Onyeka Onwenu is a legendary Nigerian singer, songwriter, actress, human right activist, social activist, journalist and politician. She was the former chairperson of the Imo State Council for Arts and Culture and currently the Executive Director/Chief Executive Officer of the National Centre for Women Development.
She was born on May 17, 1952 and is from Arondizuogu, a small town in Ideato North Local Government Area of Imo State in the south eastern part of Nigeria. Her father, D.K Onwenu is an educationist and politician. When she was 4 years old, her father died in an autocrash.
Onwenu possess a BA in International Relations and Communication of the Wesley College of Massachusetts, USA, and a Master’s degree in Media Studies from The New School for Social Research in New York. She worked for many years in the United Nations in New York before returning to Nigeria in 1980 where she completed the mandatory one-year National Service in National Television Authority (NTA).
While in NTA, she made an impact as an articulate, incisive and fearless reporter. In 1984, she wrote and presented the internationally acclaimed BBC/NTA documentary called “Nigeria, A Squandering of Riches” which became the definitive film about corruption in Nigeria as well as the intractable Niger Delta agitation for resource control and campaign against environmental degradation in the oil rich region of Nigeria. She has also served on the board of the NTA.
As a child, Onwenu has always loved singing. Her music career began in 1981 while still working in NTA, releasing the album “For the Love of You”. She was originally a secular artist but she now sings mainly gospel music, and continues to write and sing about issues such as health (HIV/AIDS), peace and mutual coexistence, respect for women rights and the plight of children. Her latest collection titled, “Inspiration for Change,” focused on the need for an attitudinal turn around in Nigeria.
She is in partnership with Paris-based La Cave Musik, headed by a Nigerian cultural entrepreneur, Onyeka Nwelue and a UK-based Jungle Entertainment Ventures, headed by musicologist David Evans-Uhegbu. La Cave Musik is set to release her collection titled “Rebirth of a Legend”.
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In 2013, Onwenu was named as one of the three judges on the Nigerian version of The X Factor. In recognition of her contribution to music and arts in Nigeria, she has been celebrated by professionals like Mahmood Ali-Balogun, Laolu Akins, Charles O’Tudor, and former PMAN president Tony Okoroji among others in the arts industry in Nigeria
As a politician, she is a member of the People’s Democratic Party. She was in the running to become Local Council Chairman of her native land, Ideato North Local Government Area of Imo State, but was appointed Chairperson of Imo State Council for Arts and Culture by former governor Ikedi Ohakim. On 16th September 2013, President Goodluck Jonathan appointed her the Executive Director/Chief Executive Officer of the National Centre for Women Development.
Onyeka Onwenu has featured in numerous Nollywood movies like Conspiracy (1999), Women’s Cot (2005), Half of a Yellow Sun(2013) and a host others. In 2006, she won the African Movie Academy Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role.