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Holding the Queen accountable in death

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Azuka OnwukaWhen Buckingham Palace issued a statement on Thursday, September 8, 2022, which said inter alia that “the Queen’s doctors are concerned for Her Majesty’s health and have recommended she remain under medical supervision,” some people sent curses and death wishes to her. And when it was finally announced that she had passed on that same day, many still continued with the vitriol. Their anger was that she was the head of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, which has brought pain to many countries through the use of force and quest for expansion and exploitation.

Specifically, many accused the UK of colonising Nigeria and causing the deaths of many as well as the amalgamation of the Southern and Northern protectorates that has helped to make it herculean to manage Nigeria and get the two sides to agree on critical issues. Some, especially from the Igbo part of the country, blamed the UK for endorsing the use of starvation against the Eastern part of Nigeria over its attempt to secede between 1967 and 1970, which led to malnourishment and death of more children than those killed by weapons.

The last part of the blame on the UK was for its prominent participation in the slave trade in Africa, with Nigeria as a key victim. There is also the role the UK is playing in modern times in the neo-colonialism taking place among third-world countries, with Nigeria as a prominent member of that group. The accusation was that Queen Elizabeth as the Head of State of the UK should be held responsible for all the acts committed by the UK.

Most of those who vented their anger on the dying or dead queen believed that their action was bold, fearless and blunt—truth unadulterated.

Anybody who disagreed with them was accused of being enslaved to political correctness.

But there are key things to ponder over in the matter. Queen Elizabeth lived a healthy life and died at 96 years. Her husband, Prince Phillip, died in 2021 at 99 years old. Queen Elizabeth did not suffer any serious illness that got her bedridden. Just two days before her death, she performed the official duty of appointing her namesake, Liz Truss, the new prime minister of the UK. This year, she achieved the record of being the first British monarch to celebrate 70 years on the throne.

At 96, nobody was expecting her to live forever. To die at 96 is not to die prematurely. Most human beings don’t even make it to their 80th birthday. Therefore, wishing the queen death or pain before death or cursing her name will not make her die prematurely or make her suffer pain before death.

Curses are ineffective. If curses were effective, the curses heaped on Europe for the slave trade and colonialism it visited upon Africa would have made Europe woe-ravaged. Ironically, it is Africa—the victim of European atrocities—that is plagued by poverty, disease and war.

If curses were effective, Germany would have been desolate after the horrors of the Holocaust it perpetrated against the Jews. But Germany has the largest economy in Europe. If curses worked, Japan would have been woe-stricken after the pain it visited on many Asian countries that it colonised or invaded. But Japan is shining like a million stars with the highest life expectancy and the third biggest economy in the world.

Therefore, in addition to being ineffective, cursing another is a sign of helplessness and lack of capacity to do anything to the person. The Igbo people have a saying that a person who eyes a superior person is merely admiring the superior person. Eyes don’t kill.

Even if the wish had any effect in exterminating the queen, her son, Charles, was waiting to take over from her seamlessly, thereby keeping the monarchy and the British rule alive in perpetuity. If her death had translated to the death of British power, the curses and death wishes could have been said to be effective.

Again, it should be noted that though the British monarch is the head of state, that office has little or no control over the decisions taken by the UK as a country. The queen or king, as the case may be, simply endorses whatever has been decided.

Queen Elizabeth was purely a ceremonial leader. She held no real powers. She could not even grant an interview or express an opinion on an issue. If needed to deliver a speech, it had to be written. She never spoke ex tempore to avoid saying what she should not say.

The British did not want to take the extreme measure the French took by executing their royal family and banning the monarchy. But the British wanted to practise democracy. Therefore, they stripped the monarchy of all its powers but retained it as an “ornament” that serves aesthetic value with no utilitarian value. That way, the British achieved the best of two worlds.

By the time of the British colonisation of Africa, the monarchy had lost all its powers and had become ornamental or ceremonial. It was the House of Commons and the Prime Minister that took decisions for the country. If the assent of the king or queen was needed on any matter, he or she gave it. The monarch could not say no.

However, beyond the fact that the queen was a ceremonial leader, there are many countries that suffered colonialism, slavery and oppression that have risen to be bigger than their oppressors. The United States of America was colonised by the same UK. But the US has surpassed the UK and acts like a big brother to the UK. The UK also colonised India just like it did Nigeria, giving independence to India in 1947. India’s economy has overtaken that of the UK. Japan invaded and occupied China. China has overtaken Japan. Even the UK was colonised by Rome. The UK overtook Rome centuries ago.

People deserve the right to express their anger as they so wish. But the resort to invoking curses or asking God to punish countries that are judged to have been oppressive to others helps to keep those countries down because they fail to see the need to take full responsibility for their present and future. God is not the servant or hired assassin of human beings that goes around the world executing the orders of humans.

The best revenge to give to countries which have been oppressive or unjust to us is to become more successful and powerful than they are. Today, even though the UK fought with the US when the US wanted its freedom, the UK and the US are such great allies that whatever action each country takes, the other supports it almost immediately.

If slavery or colonialism were allowed today, the UK, as small as it is, with less than 70 million people, can enslave or colonise the whole of Africa with 1.4 billion people. Why? Because of technology and the power of weapons. The same factors of under-development and military weakness that made it easy for the UK to conquer countries of Africa, Asia, America and Oceania are still holding Africa down today. Most parts of the world have improved on their abilities to protect themselves but Africa has not. Nigeria is bigger than the UK in size, population, land mass and natural resources. But Nigeria wields puny power globally in comparison to the UK.

It is good to remember the past and even remind the world about the injustices of the past, but not taking the right steps today will make it possible for the victims of the past to become victims of the future. The world is merciless to weak countries. It is time for Nigeria and Africa to stop sounding helpless and start taking steps to catapult us to positions of strength and respect in the world.

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