The Chinua Achebe poem "The Bull and Egret" discusses the speaker's complex feelings about the Biafran War. The Biafran War was a civil war in Nigeria in which the southeast region, referring to their territory as "Biafra" and themselves as "Biafrans," attempted to secede from the country. The three largest tribes that resided in Nigeria were the Hausas/Fulanis in the north, the Yorubas in the southwest, and mainly the Igbos in the southeast. Each of these tribes had distinct cultural histories and distinct political systems. These differences had been exploited by the British, so they could establish and maintain their colonial rule.
As the British decolonized Nigeria, they continued to agitate these differences, positioning the Hausas/Fulanis, the tribe most amenable to continued British influence, to take leadership of the country. The Igbos and other smaller tribes who joined to form Biafra resented this leadership and led an aggressive rebellion. This movement is symbolized by the bull and egret; the bull is the rebels, while the egret is the supporters of the Biafran movement. For years before the rebellion, the Hausas/Fulanis had pogroms during which they killed thousands of Igbos, yet the tribe continued to flourish, remaining one of the wealthiest groups in Nigeria. This contradiction of the Igbos' continued survival in the face of consistent persecution is expressed in the poem's line, "A tribe, they say fate has chosen for slow extinction."