Dr. Uju Anya Stirs Global Controversy Tweeting About Queen Elizabeth’s Death
Dr. Uju Anya, an American professor of Nigerian descent, has said that since posting a tweet on the late Queen Elizabeth II on Thursday, September 8th, her life has been under threat.
Anya, a professor of second language acquisition at Carnegie Mellon University, tweeted on Thursday, “I heard the chief monarch of a thieving raping genocidal empire is finally dying. May her pain be excruciating.”
Her message was inspired by the suffering she went through as a child due to the Nigerian civil war and the British government’s involvement.
Nigeria was a Commonwealth member in 1967, and Elizabeth had presided as “Queen of Nigeria”—its head of state—since 1963. The United Kingdom’s government, under former Prime Minister Harold Wilson, provided the Nigerian government with enormous quantities of armaments and munitions in an effort to maintain influence and control.
52 million Nigerians suffered a humanitarian catastrophe as a result of the war. More than a thousand kids a day were starving to death a year into the conflict. TV cameras broadcast evidence of additional wartime atrocities as well as photos of their suffering around the globe. Declassified documents released in 2020 showed that Wilson expanded the delivery of armaments while misleading parliament about the UK’s involvement in response to a public outcry.
In the aftermath of the queen’s death, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari praised the royal family, referring to them as “a very strong ally even in the midst of our difficult time during the Biafran war; they stood for the indivisibility of the Nigerian state, supported and ensured that we overcame that problem.”
Uju Anya’s mother had two children under the age of ten at the time and was expecting a third. She narrowly missed boarding the final foreign charter plane transporting refugees out of the conflict zone because she was originally from Trinidad and had only been in Nigeria for ten years. While soldiers used British-supplied weapons against people, razing entire villages and burning ancestral lands, Anya’s mother and in-laws fled with whatever cover they could find.
“We lost half of our relatives,” Anya, who was born six years later, recalls. “That’s the legacy of this war. It was a genocide, a massacre, and a holocaust.”
Anya felt tormented by the past. She received a lot of backlash for her comments about the queen, which Twitter eventually deleted for violating their “rules,” much of which was riddled with racism and bigotry. Her account had also been “logged off” of the micro-blogging site for the same reason.
Jeff Bezos then joined the conversation. “This is someone supposedly working to make the world better,” wrote the world’s second richest man. Anya not only doubled her earlier wish, but she also expressed the same wish to the Amazon founder in Igbo. It translates to “May everyone you and your merciless greed have harmed in this world remember you as fondly as I remember my colonizers.”
Anya was referred to as a “vile, disgusting moron” by Piers Morgan, a fervent supporter of the monarchy. Many more have called for her to be dismissed.
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She has not been officially punished, but Carnegie Mellon has issued a statement calling her comments “offensive and objectionable.” In response, Anya declared, “I’m no stranger to Twitter controversy and dragging. However, this one was on a scale that even surprised me. I expected some backlash, but I had no idea how far this thing had spread.”
Anya is shocked that Bezos, who has only written 372 tweets since joining the platform in 2008, was drawn to her criticism of the monarch. She speculates that it might be connected to a photo she shared in August with Chris Smalls, the employee who was successful in organizing a labor union in an Amazon warehouse.
“I 100% believe that’s when it hit Jeff Bezos’s personal radar,” she says. “I’m sure they’re scraping and monitoring mentions of Chris Smalls’s name. And added to the fact that I’m faculty at a university that they financially support,” she asserts. She is referring to the three-year, $2 million contribution made by Amazon to Carnegie Mellon’s Computer Science Academy in 2020. This academy, among other things, offers middle and high school students a free, online computer science program.
In response to the university’s arm’s length remark, Anya has received letters of support from academic members and students at Carnegie Mellon. With nearly 4,000 signatures, the third letter of support specifically criticizes Bezos, calling his tweets an “attack against a Black Nigerian-Trinidadian-American Professor, coming from a man who has amassed his wealth through global domination and exploitation without regard for the most vulnerable and precarious humans on our planet.” Anya said, “Bezos simply remixed the colonial schema through neoliberal racial capitalism, exploitation, and greed.”
Anya hastens to add that the chair of the modern languages department at Carnegie Mellon has been unwavering in her personal and professional support. She even went so far as to post a security guard outside a recent department social event to allay Anya’s worries for the safety of her and her children.