking help to eat for the day.

He will be made to pay back his overdraft from the bank of life, gnashing teeth and wringing hands in supplication to passersby!!

It is not for nothing we are warned: “Vengeance is mine; I will repay. Eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth. Recompense for recompense.” (Deuteronomy 32:35).

The warning is not for us to get onto the street and knock out the teeth of our errant neighbours but to allow the laws of Creation in which lies justice to have their way.

Through the combined and automatic outworking of the Law of Sowing and Reaping as well as the Law of the Cycle, fruits of every sowing must return to the sower. And the Lord Christ was to say: “Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them.” (Matthew 5: 17). The pronouncement typically says it all.

In due course, the question, Why do the wicked prosper? will be fully addressed.


The raid on Daily Trust

My distinguished colleagues, Femi Kusa, one time Editor-in-Chief of The Guardian, and Olatunji Dare, chairman of the editorial board of The Guardian and professor of communication have taken the wind out of my sails.

Both have said all that needs to be said on the relationship between the Army and the Media especially in war times.

The war the soldiers are fighting is our war. They give their all so we can live. They are in the trenches to push the enemies away so we can sleep, go about our businesses and make merry. They are laying down their lives for our sake.

All those old enough to witness the civil war and those who have had to count among the IDPs would say what a blessing it is to have gallant soldiers.

We must salute their courage and bravery. They need all the encouragement from all of us.

The military similarly need the cooperation and collaboration of the Media to mobilise citizens’ support for the cause. Both sides need each other.

Coverage of wars is no longer novel to the Nigerian Press. I remember the bravery of our leaders and colleagues, Segun Osoba, Professor Idowu Sobowale, Sola Odunfa, Bola Adedoja, Peter Obe, Yusuf Oladele, Akin Adedayo, Adefolaju and a few more during the Nigerian civil war.


There are rules of engagement for both sides. Whether in peace or war time, you do not report the movement of troops and what equipment they have afresh in their armoury.

It is even more so in war times. Reporting the plans of you troops is giving information to the enemies. The dispatches too must not be too revealing to the extent of telling the world how heavily your own troops have suffered.

The reportage of what happened at Baga, for instance, went too far. It could dampen the spirit of the fighting troops, and could lead to desertion.

The reports are usually made to boost the fighting spirit of the troops. The scoop a newspaper is to get at the war front stops only at revealing triumphs.

The military high command is expected to brief war correspondents daily at the war front. In the case of war against the Boko Haram insurgency where, as in the words of General Theophilus Danjuma, there are no fronts, there is undoubtedly coordination.

A senior officer ought to be mandated to give daily briefing to correspondents. They will agree on how far the reportage could go. There confidential information reporters would be given for their information only.

Indeed, the military would discover it has a lot also to learn from the correspondents.


Back in Abuja, the Defence Headquarters ought to make it a deliberate responsibility to brief editors on a weekly basis or fortnightly and share confidences.

That was how it was done during the Nigerian civil war. General Hassan Katsina, Chief of Army Staff did the briefing in Lagos.

Friendship cultivated at the time with old editors endures till this day. Black Scorpion, Brig-Gen. Benjamin Adekunle was Sad Sam’s bosom friend until he died even though he was his unrelenting critic.

Osoba is general Akinrinade’s friend till today. Police High command trusted Chinaka Fynecountry matchlessly. Cultivation of friendship and comradeship is key and trust building for both parties is crucial.

All the military needed to have done was to call the editor or editor in chief of Daily Trust in Abuja to draw attention to the report.

Kabiru Yusuf the chairman can be trusted to act decisively on the situation for the breach of journalistic rules by his editors. He is a decent and responsible publisher.

At worst, you obtain a search warrant from the court in view of the change in circumstances different from the days of soldiers and bloody civilians.

Every institution now is under the Law. Those who are to protect the law cannot be seen to be flouting it.

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