Filmmaker Onyeka Nwelue accused of fake professorship, loses academic visitor status at Oxford, Cambridge

Onyeka Nwelue

Universities of Oxford and Cambridge have terminated their relationship with Nigerian filmmaker and author Onyeka Nwelue for claiming to be a professor at both varsities.

Nwelue, according to a post he made on Twitter some time ago but has since been deleted, claimed he was a professor.

On January 31, 2023, his Instagram bio described him as “Prof of African Studies & Academic Visitor at University of Oxford & University of Cambridge” and on February 1, 2023, his Twitter bio said “Professor + Academic Visitor”. He tagged the accounts of both universities.

An investigation by a student newspaper Cherwell found that both varsities had no knowledge of such a role.

Nwelue was invited to join the African Studies Centre at Oxford as a visiting fellow for the 2021-22 academic year.

It is gathered 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 journalist David Hundeyin.

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.

Speaking with The Telegraph on the incident, the filmmaker said, “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 Mr Nwelue’s connection to the university as an academic visitor for the 2022-23 was “terminated” following an investigation into his conduct.