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Dillibe Onyeama, Nigerian literary icon and the first child of colour to finish at Eton College, regarded as the world’s most famous public school, has died.

The renowned author and publisher died on November 10 at the age of 71.

The death of the septuagenarian was announced by his son, Dillibe Jnr. on his Facebook page yesterday. Sharing pictures of the deceased, the grieving son stated that he has learnt a lot from his father’s life.

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His son wrote, “Even though we were far apart, I have never stopped loving you, never stopped thinking about you.

“I have learned a lot from your life, your love and motivational words. Until we meet in the resurrection morning sweet daddy, Go with God,”.

His 1971 book, ‘Nigger at Eton’, in which he detailed unspeakable racist abuse he experienced, while studying at the college, shook the school and UK.

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Dilibe Charles Onyeama was born in 1951 in Enugu and hailed from Eke in Udi Local Government Area of Enugu State. His father was Justice Dadi Onyeama, Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria and the 2nd Judge from sub-Saharan Africa at the International Court of Justice in The Hague (1967-76).

His younger brother is Nigeria’s current Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama.

In January 19, 1965, Onyeama enrolled at Eton and in 1969, he became the first black and person of colour to finish their studies at the British school.

After the publication of ‘Nigger at Eton’ in 1972 by Leslie Frewin, Eton College reacted by banning him from ever visiting the school.

In 2020, Eton College officially apologised to him.

Reacting to the apology, late Onyeama believed that it occurred as a result of the unprecedented “Black Lives Matter “ protests in the summer of 2020 when 270 towns and cities held anti-racist demonstrations.

The book was republished earlier this year (50 years later!) by Penguin UK Books in its “Black Britain: Writing Back series”, selected by Bernardine Evaristo.

Other books he published include ‘Juju, Secret Society’, ‘Revenge of the Medicine Man’, and ‘Godfathers of Voodoo’.

The Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA), family and community leaders have expressed shock over his death.

The Enugu State Chairman of ANA, Mr Zulu Ofoelue, said it received with shock, news of the death of the eminent author, publisher and former chairman of ANA Enugu, Mr Dillibe Onyema at the age of 71.

“He was a driving force who created a number of programmes including the book fair held yearly between 2003 and 2005 which he powered using ANA and his Delta Publishing Company.

“Thereafter, he was to continue the book fair later under his Delta Book Club,”.

The chairman said that Dillibe was one of the greatest names in creative writing in Nigeria.

According to him, his novel “Godfather of Voodoo” among many other books, had shot him to limelight when it published in 1985 and it was a book which every young person struggled to read. 

“Dillibe will never be forgotten in the world of creative writing to which he contributed so much. May his soul Rest In Peace”.

In her reaction, Dr Adaobi Nwoye, the President of the Coal City Literary Forum (CCLF) described Dilibe as a “jolly good fellow and very progressive” especially when it came to helping a fellow writer to grow.

“He will be fondly missed by the literary community especially here in Enugu,” she said.

Some members of his larger community, Agbaja Leaders of Thought, expressed shock at his demise as he participated actively in the just concluded Agbaja Summit held on Nov. 2 in Enugu.

A member of the group, Prof Mike Iloeje, said “I’m shocked. Dillibe was unique & rare. 

“Here, was a writer who wrote, not for the money, but for the love of the art. I voraciously read more than 13 of his books; patronized and promoted his writings, and appreciated the way he used his voice & platform to challenge many norms.

“A brave Agbaja son. May his soul rest in the bosom of the Lord”.

According to Mr Ndubuisi Agu, the consolation is that though he died but he lives as remembered because if you don’t want to be forgotten at death, write something worth reading or do something worth writing upon.

“Dilibe wrote things we are reading and have lived a life to be chronicled,” he said.

A journalist, Mr Sheddy Ozoene, said his demise was shocking adding that he was a great man who had done much to project his writings.


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