The evisceration of Onyeka Nwelue has been a painful spectacle to witness, just as his social media posts have been equally painful to glean. I confess, I muted his posts because I simply couldn’t condone them.
Anyone who knows Onyeka knows that someday his social media posts will get him in trouble. And they have. I am sure he too knew. This is not his first rodeo. He has spoken often of getting into trouble in Rwanda over his posts.
That perpetual angst and unkindness—performative, research-inspired, as he claims, or otherwise—that he spewed against poor people, his careless racial provocations and the classist vituperations he has unleashed have drawn a lot of ill will towards him. He goaded the braying crowd and they were mostly waiting for him to slip up, or for his slip-ups to be called out.
People on social media have had a field day at his expense. It has been most vicious. I understand some of that glee at his misfortune. I don’t agree with it, but I understand it.
The question here, I suppose is, is Onyeka Nwelue a bad person? I suppose many will say yes. If you have had an unpleasant experience with Onyeka, I see you and acknowledge you. Yet, I have had good experiences of this man.
Once I was travelling and got into a fix that needed the urgent intervention of people at an embassy. I asked a diplomat and she said to call Onyeka. He could help.
His voice on the phone sounded weak but he insisted he was fine. When I told him what the situation was, he asked me to give him a few minutes. He made some calls, pulled some strings and voila, the issue was taken care of. When we spoke again, the weakness in his voice was too obvious to ignore.
You see, he had at the time just been wheeled out of surgery not long before I first called. He knew if he had told me that, I would have asked him to focus on not dying and to leave me with my problems.
Onyeka is an irony. For someone who goes the extra mile to present as anti-people, disagreeable and cantankerous, Onyeka has invested a lot of energy to build platforms for creatives and bring people together. His execution of these ideas and platforms may be hit and miss, and some might even say shambolic, but he has never stopped building platforms.
Often, he administers these ideas through severe physical pains and mental health challenges he has also been open about in his public posts. Do these challenges excuse his public posturing? No. As an adult, a creative and someone who associates with intellectual spaces, they are inexcusable.
He has made mistakes. And has owned up. I hope that is coming from the good place that I know Onyeka possesses. And I hope it is sincere.
Those celebrating his current situation have a right to, I guess. I understand where that comes from. But I also understand the Onyeka most of them have not had the chance to know.
It does hurt to see a fellow creative eviscerated as he has been. Just as it has been painful seeing him eviscerate people in his social media posts.
I hope he learns from this. And I hope others, too, learn from this as well. Shortcuts sometimes work. Other times they land you in poto-poto too deep and sticky to navigate.
The world would be better if we are all kind to each other and leave poto-poto alone.