By Donu Kogbara
Uju Anya, an outspoken Nigerian-born professor who teaches linguistics at Carnegie Mellon University in the United States, has generated thousands of column inches in the past week for taking to Twitter to wish the late Queen Elizabeth II a painful demise.
Her exact words as the 96- year-old Queen was fading away on her deathbed were: “I heard the chief monarch of a thieving raping genocidal empire is finally dying. May her pain be excruciating.”
Anya was motivated by grievances linked to British colonial rule and Britain’s anti-Biafra stance during the Nigerian civil war.
From what I can gather, though Anya’s tweet attracted considerable support, most of the people who read it made it clear that they were horrified by its sheer vindictiveness and chilling viciousness.
But Anya continued to spew bile by issuing the following post-mortem statement when the Queen had just gone to meet her Maker:
“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.”
Following protests by many individuals and organisations, Twitter suspended Anya but later reinstated her account, while Carnegie Mellon disassociated itself from her views but didn’t sack her.
Some feel that she was unfairly victimised for being honest and exercising her right to free speech. Others feel that she was not punished enough for being cruel, disrespectful and dishonest.
I think that she is entitled to her opinion but behaved tastelessly and deserved to be sanctioned because she’s a lecturer and role model who is supposed to show young students how to approach ethical debates about historical injustices in a calm and mature way.
My father was the Biafran ambassador to London; and I grew up believing that the UK government played a very unsavoury role during the conflict, so I totally understand Anya’s bitterness. I also understand her anger about the vagaries of British imperial rule.
But the Queen was only a titular head of state. Her role was entirely ceremonial; and she was not personally responsible for the anti-Biafran decisions that were made by Harold Wilson, the then British Prime Minister.
Also, yes, the Queen and whole royal family have benefitted from the tremendous wealth that was plundered from British colonies; but the Queen was not personally responsible for British colonial policies and practices that predated her reign. And nor is her heir, King Charles III.
So while it doesn’t make sense for any Black person to slavishly go overboard in hailing the British monarchy and mourning the passing of its CEO, there is also no need for any Black person to carry on as if Queen Elizabeth and her descendants are the devil incarnate.
An exemplary election monitor speaks
Mike Igini recently retired as the resident Independent Electoral Commission, INEC, representative in Akwa Ibom State.
Igini is a legend and known to be incorruptible and courageous.
I asked him what role he thought that INEC and the judiciary could play in the upcoming election. This is what he had to say:
“The role of INEC and the judiciary in the forthcoming coming 2023 election is critical for the sustenance of democracy in Nigeria. One of the most distinctive promises of democracy is periodic peaceful transfer of power through election that its outcome is legitimate.
In fact, whether the institution of representative democracy has a hopeful future in Nigeria will depend on how the commission and citizens work together to sustain the trajectory of credible electoral outcomes on account of series of electoral reforms that have been initiated through the embrace of some measures of ICT solutions right from the Professor Jega leadership since 2011 .
These reforms have been further consolidated by the present leadership of Professor Mahmood Yakubu as exemplified by recent credible elections of Edo, Anambra, Ondo, Ekiti, Osun and across the country.
Additionally, the new 2022 Electoral Act have secured INEC innovations such as the use of BVAS for accreditation and far more important, the requirement of section 60 of the law that polling units results and numbers of accredited voters shall and must be uploaded and transmitted to the results view portal by the presiding officer directly at the polling unit after announcement or declaration.
All these step by step compulsory procedures have brought about increased openness and transparency to the electoral process . It’s now difficult, if not impossible, for results declared at polling units to be altered or changed by election riggers at Ward, LGA or any level of the collation stages as was the case in the past. This is a fundamental paradigm shift in our electoral process of results collation that has brought tremendous energy of hope and confidence of Nigerians in our election and perhaps the reason, apart from other issues of unmet expectations from government, that energised Nigerians to come out en mass to register to vote in the forthcoming 2023 elections.
On the role of the judiciary, it remains the bed rock of any democracy. If it fails to demonstrate courage by giving meaning and purpose to the ballot as the best means of the expression of the will of the people in a democracy by doing justice to all political cases before it by calling justice by its true name, the judiciary would have let down the people of this country.
The starting point of demonstrating judicial courage would be the various pre-election cases that emanated from the party primaries in various federal High courts across the country.
We are all witnesses to the impunity of political parties leaders contrary to section section 29 and reports of INEC state monitors submitted names of individuals that didn’t participate in party primary elections as required under section 84 of the 2022.
How our colleagues in the bench determine or handle these matters courageously by doing electoral justice will give us insight of how the judiciary will handle 2023 election petitions.
The question on the lips of Nigerians now is: Will our judges pander to vested political interest or stand on the side of strict interpretation of the provisions of the 2022 Act and uphold the rule of law for the growth and sustenance of our democracy.