Government College, Umuahia is known as the alma mater of eight important Nigerian writers: Chinua Achebe, Elechi Amadi, Gabriel Okara, Chike Momah, I. N. C. Aniebo, Chukwuemeka Ike, Ken Saro-Wiwa and Christopher Okigbo. Many illustrious Nigerian scientists, intellectuals and public leaders passed through the college in its prime, and in West Africa the name of the school evokes an astounding range of success stories. But Umuahia's legend as ‘the Eton of the East’ and the primus inter pares of Nigeria's elite colonial institutions obscures its present reality: nothing remains of its past but its extensive grounds, landmark buildings, and the glittering roll call of dignitaries who once studied within its walls. In 1979, prompted by the many signs of impending doom, a group of old boys joined hands in a historicizing venture, The Umuahian: a golden jubilee publication – the commemorative booklet compiled by the school's most famous alumnus, Chinua Achebe, to mark the college's golden jubilee. The booklet conjured up the school's founding ideals and glorious past in order to lay the ground for its rehabilitation. This introductory essay explains why The Umuahian is an indispensable source for the literary, cultural and educational history of West Africa, contextualizing its singular construction of colonial educational heritage. Sample and hitherto unpublished texts from the booklet by Achebe, his editorial to The Umuahian and its coda, ‘Continuity and change in Nigerian education: a jubilee essay’, are included with the main article. While the contributors to The Umuahian pertain to elite circles, and the volume had a world-class literary figure as its editor, the volume itself was produced for a local occasion and rarefied local audience, had a very limited distribution, and subsequently fell into obscurity. It is in the spirit of the historical and academic retrieval of such locally published and little-known materials by African thinkers and writers that this work appears in the Local Intellectuals strand.