Onyeka Nwelue is 29 years old and is from Nigeria. He is the CEO/President at LaCaveMusik; a Research Fellow at Ohio University; the Recipient of the 2013 Prince Claus Fund Ticket Grant; Visiting Lecturer at The University of Hong Kong; a Visiting Assistant Professor & Fellow of African Literature at Manipur University and is the Curator of The Diplomatic Jazz Nights here in Nigeria. He dropped out of University of Nigeria, Nsukka in his second year and went to India to pursue his passion and study Literature and Film.

He is the author of “The Abyssinian Boy”, “Burnt”, “Hip Hop is for Children” and is the Producer of “The House of Nwapa”; a documentary detailing the life of Flora Nwapa, Africa’s first female writer in English. He has taught in over 20 countries of the world, and of course has his fair share of controversy. He declared Chinua Achebe’s “Things fall apart” the “worst book ever written by an African” and said Wole Soyinka “writes very bad dialogues”. He also has a controversial view on the issue of Gender Rights and gender-based violence in Nigeria.

Kennedy interviewed Onyeka in our series titled #EXTRAORDINARY last week. Excerpts of the interview are below:

Kennedy: May we meet you? 

Onyeka: My name is Onyeka Nwelue. I am a writer, teacher and filmmaker. I curate The Diplomatic Jazz Nights and also head a record label based out in Paris called La Cave Musik.

Kennedy: You have taught in over 5 continents. Can you give us a brief background of your experience as a teacher?

Onyeka: I volunteer to teach. I started doing this when I was 22 years old. This was when I realized that if we have to pay to be educated, then, we are being ripped off. People have found capitalistic way of enriching themselves and university education is one of them. I thought that by volunteering, I could upset some people and have them driven off their jobs. I wanted to make sure I got some people off their jobs. I have taught in Nigeria, India, Liberia, Malawi, Hong Kong, Mexico and many other countries.

Kennedy: As a youth, was there a personal experience that motivated you to start teaching and what has kept you in it?

Onyeka: I already explained that. Also, I think I realized students needed a teacher who would not sugarcoat things for them. They need to know how tough the world is outside of the university walls. So, that was a way to get me motivated. This is because I had a bad experience in the university where lecturers were bent on you buying textbooks and them reading from those textbooks to you in class. Most of the lecturers I encountered in the University of Nigeria, Nsukka are people who can’t stand me; they are not smart and lots of them are not articulate. How they got into the system, I didn’t know. I had to find my way into the system to understand how a student feels when taught by an unintelligent teacher.

At your TEDx talk in 2015, you spoke about how education should be free. Do you teach for free? And why?

I teach for free. I volunteer, because I personally feel university education should be free. There is nothing new to learn in university. You only learn in your formative years as a teenager. Whatever you learn in university is a way of rekindling the light of social constructs. Whoever said you can learn a new language you couldn’t learn in secondary. If you haven’t figured what you should be in future in secondary school and would like to do that in university, then, you’re wasting your time!

Kennedy: How do you respond to criticisms about your unconventional style of carrying out your work, especially as a drop-out who is now a Professor at 29? 

I do not take criticism. I do not understand why anyone would want to spend his time criticizing me. You’re obviously wasting your time. It won’t make me pander to that person’s sensibility. So, your criticism of my life or what I do or how I do is completely useless to me. You can always shove it up your ass!

Kennedy: How do you remain connected to the cause you represent?

Onyeka: I am consistent with my narrative. That is how!

Kennedy: You have a great deal of popularity and fame. Working with various people as Wole Soyinka, Asa, no other notable writers, poets and even international organizations. How did you achieve this?

I do not believe anything is impossible. It might be difficult to get things done, but I always find a way. People wonder how I do it but I am a man whose willpower is as strong as Zuma Rock. I try not to get intimidated by anyone. If I want to meet Obama right now, I will. I don’t even need to cower about it. I will find my way to Obama.

Kennedy: What is your perspective about gender rights in Nigeria, and what do you think is the best way to get rid of gender-based violence?

More women are molesting men. More women are raping men. More women are beating up men. Nobody is looking at them. It’s actually a woman’s world, because all the evil perpetrated against men by women are not looked into. People ignore the fact that women are strong, very strong. They can tear you up. They can destroy you if they chose to. You can’t get rid of violence. Whether gender-based or otherwise. Only when people stop living together.

Kennedy: What role do you think the future generations (millennials) especially in Africa can do to contribute to their societies the same way you have done?

The role they can play is to come together and find a way to stop the old generation from lording over us!

Kennedy: Thank you so much for your time!

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