The audience was lively. The event was fun, enlightening and well conceptualised as author and publisher, Dilibe Onyeama, took the stage to read his book, Nigger at Eton.
The book reflects tales of childhood adventure in foreign European land where he distinguished himself in college boxing, cricket, and sprint. The school was exclusive British public school that was never created with any African background in mind.
The event took place at Biodun Adetugbo Function Room, English Department, University of Lagos. The author had three readings. The first and third readings took 25, while the second reading was 20 minutes. It was a trip offshore, not on a refugee raft on the Mediterranean but on a transatlantic trip down memory lane.
It exposes black days in paradise, where silence is the only true conversation with an Englishman, an experience, the narrator learns the hard way. It also exposes mocking laugher that accompanied theatrics of the long-haired white juvenile delinquent to the darkie, nigger boy.
He captures Britain as an island of advanced people of Caucasian extraction who talk because they have something to say –and not because they have to say something. The country, the author narrates, has turned to a land with a national philosophy: “…better to remain silence and be thought a fool, than to speak and remove all doubts.”
According to the author’s excerpts. “From that silence emanated virtues that paved the streets of London with the finest gold and, in consequence, created an organised welfare society that guaranteed a lifetime of absolute peace to anyone of peaceful disposition.”
The author minutes that Christmas is the only time in the year British pretend to be human, and in the intervening period, any meaningful development in conversation with a now-familiar stranger will centre much of the time on weather.
“In my brainwashed naivety, when I returned to Nigeria for my first time summer holidays and started to apply this quaint fashion to my people, showering daily praise of our sunshine, equally condemning rainfalls, there was speculation that I was taking leave of my senses.”
Another deference the author read out of the book that links the British aristocracy is in the way they glorify animals more than their own people: “The British spirit of compromise would have you believe that injustice, which it is halved, becomes justice.
“I was there for 22 years, having elected to luxuriate in the joy of a ready-made society than suffer the pains of building up my own Third-World environment, having opted to be a servant in paradise than a king in hell… so to speak.”
The title derives from Eton College, a unique and educational establishment founded by Royalty as far back as 1440. The author was opportune to join the college at the age of 14 where he encountered the British landed gentry, with its jarring and unnerving effect.
Head of English Department, University of Lagos, Prof. Hope Eghagha, said. “The reading has been on in the university, but revived in the last three years I became the head of the department (HoD) again. Before this time, we’ve been having readings, and inviting writers.
“We’ve hosted Chimamanda Adichie, one or two African-American writers, Ifeoma Okoye, Lola Shoneyin, Okey Ndibe, a British author, Bola Gege. We have also hosted Sam Omatsheye, Dare Babarinsa, and Henry Akubuiro. We want it to be a regular tradition in the university.
“What we do is try to create the awareness, but sometimes we don’t keep the same audience. We rotate it: small venue, but this is a committed people who want to buy books. It is a fun and enlightening; creating a forum for writers to interface with students on how to write a story.”
Evaluating the programme, a lecturer of the university and literary critic, Dr Ebele Okafor added that the programme helps to spotlight mistakes of authors in the novel read, with a view to correcting them during a reprint edition and other works. It would also spur students to read novels of novels.