Dillibe OnyeamaImage copyright
Dillibe Onyeama

In our series of Letters from Africa, journalist Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani speaks to one among the first African college students at the UK’s prestige Eton college about his abilities of racism within the 1960s and 70s, and about his views on the hot debate about apologising for slavery and colonial-period statues.

Warning: This article contains racial slurs

Three years after obtaining his college-leaving certificates from Eton School within the UK in 1969, Dillibe Onyeama got an official letter informing him that he modified into banned from visiting the prestigious college.

He had written a e-book which triggered a furore within the UK and offence to the college that has skilled generations of British royalty and statesmen.

Printed in 1972 when he modified into 21, the e-book detailed Onyeama’s experiences of racism at some stage in his four years at the boarding college for boys.

„As a long way because the college saw it, I modified into indicting them as a racist establishment,“ Onyeama informed me.

„Folk attain to Africa and write all forms of indicting and shaming experiences and put up it in books and no-one says anything else,“ he added.

Image copyright
Dillibe Onyeama

Image caption

Dillibe Onyeama modified into the first sad person to total his reports at Eton

Onyeama modified into taunted on a day after day basis at Eton by fellow college students: „Why are you sad?“ „What number of maggots are there on your hair?“ „Does your mother build on a bone in her nostril?“

He in most cases responded along with his fist and once broke his hand punching one other boy’s jaw.

„I won a reputation for violence,“ he acknowledged.



Onyeama modified into registered to attend Eton on the day he modified into born, but when the time came he failed the entrance tests“

When Onyeama performed poorly in lecturers or excelled in sports actions, the college students attributed it to his high-tail.

When he got seven O-level passes, your complete college modified into confounded.

„‚Enlighten me Onyeama, how did you manufacture it?‘ I am requested time and time again,“ he wrote within the e-book. „‚You cheated, did not you?'“

Contacted by the BBC for comment, Eton headmaster Simon Henderson acknowledged: „I am appalled by the racism Mr Onyeama skilled at Eton. Racism has no keep in civilised society, then or now.“

He added that he would be „moving Mr Onyeama to satisfy in converse to apologise to him in person, on behalf of the college, and to invent sure that he’ll continuously be welcome at Eton“.

A long high-tail to Eton

Onyeama modified into registered to attend Eton on the day he modified into born in January 1951.

His father, Charles Dadi Umeha Onyeama, studied at Oxford College, worked as a magistrate in British-dominated Nigeria, and blended successfully with the pause of British society, in the end turning true into a make a decision at the Global Court of Justice at The Hague.

With the man’s connections, his 2nd son modified into at birth the first sad boy to be registered within the elite college.

But when the time came, Onyeama failed the entrance tests. One other Nigerian boy, Tokunbo Akintola, thus became the first sad pupil in Eton, attracting world media consideration.

Onyeama in the end enrolled two terms after Akintola.

However the 14-twelve months-olds, who came from assorted ethnic groups, did not catch along.

„The very individual that would possibly perhaps per chance perhaps simply serene had been my most effective just true friend, given my jam, appears to be like to be more of an enemy,“ Onyeama wrote.

Akintola left Eton after about two years and so Onyeama became the first sad person to total his training at the prestigious college.

Very most practical one other African modified into enrolled whereas he modified into there – Ethiopian Prince Zera Yacob, who arrived in Onyeama’s remaining twelve months.


Eton School: Key info

  • King Henry VI founded it in 1440 to provide free training to 70 unhappy boys

  • Now costs annual charge of more than £40,000 ($50,000)

  • Enrolmentstands at 1,320

  • Helpprovided to a pair of; 90 paid no fees at all in 2018/19

  • Unlit pupilstotal about 7%, Asians 8% and these of blended ethnicity 5%

  • Alumniconsist of royals, celebrities and politicians

Provide: Eton School & BBC

Onyeama started writing about his experiences at Eton whereas he modified into serene a pupil.

„I watched a film in lately known as Tom Brown’s School Days, the keep the hero modified into extinct very badly and roasted over a fire,“ he acknowledged.

„That modified into the motivation to construct of build pen to paper and start recording a pair of of my relish experiences after I modified into about 17 years outdated.“

Onyeama’s e-book is serene in print in Nigeria. He would help the distinctive title, Nigger at Eton, if it were republished within the UK, he insists.

„It is symbolic. I am a sad author. I am the utilization of it,“ he acknowledged.

„This modified into a note flung at me.“

Eton ‚capacity nothing‘ in Nigeria

After Eton, Onyeama got a diploma from the Premier School of Journalism. He returned to Nigeria In 1981 to living up his relish publishing firm, Delta Publications.

„In England, I got jobs on account of Eton,“ he acknowledged. „It modified into a passport to any employment at all. But not here in Nigeria. It capacity nothing at all. Whatever advantages you collected, like English refinement and etiquette and decorum, it is never very critical here.“

Dillibe Onyeama

My grandfather had no rudiments of any construct of training at all and he knew nothing previous the ‚abolish or be killed‘ strategy of life in lately“

Onyeama remaining visited the UK within the 1990s, and felt that the racial anxiety had got „worthy, a lot larger“ since his schooling days in Eton.

„They’ve utilized upright sense. They’ve acknowledged: ‚Search for, must that you just must bear to bear peace, for God’s sake, invent a more conducive atmosphere for all races and provide them a sense of belonging‘, and to a mighty extent that has been taking place in Britain,“ he added.

What about slavery and statues?

He has written 28 books, along with The Yarn of an African God, a biography of his slack grandfather, Onyeama the Okuru Oha of Agbaja, a highly effective and influential slave trader who became an ally of the British colonialists.

„The slave commerce modified into abominable but it is a historical truth,“ Onyeama acknowledged.

Media playback is unsupported for your machine

Media captionGhanaian artist Kwame Akoto-Bamfo creates sculptures of slaves to immerse folks of their abilities.

He sees no want for his household to apologise for the actions of his grandfather, who became an „apprentice“ slave trader after his mother died when he modified into serene a teenager.

„My grandfather had no rudiments of any construct of training at all and he knew nothing previous the ‚abolish or be killed‘ strategy of life in lately,“ Onyeama acknowledged.

„It wasn’t accomplished as a strategy of oppression. It modified into a strategy of livelihood and an indication of energy and would possibly perhaps per chance perhaps. It modified into the strategy of life within the outdated Africa sooner than the white man introduced civilisation, to be capable to talk,“ he added.

He describes as both heart-broken and upright the name by protesters within the UK to tug down monuments of folks which are opinion about racists or white supremacists.

„It is heart-broken on account of these monuments portray historical previous – reminding folks, educating folks,“ he acknowledged.

Media playback is unsupported for your machine

Media captionWhat’s going to we manufacture with the UK’s symbols of slavery?

But he believes that the British would possibly perhaps per chance perhaps simply serene bear identified larger in regards to the slave commerce, whereas Africans who collaborated with them were merely ignorant.

„You can not compare folks that were not realized and folks that were skilled,“ he acknowledged.

„The British claimed to had been the most exposed within the arena so they assign not bear any excuse for lack of understanding. They can not eulogise folks that did abominable issues to others true on account of they came about to be sad,“ he added.

Onyeama’s ban from Eton modified into in the end lifted about 10 years within the past, after he got an invitation to a reunion. He modified into too busy to attend.

He’s in contact with a pair of of his worn schoolmates on Fb but they manufacture not train in regards to the racial abuse he skilled.

„That is all within the previous,“ Onyeama acknowledged.

Extra Letters from Africa:

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