Onyeka Onwenu is a sensational singer, songwriter, politician, actress, journalist, social critic and also an advocate for women empowerment and gender equality. Known for her elegance, confidence and enormous contribution and impact to the entertainment, socio-cultural and political institutions of the country, she has been tagged the “Elegant Stallion” by the Nigerian Press.
Onyeka Onwenu was born on May 17, 1952 in Obosi, Anambra State to the Nigerian Educationist and politician, D.K Onwenu. Even though she lost her father when she was just 4, she was still progressed through her early childhood with a defiant and resilient attitude determined to accomplish great things. She started her early childhood education in Nigeria before moving to the United States to pursue her collegiate education. While in the US, she received a B.A in International Relations and Communication in Wellesley College of Massachusetts, and later on obtained a Master’s degree at The New School for Social Research in New York. After the completion of her graduate program, Onwenu worked with the United Nations as a Public Information Staff between 1977 and 1979 before returning to Nigeria in 1980. On her return to Nigeria, she worked with the National Television Authority (NTA) as an audacious and insightful reporter. Several years later in 1984, she wrote an internationally acclaimed documentary called “Nigeria, A Squandering of Riches” which became a classical film about corruption in Nigeria. The documentary was co-produced by the BBC and NTA and reveals the disposition of Nigerians across different socioeconomic backgrounds leading up to the Military coup of December 1983.
Onwenu started her music career in 1981 while she was still working with NTA with the release of her first album in 1982 titled “For the Love of You”. She began her singing career with Sunny Okosun who was related to her by marriage and who wrote many of her earlier songs. The distinctive characteristic of her earlier songs is that they highlighted major societal issues. Her fourth album, “One Love” (1986), brought her a lot of commercial success; however, it was her November 1988 album release, “Dancing in the Sun”, which made her a crossover star. The album included hit duets with King Sunny Ade such as Wait For Me and Choices which conveyed strong social messages that address a range of topics from family planning to love to patience during courtship. An open discussion of these topics was often frowned upon in Nigeria but her decision to initiate the conversation was very important in promoting healthy relationships and in discouraging the frequency of teenage pregnancy.
YEAR OF RELEASE
|For the Love of You||1982|
|In the Morning Light||1984|
|Dancing in the Sun||1988|
Today, Onwenu sings mostly gospel music and continues to perform and write about issues such as HIV/AIDS, peace and mutual co-existence, women’s rights and the child advocacy. She is also one of the judges on the biggest singing reality TV show in Nigeria, X-Factor. As a judge on the show, she serves as a coach and provides encouragement and moral support to the talented participants.
Onyeka Onwenu is a member of People’s Democratic Party. She was in the running to become THE local council chairman of her native Ideato North Local Government Area of Imo State but was appointed chairperson of Imo State’s Council for Arts and Culture by former Governor Ikedi Okadim. On September 16, 2013, she was appointed the Executive Director of the National Centre for Women Development by Former President Goodluck Jonathan. Onwenu has also featured in numerous movies and in 2013, she starred in the movie “Half Of A Yellow Sun” playing the role of Odenigbo’s mother. The movie was a reproduction of the book written by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. The movie is a love story that follows two sisters who are caught up in the dreadful cruelty of the Biafran War and stars notable actors such as Chiwetel Ejiofor, Thandie Newton, Anika Noni Rose, Genevieve Nnaji, and John Boyega.
Onwenu has received several awards which include the Performing Musician Association Best Pop Artist in 1988, Member of the Federal Republic (MFR) by former President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2003, the African Movie Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in 2006 and the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2013 for her body of work and contribution to the artistic, social and cultural image of Nigeria. She was also bestowed with the “Nigerian Women of Distinction” Award during the country’s 50th anniversary celebration.
Onwenu has inspired youths and women in particular to venture into entertainment and other careers that have often featured men. Her audacious stance on pertinent societal issues has helped in promoting the right to freedom of expression and the freedom for constructive criticism of the Government. Also, her interest for politics not because of the fame or the money serves as an example that politics isn’t just a game of thieves but also for people with a strong sense of patriotism.
- “Onyeka Onwenu.” – Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. 12 September 2016. Web. <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Onyeka_Onwenu>