A Nigerian author who claimed to be a professor at the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge Onyeka Nwelue, has lost his academic visitor status after students alleged he “fabricated” his role.
Nwelue, a writer and filmmaker, was invited to join the African Studies Centre at Oxford as a visiting fellow for the 2021-22 academic year.
Posts from a Twitter account, which has since been deleted, show that Nwelue claimed to be a professor at both Oxford and Cambridge. However, neither university could acknowledge this academic status, an investigation by Cherwell, the student newspaper, found.
It is understood that a probe into his conduct was launched after Oxford students complained about his behaviour at a book launch in January, where he hosted a Nigerian blogger.
Students were asked to pay £20 to attend, which surprised students who said that usually Events run by the African Studies Centre are free.
In the marketing of the event, Nwelue used the Oxford University logo, the African Studies Centre logo and the Modern and Medieval Languages faculty logo without permission, Cherwell reported.
Students also complained about his social media posts, including tweets recorded by Cherwell where he stated that “being raised in a poor family chains you mentally to be stupid” and “no poor person has any value”. He also wrote that “African women look like masquerades when they wear wigs and make up”, the newspaper found.
Nwelue told The Telegraph: “Before I came to Oxford and Cambridge, I was addressed as a professor, because I have been a visiting lecturer at different universities around the world.
“I have always been called a professor from when I was a teenager… I don’t tell people I am a professor. In my house, everywhere. But, never for once did I say I am Oxford professor. Then, Cherwell showed me a tweet where someone asked, ‘Is he really a professor?’ I replied in Pidgin: ‘Yes na’.”
He added: “I am not a racist, not a misogynist or a classist. If I came off as that, to the students, I am deeply sorry and I hope they can forgive me. It won’t happen again, as I have made a concerted effort to leave social media.”
A University of Oxford Spokesman said: “The African Studies Centre has terminated Dr Nwelue’s Visitorship after persistent unacceptable breaches of its terms.
“Academic Visitors are not employed by the University, they do not get paid, and are not expected to undertake duties for the University.”
A Cambridge University Spokesperson said that Nwelue’s connection to the University as an academic visitor for the 2022-23 was “terminated” following an investigation into his conduct.