Nigerian author Onyeka Nwelue Nwelue has been at the center of a controversy that has led to the termination of his position at the University of Oxford and Cambridge University. Today, Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka weighed in, calling for caution and understanding.
There has been three main developments with the story.
March 2: Oxford University student newspaper Cherwell published a news story in which they accused Nwelue of “represent[ing] himself as a professor at both the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge” without “evidence of an academic PhD.”
In the article, attributed to a “Cherwell News” as opposed to a proper byline, there are claims about Nwelue holding a “fraudulent book lunch,” where he and some of the attendees openly shared sexist views. He was also accused of being racist and misogynist, with excepts of tweets he’d posted in the past quoted in the piece as evidence. The story has since been picked up in a few British news outlets. [Read full story here].
Nwelue served as an Academic Visitor at Cambridge University and at Oxford University. These are temporary non-contract, non-employee positions that these universities offer for a fee. Nwelue reveals that he paid Oxford 1000 pounds and Cambridge University 9000 pounds to hold the visitorship, but both institutions have since cut ties with him.
March 4th: In a statement [posted in full below] that has been circulating online, Nwelue responds to these accusations, stating that he has always been open about the fact that he dropped out of university and denies ever falsely claiming to be a phd-holding professor. He also addressed the accusations about misogyny and racism, writing: “the only thing I want to achieve with this piece, is to apologize to everyone that believes I am a racist, a misogynist, sexist or other crimes against humanity from the ‘evidence’ screenshot from my posts.”
He also revealed that, following the controversy, the Canada-based Publisher Griot’s Lounge dropped him, deciding not to publish the forthcoming edition of his book The Strangers of Braamfontein. He shares that his South African publisher has also done the same.
March 6: Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka, who is a good friend of Nwelue, weighs in, offering his support. Soyinka does not respond to the accusations directly. In the article published on Nigeria’s Premium Times, he mainly criticizes social media’s sensationalist culture and the publishers for their decision to kill the forthcoming publications, calling it “over-reaction in the sententious mode, a dangerous, extra-curricular response.” He adds:
The charges against this author do not involve plagiarism or other literary offence, nor any crime against humanity. Would his film documentaries – including his prize-winning latest be up next for the Censorship Index? Do we proceed to burn copies of that sociological exposé and raunchy read – The Strangers of Braamfontein – already in our possession?
More airing is required on the media trade in personality conscription – be it for negative or positive packaging. That goes also for exposed individuals who get sucked in – through unawareness, nonchalance, or gradations of collaborative conduct. Among Nwelue’s intimate associates unfortunately, are some dubious hangers on who exploit his own susceptibility and frail health to nurse their hunger for notoriety. The ultimate responsibility is however his, and he has emerged upfront to accept this in a letter of apology. Now, it is the turn of the enabling environment to also take stock and clean up its act. ‘Casting the first stone’ is easy enough; ensuring that the baby is not thrown out with the bathwater is the harder, and far more productive responsibility. The literary world can do with more babies from the bassinet of The Strangers of Braamfontein!
Read more here.
See Nwelue’s full statement below and let us know what you think in the comments below.
AS RELEASED BY ONYEKA NWELUE
Cherwell News did a story on me, recently, with the caption: “Fake professor dismissed from Oxford apologises for misogyny at fraudulent book launch.”
It was supposed to be a hit story, a story written to ridicule me, but before it was published, I sent them something similar, written in 2015, by Solomon Elusoji and published in the Nigerian newspaper, ThisDay. Nobody took note of that story.
I do not have a first degree and never claimed to have one. I have taught in more institutions of learning than many with PhDs.
I have participated in trainings, where you needed to go home with certificates, but I didn’t take any. There is a video of me as a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Hong Kong on YouTube.
It is public knowledge that I do not have any degree certificate. There was never a time Oxford University requested for any first degree certificate from me. It was the idea of the University that I came as Academic Visitor.
I became the envy of the world, when I became an Academic Visitor at the two of the best universities in the world, Oxford and Cambridge. It was something impossible but someone did it. I had bench fees to pay to the Universities. For Oxford, I paid a bench fee of £1000 and for Cambridge, the bench fee was £9000. We know how much these amount in Naira. It’s over N10 million Naira.
I was going to leave these for a new book I will self-publish, to be titled, “Cancelled.” Academic Visitors are unpaid at the universities they are attached to. So, they are not employees of the universities, so I never in this world, told anyone that I was a professor at Oxford and Cambridge. I was a ‘Professor’ before I came to Oxford.
On my social media bio, where I wrote: “Professor + Academic Visitor at the University of Oxford and Cambridge.” Please, read that again. ‘Professor’ came before ‘Academic Visitor.’ If I were a professor at Oxford, why did I need to add Academic Visitor? Comprehension is a problem, so I don’t have to blame the writers of the article meant to scandalize me, for not understanding what I said in the language of the country they live in. Even the reporter from The Telegraph, refused to ‘comprehend’ it. The idea, was for me to leave social media and sit this out, but the only thing I want to achieve with this piece, is to apologize to everyone that believes I am a racist, a misogynist, sexist or other crimes against humanity from the ‘evidence’ screenshot from my posts. They were meant to elicit feedback for my books. I am none of those and I didn’t utter any misogynistic word at the launch of the book that I published.
The writers of the article, also, have mocked me for self-publishing. I was a 16 year old, when I launched my literary career and I have been consistent with my struggles. Every kind of stone, has been thrown at me. The only time problems will end for me, is the day that I die. For now, I trudge on.
My grandmother used to say there are different paths to the stream. The writers at Cherwell, are young people, like me, who will one day, realize that there are different ways to achieving one’s dreams. The idea of that piece, is to cancel and ridicule me. They have succeeded in doing that.
The first message I received, when the article was published, was from my Canadian publisher, Bibi Ukonu, telling me, they will remove my book, The Strangers of Braamfontein from their list. It shocked me, honestly, because this is coming from a fellow Nigerian, someone I consider an elder brother, a confidant. I have shared more personal stories with him, than anyone. Infact, I have known him from my late teenage years or thereabouts. I have always loved and respected him. I consider him family. I remember attending his wedding, as a wide-eyed young person, dreaming then of my own wedding. For him, it is business, so he will throw me under the bus to protect his business. Because I am now a pariah dog.
Imagine I had not published The Strangers of Braamfontein by myself in the UK? I would be at the mercy of people and will be grovelling at their feet and crying for mercy. People want to distance themselves from me.
It is easy to cancel me, but the question is: to what gain? Where are the proofs that I hate women or disrespect them? I have more respect for women than anybody. The women around me, know this.
I have written a book, There Are No White People. Before that book was published, a wise man said to me: “They will bury you in England, because of that book. They will destroy you.” I still went ahead to publish it and that is what is happening. Before that, I published ‘The Real Owners of Britain.’
Cherwell News and The Telegrah refused to insert my responses, where I explained to them that I have been a professor before I came here. They didn’t want to publish it. They already made up their mind.
The world class writer, Chinua Achebe, was the founding editor of African Writers Series, under which Things Fall Apart appeared later. Would you describe that as self-publishing? Should I wait for a publisher my entire life, because I don’t want to be seen as self-published author?
The South African publisher, who was supposed to publish The Strangers of Braamfontein since 2021, will no longer publish it. They have not communicated to me, but they have informed those who pre-ordered the book. This is why it is important to take charge of your destiny.
What brought me to the University of Oxford, was an idea I shared with James Currey and he put me in touch with Professor Wale Adebanwi, who in turn, introduced me to Professor David Pratten and after weeks of forth and back, Professor Pratten informed me, that the proposal was approved. That on Monday, I would get an official letter for it. I received a letter, that I had now been approved as an Academic Visitor.
I received an Honorary Doctorate certificate from Queensland University in Haiti. Cherwell News decided to contact the University, but never mentioned in their article, the response they got. They had gone on to tell the Rector of the University, that I am a bad person. If you were running an investigation, there is a way to do that. Dismayed, the Rector became livid and sent a message that, I should ‘tear my certificate.’
In 2015, I was invited to the University of Manipur in India, as a Visiting Fellow, to teach. Here is the invitation.
Cherwell News wrote an article about a Nigerian, so it is sensational to sprinkle in words like, “fake” and “fraudulent” as captions, to elicit the responses they want from the world about Nigerians.
When my father died, I focused on getting responses from people, about funeral parties in Igbo land, which led to the publication of my play, “A Banquet for Pigs and Vultures.”
The termination of my Academic Visitorship at the University of Oxford and University of Cambridge, appears to people like I lost a job. No. I was not being paid. It was a platform to be seen as powerful, a platform to leverage on. That was why, many people came around me, to associate with power and prestige and when it was announced by Cherwell, I saw those people distancing themselves from me. What money and power can not do, does not exist!
Young people who hoped it happened to them, would be jubilating. Read again: I did not lose a job. I was not an employee of Oxford or Cambridge. I paid them. They didn’t pay me.
The only problem here is the accusation of misogyny and that students paid money to come for the event. The venue I used for this event, was paid for. It was not advertised as an event for students. Fans of the author came from cities like Liverpool. They had no issue coming for it. Another problem is the use of logo, which I apologized for and removed after I was asked to remove it.
David Hundeyin is not a character many people love and not many people love me, also, but I have received a lot of messages these few days, from the ones who love me, asking me to calm down and that everything will be okay.
The James Currey Literary Festival, which was organized last year, was so perfect that the University took pride in it and looked forward to the second edition.
Infact, when I applied for a Global Talent Visa, I approached Professor Miles Larmer, my academic advisor and he was gracious enough to write this beautiful recommendation for me:
Here is the true voice of the man I know. Not the one in the letter of termination.
I have apologized to the University and taken full responsibility for what happened, because I will never blame anyone for my failure.
When I told the Lord Mayor of Oxford, James Fry about my termination, he asked: “ What is your current situation?” I told him I will continue from where I stopped, which is, to focus on my writing. I have a new book, The Nigerian Mafia: Mumbai, which comes out in a few weeks.
I also want people to share this piece of mine, as wide as they shared the reportage from Cherwell News, but I doubt they would, because bad news travels so fast.
What is the bad news, the arrogant and cocky Onyeka Nwelue has been found to be a ‘fake Professor’ and has been sacked by Oxford and Cambridge.
The Spanish word for teacher, is ‘profesor’ and the French word for teacher, is ‘professeur,’ but I never claimed I was a ‘Professor’ at the University of Oxford or Cambridge. What will remain in my CV, eternally, is Academic Visitor, University of Oxford from 2021 – 2023 and Visiting Scholar, University of Cambridge from 2022 – 2023. Nothing more than that but I can see the university has begun to remove links that have my name from their websites!
Wole Soyinka’s photo via Flickr
Onyeka Nwelue’s photo via bookartville.