Nigerian Author, Onyeka Nwelue Loses Academic Visitor Status at Oxford, Cambridge Over Fraudulent Book Launch

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After misusing University insignia and buildings for commercial purposes, Onyeka Nwelue, a Nigerian author, had his Academic Visiting status at Oxford University withdrawn. Nwelue has also been accused of misogyny toward students as well as the online distribution of racist, classist, and sexist trash.

 

The Fake Professor

From Michaelmas 2021 through early February this year, Nwelue, a self-published novelist and filmmaker, was an Academic Visitor at Oxford’s African Studies Centre. He pretended to be a professor at both the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge at the time, but he couldn’t provide proof of an academic Degree.

Throughout his career at both institutions, he was never credited as a professor, and Oxford asserts he was never a professor there. This week, the University of Cambridge also announced that Nwelue’s contacts with the university have been terminated as a result of an investigation into his actions.

On 31st January 2023, Nwelue’s Instagram bio described him as “Prof of African Studies & Academic Visitor at University of Oxford & University of Cambridge” and on 1st February 2023, his Twitter bio said “Professor + Academic Visitor”, tagging the accounts of both universities. He also tweeted: “I am a university professor, attached to two of the top best universities in the world”, along with many other tweets where he referred to himself as a professor.

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However, when asked to clarify his academic affiliations in light of this, Nwelue said: “I have never ever posed as a professor at Oxford and Cambridge. My card says I am an Academic Visitor and that is exactly what I tell people. The accusation that I say I am a professor at Oxford is baseless.”

Academic Visitorships are established at Oxford on mutually agreed-upon terms between an individual and the University. The University admitted that it does not hire Academic Visitors, who are not paid and are not expected to conduct University-related duties.

In his social media bios, Nwelue has represented himself as a Research Associate at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London, but SOAS confirmed to Cherwell that he is not one of its Research Associates.

When asked by Cherwell to provide further details of his academic certifications, Nwelue said: “I have the equivalent of Master’s as a filmmaker. I also have an Honorary Doctorate. I have been Visiting / Research Fellow in other universities. Prior to Oxford, I made award-winning films and published a lot of books. [sic]”

At least twenty-two novels bearing Onyeka Nwelue’s name have been published. Twenty of his works were either self-published or published by Nwelue-owned companies. Nine of them have been released after 2021, and thirteen of the seventeen on Amazon have no consumer reviews.

 

The Tweets

During his time as an Academic Visitor at Oxford, Nwelue posted content on Twitter which was racist, classist, and misogynistic. These include Tweets where he stated: “being raised in a poor family chains you mentally to be stupid.”; “no poor person has any value”; “African women look like masquerades when they wear wigs and make up”; “Arabs are known to relish slavery and servitude”; China “is poor, filthy (smells a lot!) and overpopulated”; “Eastern Europeans…only produce pick-pockets and scammers”.

When asked about these tweets, Nwelue told Cherwell: “It was a social experiment to get feedback for a book I was working on. Apologies that they came off wrongly.” He denied being racist, misogynist, or classist.

The University of Oxford has not stated whether Nwelue’s background was checked before he was appointed as an Academic Visitor.

 

The James Currey Society

The event that led to Nwelue’s dismissal from Oxford University was a book launch for Nigerian blogger and novelist David Hundeyin, which he hosted in collaboration with the James Currey Society.

Nwelue formed the James Currey Society, which was incorporated as a for-profit company in May 2022 as James Currey International. The James Currey Fellowship, named after the South African book publisher James Currey, has financed African authors to attend both Oxford and Cambridge. “[The Society] was founded in collaboration with the University of Oxford,” Nwelue told Cherwell. “The James Currey Fellowships are not awarded, funded, or operated by the University,” Oxford explained.

Mitterand Okorie, the current holder of the James Currey Fellowship at Oxford, authored a hagiographic account of Nwelue’s life titled Onyeka Nwelue: A Difficult Life, which was released by Nwelue’s own publishing business Abibiman Publishing in 2022.

However, David Hundeyin, the 2023 recipient of the James Currey Fellowship at Cambridge, has a contentious social media presence and has been a vocal backer of populist politician Peter Obi in this week’s Nigerian elections.

Cambridge told Cherwell: “Onyeka Nwelue and David Hundeyin are no longer associated with the University of Cambridge. Their connections were terminated following an investigation into their conduct”. They added: “The James Currey Fellowship is not administered, awarded, or funded by the University of Cambridge.”

 

The book launch

On January 31st, Nwelue and Hundeyin co-hosted a book launch at Oxford University for Hundeyin’s most recent book, which was also published by Abibiman Publishing. This was promoted by the James Currey Society, with tickets costing £20 for Oxford students. “I signed up to attend the event and was startled I had to pay £20 to join,” one attendee told Cherwell. The African Studies Centre’s events are usually free because they cater to students.” In addition to the £20 admission fee, copies of Hundeyin’s book were available for purchase during the event for an additional £20.

The book launch was originally scheduled for the African Studies Centre, but it was moved at the last minute to a space at the College of Modern and Medieval Languages at Wellington Square.

Attendees of the event told Cherwell that misogynistic remarks made by its organisers and other audience members made them feel “incredibly uncomfortable”. One student said: “Explicitly sexist comments were made throughout by the speaker and audience which were not challenged and were in fact encouraged. … Comments made suggested that women slept their way to the top, which oppressed men, and that marrying a woman held you back in life”.

Another student added: “A key point of concern occurred when a question was asked by an attendee to Hundeyin concerning the issue of sexism and sexual harassment that African female journalists endure. Hundeyin replied with the implication that women who were of a fair complexion, tall and had long legs would not face hurdles to their career advancement in journalism.”

A third student said: “Nwelue laughed and agreed with [an audience member’s] comment about women being controlling. This made me feel angry and upset.”

When asked about the event, Nwelue told Cherwell: “I am very sorry if the students felt uncomfortable. About sexism and misogyny, I will never condone that. I am apologetic if that happened. Really sorry.”

 

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In the marketing of the event, Nwelue used the Oxford University logo, the African Studies Centre logo and the MML logo without permission. Oxford told Cherwell: “The [Modern Languages] Faculty logo was used on the event publicity without authorisation. Once it was brought to the Faculty’s attention, the Faculty contacted the organiser to request removal of the Faculty’s logo from the publicity.”

Nwelue resigned as Director of the James Currey Society on February 20th, announcing his replacement as Zimbabwean actor Charmaine Mujeri. He revealed that he resigned following the expiration of his Academic Visitorship, “so that [his] personal relationship with the University of Oxford can terminate there”. It is unknown whether the James Currey Fellowships will continue or be granted in the future.

Nwelue also sent a letter to Oxford Vice Chancellor Professor Irene Tracy, which Cherwell obtained, in which he unsuccessfully contested the termination of his Academic Visitorship.

Yesterday, Nwelue locked his Twitter account after tweeting: “I am leaving social media this evening. It will be for long. [sic]. I might delete all my accounts as well. Bless you all!”

The investigation of Nwelue’s behavior at Oxford University is still ongoing.

 

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