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The Biafra-Britain Connection: Background information when reading What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky

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What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky


by Lesley Nneka Arimah

What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky by Lesley Nneka Arimah X
What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky by Lesley Nneka Arimah
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  • First Published:
    Apr 2017, 240 pages
    Apr 2018, 240 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Poornima Apte
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About this Book

The Biafra-Britain Connection

This article relates to What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky

Print Review

In the titular, futuristic story from What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky, there is talk of a Biafra-Britannia alliance and one character's father still holds "bitterly to the idea of Biafran independence, an independence his parents had died for in the late 2030s."

The Biafra-Britannia alliance would be an irony given that Britain sided against Biafra in the Nigerian Civil War.

BiafraNigeria gained independence from Britain in 1960. At the time, Nigeria was made up of a number of religious and tribal factions. A military coup in 1967 displaced the Nigerian head and since the ousting general was Igbo, it was widely believed that the coup originated in the Northeast, the Igbo region of Nigeria. Reciprocation against the Igbo was swift and culminated in the area, named Biafra, demanding secession from the rest of the country under the leadership of Colonel Emeka Ojukwu.

This lead to the Nigerian Civil War, which lasted close to three years. The death toll from the fighting and famine that resulted from a blockade of supplies to the region from Nigeria is pegged at approximately a million. For more about Nigeria's Civil War, read the Beyond the Book for Half of a Yellow Sun.

It is widely believed that Britain shifted allegiances this way and that during the war, and eventually supported the Nigerian Federal government in its fight against the Biafrans for one valuable asset: oil. Biafra is rich in the natural resource and Colonel Emeka Ojukwu had initially demanded that Britain's Shell Oil pay royalties to the newly founded Biafran government instead of to Nigeria. While Britain made a token payment, the blockade on all goods out of Biafra made oil exports close to impossible anyway, a situation that, in turn, threatened to seriously harm the British economy.

Emeka OjukwuIn a few months, Britain was squarely on the side of the Nigerian government, supplying arms and ammunition in its fight against Biafra.

Map of Biafra
Colonel Emeka Ojukwu, courtesy of

Article by Poornima Apte

This "beyond the book article" relates to What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky. It originally ran in May 2017 and has been updated for the April 2018 paperback edition.

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