Onyeka Nwelue and Oxford University: How it all fell apart – A special report by The Lagos Review

Find out how Onyeka got to Oxford


The blogosphere has been awash with news of the termination of Onyeka Nwelue’s Academic Visitorship at the African Studies Centre of Oxford University.

The news was conveyed to the author, filmmaker, tastemaker, and teacher by Professor Larmer Miles, Director, of the African Studies Centre, Professor of African History, and Fellow, of St Antony’s College. The Tuesday, February 7, 2023 email read:

Dear Onyeka,

Please find attached a letter pertaining to the termination of your Academic Visitorship at the ASC.


 Miles Larmer.

The attached letter went ahead to note that Onyeka had “on a number of occasions breached the visitor agreement with the Oxford School of Global and Area Studies and the African Studies Centre (ASC) in ways that have the potential to seriously damage the reputation of the Centre, the School and the wider university.”

Though the news was communicated to him on 7 February 2023, the world did not learn about it until a news story appeared in Cherwell, which describes itself as “Oxford’s oldest student newspaper Independent since 1920” on 2 March 2023. The story which ran under the caption “Fake professor dismissed from Oxford apologises for misogyny at fraudulent book launch” alleged that Onyeka Nwelue “has had his Academic Visitor status at Oxford University terminated after misusing University logos and premises for commercial purposes, an investigation by Cherwell has found. Nwelue is also facing complaints of misogyny towards students and the spread of racist, classist, and sexist content online.”

The article further noted that “he represented himself as a professor at both the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge, but has been unable to provide Cherwell with evidence of an academic PhD. He was not credited as a professor by either institution in the course of his associations with them, and Oxford confirmed to Cherwell that he has never been a professor at the university. This week, the University of Cambridge also told Cherwell that Nwelue’s connections with Cambridge have been terminated following investigations into his conduct.”


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Onyeka Nwelue has since apologised to the University of Oxford. The apology is reproduced below:

I would like to convey how deeply sorry I am for being perceived racist, classist, misogynistic and sexist. Those do not reflect how I was raised, and I am sincerely sorry to everyone I have hurt. I did not mean to tarnish the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, and I take full responsibility for events and situations which have been associated with their outstanding reputations. Even though I am no longer an Academic Visitor to both prestigious institutions, I am grateful for the platforms they provided me, and being able to work with the exceptional staff, students and faculty members in various respects. I understand how my conduct has and will affect my trusted colleagues and the initiatives I am involved in, and these will be reviewed. Coming to Oxford was not something I took for granted, and only wished to do everything within my means to make my time here as productive and rewarding for everyone as I could. Please know I am taking the time to reflect on everything that has transpired and hope, in the days and weeks ahead, I can be forgiven. I sincerely apologise.”

In the wake of the breaking story and the online conversations that have ensued, The Lagos Review has tried to piece together the timeline and find the trigger for Onyeka Nwelue’s current travails.

Cherwell provides some context. “The event leading to the termination of Nwelue’s association with Oxford University was a book launch, which he hosted for the Nigerian blogger and author David Hundeyin in affiliation with the James Currey Society.”

Cherwell, in a curious twist describes Mr. Hundeyin as “the 2023 holder of the James Currey Fellowship at Cambridge … who maintains a controversial social media presence and has been a significant supporter of populist politician Peter Obi in this week’s Nigerian elections.”

Many online commentators have wondered at the rather strange reference to Mr. Hundeyin’s supposed support for Peter Obi.

Continuing Cherwell claims that “On 31st January, Nwelue and Hundeyin ran a book launch together on Oxford University premises for Hundeyin’s most recent book, also published with Abibiman Publishers. This was marketed through the James Currey Society and tickets were priced at £20 for Oxford students” and during that book launch, the student magazine says it was informed “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.”

In his defence, Onyeka Nwelue clarified that at no time did he misrepresent himself as a Professor at Oxford or Cambridge.

“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 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 amounts to in naira. It’s over 10 million naira.”


In a tweet, Gimba Kakanda acknowledges the fact that Onyeka has never hidden the fact that he dropped out of college. “I don’t know the resume Onyeka Nwelue submitted to @UniofOxford and  @Cambridge_Uni  to secure his Academic Visitation roles but, in all honesty, he had been vocal about his ”dropout” status to the point of referencing it to italicize his literary genius.”

Going further, Mr. Kakanda expresses the view that Onyeka might have conflated or equated his “teaching engagements” as the equivalent of a professorship. “It’s easy for one to think he’s a titular Professor, a rank probably earned because of his teaching engagements at the institutions he advertised online. One wouldn’t have expected Oxbridge to seek his service without background checks—and one google tab is enough revelation.”

Onyeka’s comments seem to chime with Mr. Kakanda’s observation as he states that “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. The Spanish word for teacher, is ‘professor’ 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!”


Who is Onyeka Nwelue and why has the termination of his Academic Visitorship roiled social media? A former seminarian, Onyeka made his Nigerian literary scene entrée in 2004 when as a 16-year-old, he left school, got on a night bus and arrived Lagos with a friend ostensibly to attend an event in honour of Professor Wole Soyinka whom Onyeka has described at various times as his “god”.

In time, he would go to university, drop out and publish his first novel, The Abyssinian Boy which would get shortlisted for awards. The world began to take notice as he travelled from India to Haiti to Mexico and France and Hong Kong, giving talks and lectures, participating in festivals and dropping provocative posts on social media. Brash and thick skinned, Onyeka is very opinionated and does not shy away from sharing them. He was arrested in 2018 in Rwanda on account of alleged “insulting” tweets about President Paul Kagame.

Online comments from those with knowledge of Onyeka’s online activity acknowledge that his social media footprint is replete with controversial tweets, much of which he has now acknowledged were part of a social experiment to elicit responses for a new book.

Was the University of Oxford aware of his brush with Kagame and the reason for that incident before accepting him as an Academic Visitor?

But where many have been offended by his manner, Onyeka has transformed into an African literary tastemaker, much of which was acknowledged in a glowing letter of recommendation written in September 2022 by the same Professor Larmer Miles who terminated his Academic Visitorship in March 2022.

In his letter Professor Miles writes that:

I am delighted to write in support of Onyeka Nwelue’s application for a Global Talent Visa. As the Director of the University of Oxford’s African Studies Centre it has been a pleasure to work with Mr. Nwelue since he became an Academic Visitor to the Centre at the start of the 2021/22 academic year. Since that time, Onyeka has used his literary talents, organising energies and international connections to initiate a series of activities focused on African literature and culture greatly to the benefit of the city of Oxford and the university.

Mr. Nwelue, the founder of the James Currey Society, initiated the James Currey Fellowship which in 2021/22 brought the author Stephen Embleton to Oxford: Embleton as a visitor to the African Studies Centre organised a writing workshop and gave a series of talks on African fiction, past and present. Mr. Nwelue also organises the James Currey prize for African Literature, now in its second year, and in September 2021 organised the inaugural James Currey Literary Festival, held at Oxford’s Bodleian Library. All these events and initiatives have provided a major new platform for African literature in the UK, which has been greatly to the benefit of the authors themselves and the African Studies Centre of the University of Oxford.

Onyeka Nwelue has been, and remains a tireless champion of African literature, as well as being a significant and prolific author himself. I very much hope he is able to put this cooperation on a form [sic] footing via the Global Talent Visa scheme.”


Reading the recommendation letter, one is hard put to understand where the fissure happened. How could the same university that renewed Onyeka Nwelue’s Academic Visitorship suddenly fire him over a book launch? Or was the book launch a convenient excuse?

The Lagos Review reached out to Professor Larmer Miles with a few questions regarding whether due diligence was followed through in Onyeka’s appointment, whether the university ever asked Mr. Nwelue not to host Mr. Hundeyin and why he chose to refer to Mr. Hundeyin as a “disreputable figure” in the letter communicating the termination of the Academic Visitorship.

Professor Larmer Miles had not responded to our email at the time of going to press.


The reaction to Onyeka Nwelue’s travails has been varied; from condemnation to support and bafflement at the reference to Mr. Hundeyin’s support for Peter Obi. Many believe that the reference was an indication of bias from Cherwell.

Dr. Ayo Sogunro makes the allusion in his tweet. “I think David was himself a victim of Nwelue in all this. But the trigger was the sexist and misogynistic remarks in a society where discriminatory language is frowned on. It’s a no-no. But why did Cherwell had –[sic] to drag Peter Obi as “populist”? Who are they a mouthpiece for?”


Others like Chilee Agunanna have also expressed concern at the reference to Mr. Hundeyin’s political leaning.

JJ Omojuwa wrote on twitter, “Onyeka Nwelue is not a bad person. He’s made mistakes.”

Commenting further on Twitter, Gimba Kakanda in a lengthy post offered some intervention regarding Mr. Nwelue’s intentions. “I find this scandal quite unfortunate because I had followed him from a distance for about a decade and a half, and have come to a realization that he never meant the provocative and eccentric things he said. If you know him in person, you would think so too.  I may be wrong.”

Others like Nicholas Ibekwe haven’t been so accommodating. By his own estimation, Onyeka Nwelue is a fraudster.



As the issue rages and opinions are proffered, many questions remain. Onyeka Nwelue is accused of misrepresenting himself as a professor, but online commentators note that he has always referred to himself as “professor” long before his appointment as an Academic Visitor at Oxford. The university clearly did not seem to take issue with the term professor because his tenure was not only extended, the director offered him a glowing recommendation. And Cambridge soon followed suit in offering him a position as Visiting Scholar.

Are we to believe that Oxford and Cambridge will offer just any one an Academic Visitorship and Visiting Scholar status without confirming their literary or academic credentials?

Did Onyeka present the 22 books Cherwell reported that he has written as proof of his literary credentials and did Oxford consider them “good enough” to offer him an Academic Visitorship?

This might be a good time to ask how did Onyeka Nwelue; university dropout, filmmaker, energetic cultural organiser, and who according to Prof. Miles is a “tireless champion of African literature, significant and prolific author” get to Oxford?

Onyeka Nwelue’s answer is a short one. “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.”

In fact, in a piece published in Thisday newspaper of 12 August 2015 by Solomon Elusoji, Onyeka is described in the caption as “The Dropout Professor” and the author writes:

Fast-forward to 2015, and I meet Nwelue, for the second time, at Joy Isi Bewaji’s book reading in Ikoyi. He has grown a beard. He moves with ease, grace. His brash outspokenness is intact. When I walk up to him, to ask for an interview – partly because he had just been announced as an Assistant Professor of African Studies at Manipur University, India, and partly because I thought he was a fascinating subject – he was kind, courteous, almost humble. He handed me his card, and I promised to get in touch the next day.

Commenting further on the allegation of misrepresenting himself as a professor, Onyeka Nwelue explains. “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. Cherwell News and The Telegraph 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. In 2015, I was invited to the University of Manipur in India, as a Visiting Fellow, to teach. Here is the invitation.”


For anyone wondering what is next for Onyeka Nwelue? He says he has already provided an answer in response to a poser from a leading figure in Oxford who asked him – “What is your current situation?”

“I have apologised to the university and taken full responsibility for what happened; because I will never blame anyone for my failure…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.”

While Onyeka is still ruminating on the ongoing scandal and what it means for his future, it will be apposite to repair again to that same 2015 interview in Thisday where Onyeka Nwelue tells Solomon Elusoji that “failure is a way of life. It is a cycle. It comes to every man. Every man fails. How you rise is what makes you what you are. Failure is very important. You haven’t had a life if you have never failed. What makes me happy about life is that after each failure I experience, comes utmost success.”

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