Conventional wisdom holds that the death of a fellow human is always a sad event and not a suitable occasion for gloating or making unpleasant remarks.

Amid the torrents of tributes which poured in for 96-year-old Queen Elizabeth II, the unsparing comments made by Nigerian-born professor Uju Anya wishing the monarch an ‘excruciating’ death, pierced the hearts of well-wishers and became the talking point.

Elizabeth II died during the week, and was the longest-serving British monarch, and indeed there was outpouring of grief, mixed with some criticism of her empire. Generally, the reaction to her death was both global and emotional.

As if the don was waiting for the Queen’s last breath, she rushed out like a bolt out of the blues to give a cruel and blistering epitaph. It was as if she was determined to pursue the deceased to the grave and to continue the combat.

Queen Elizabeth was a steady presence in the lives of millions far beyond Britain. She related with many American presidents, as well as British prime ministers, and will be mostly remembered among many things for the leadership she provided even as a young lady.

But hours before the Queen’s death was announced, Anya, an associate professor at the Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States, sparked outrage after calling the ailing Queen the head of a ‘thieving, raping, genocidal empire’.

“I heard the chief monarch of a thieving raping genocidal empire is finally dying. May her pain be excruciating,” Anya wrote on her Twitter page. The tweet has since been deleted for violating Twitter rules.

In another tweet, she referenced the rumoured role of the British government in supplying Nigeria’s federal government with arms and ammunition during the nation’s civil war which spanned 1967 to 1970.

The professor, did not explain the exact context of her comment regarding what she referred to as “sponsored the genocide that massacred and displaced half my family”.

But many perceived her tweets may not be unconnected to the Nigerian civil war which took place less than 10 years after Nigeria got its independence from Britain.

Following the announcement of the Queen’s death, she wrote: “If anyone expects me to express anything but disdain for the monarch who supervised a government that sponsored the genocide that massacred and displaced half my family and the consequences of which those alive today are still trying to overcome, you can keep wishing upon a star.”

The tweets drew the attention of many including Amazon founder, Jeff Bezos, who quoted the post and wrote: “This is someone supposedly working to make the world better? I don’t think so. Wow.”

The Queen who married late Prince Philip, left behind a royal family comprising children – Prince Charles (73), Princess Anne (71), Prince Andrew (62), and Prince Edward (58) and grand-children. Did the academic consider feelings of these bereaved? Many wondered the reasons behind the post verbally desecrating the dead. Not a few insisted that it was not in Anya’s place to wield the cane.

Some have argued that don, chose to speak the truth in her remorseless message rather than give the usual sugarcoated message about the dead. They defended Anya for speaking out against the colonial legacy of the British Empire under the late Queen. But was her harsh and unforgiving message truly about the truth?

Down memory lane in August 1967, one commentator dug up a letter written by Ven. Dr Akanu Ibiam, a Christian missionary physician, erudite theologian and statesperson who had worked for 30 years in the Church of Scotland/Presbyterian Church, who wrote a 20-paragraph letter to Queen Elizabeth II.

In his letter, Ibiam denounced, unreservedly, the central role being played by Britain in the Igbo genocide, the foundational genocide of post-(European) conquest Africa, which had then entered its second year of unremittingly ruthless slaughter. In protest to this role, Ibiam renounced and returned to the British head of state the three insignias of knighthood (OBE, KBE, KCMG) that both she and her father, King George VI, had earlier conferred on the esteemed missionary physician for services to church and state.

While people have raised discussions about the Queen’s legacy, her relationship with Africa has been highlighted but the way in which it has been reported isn’t sitting well with many across board. Many critics slammed her post-colonial legacy.

In this current dispensation, Britain’s relationships with its former African colonies are now those of trade, aid and diplomacy.

Against the backdrop of the controversies, Carnegie Mellon University, the American institution in which Anya lectures quickly released a statement distancing itself from the professor’s comments.

“We do not condone the offensive and objectionable message posted by Uju Anya today on her personal social media account. Free expression is core to the mission of higher education, however, the views views shared absolutely do not represent the values of the institution, nor the standard of discourse we seek to foster,” the statement read.

In sharp contrast to Anya’s controversial remarks, a South African political party the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) said in a statement that it would not mourn the queen because “to us her death is a reminder of a very tragic period in this country and Africa’s history.”

During her long reign, it added, “she never once acknowledged the atrocities her family inflicted on native people that Britain invaded across the world.”

At the level of argument, the reason people do not say unkind things about dead people, is not because they hate the truth, it is because it is cowardly to accuse people who cannot respond or defend themselves. It is like beating and kicking an unconscious person or a corpse.

As world continues to mourn the Queen who remains highly respected, Anya’s controversial epitaph is one that would not be forgotten in a hurry.


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