Uzor Maxim Uzoatu
It is in my constitution to celebrate Onyeka Nwelue, no matter whatever anybody reads elsewhere. The much-ballyhooed news out of Oxford or Cambridge on Onyeka Nwelue should be better understood in a better context with the passage of Father Time.
Let me stress this fact upfront: I knew Onyeka Nwelue before Oxbridge! As Oscar Wilde famously said, “The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.” People talk about Onyeka Nwelue because he is a world citizen – if he did not matter all the yarn about “Fake Professor” would not wash.
Onyeka Nwelue matters, and it comes from the very beginning because I was there when he travelled all the way from the East, a mere gangling boy, to set eyes on the Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka.
Talk of the three wise men from the East coming to see Jesus Christ! It was at Jazzville in the Majaro Street, Yaba area of Lagos, where Onyeka was summoned before the presence of Soyinka, and he remarkably asked the Nobel Laureate if he had a child of his own.
Before Soyinka could answer, one of my many enemies around, maybe Jahman Anikulapo or some other wag, pointed at me and said I was one of the great man’s sons!
Soyinka looked at Onyeka and then fixated on me and declared: “Yes, he is one of the renegades!”
Onyeka of course took to Soyinka as a father, and the Nobel Laureate true to his noble character gave the young lad a reason to believe. Onyeka Nwelue was thus emboldened to march forward and conquer the world with astonishing swiftness.
His first novel, The Abyssinian Boy, showcased the new kid on the literary block as a phenomenon to watch out for. He wrote books and made films and travelled the world with gusto that belied his young age.
He made his views known on all platforms without bending the knee to political correctness or whatever.
He was arrested and taken into dire custody in Rwanda for talking truth to power, and it took the high intervention of ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo for him to be freed.
Onyeka Nwelue has done a world of good for African writing through his spirited interventions over the years.
He became the founding Director of the James Currey Society in Oxford, England and got appointed an Academic Visitor at the grandee university Oxford before going further afield to earn an encore of the post at Cambridge University.
He set up Abibiman Publishing company in England, and won the rights of bringing back the esteemed African Writers Series (AWS).
It is so like Onyeka Nwelue to call me up to ask if I had a ready UK visa so that I can attend a literary festival just like that in Oxford, England.
Having retired from overseas travels, and being holed up in pastoral Awka, Anambra State, I thanked Onyeka for his inimitable generosity.
His Abibiman Publishing has issued my novel The Missing Link, and I am poised to release more titles from the stable.
Onyeka Nwelue instituted the Akachi Ezeigbo Prize for Literature which inaugural awards happened while celebrating the eponymous author’s birthday.
He has also endowed two prizes via the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA), namely, the ANA/Chukwuemeka Nwelue Prize for Igbo Language Literature and the ANA/SBC Obiora Prize for Environmental Writing.
His endowment of the James Currey Prize for African Literature has gone a long way in bringing new vistas to African writing across the globe. Onyeka Nwelue had to leave his post at Oxford when charges of misogyny and making hurtful posts on social media were tabled against him.
To earn more media mileage, the matter of being a so-called “fake professor” had to be raised for good measure. Characters aiming for the kill had to add to the dimension of “school dropout” and suchlike mundane matters.
I guess it was Bob Marley who said he would have ended up as a damn fool if he had gone to formal school.
James Baldwin did not need to attend any university to achieve his literary feats, not forgetting that he was laughed out of sight from the offices of a literary magazine as a youngster when he introduced himself as being able to review books and write essays.
Not wanting to marry does not in my book translate to misogyny because I know of Onyeka’s love for women such as Onyeka Onwenu, Prof Akachi Adimora-Ezeigbo, Flora Nwapa etc. Dead or living, Onyeka Nwelue loves them all.
There is the issue of Onyeka haranguing the poor, but I am his friend and my life depends on Henry David Thoreau’s words in Walden, to wit: “None can be an impartial or wise observer of human life but from the vantage ground of what we should call voluntary poverty.”
The world needs Onyeka Nwelue to stir things up for us all to have a total picture of life and living. The white man should take no offence that Onyeka calls them “pink people”, and he does not need destruction for writing and publishing the controversial books The Real Owners of Britain and There Are No White People.
The essential Onyeka Nwelue deserves celebration as showcased in his cinematic crime novel The Strangers of Braamfontein.
There is only one Onyeka Nwelue, and he remains an evolving revelation.