Being the youngest daughter of foremost Nigerian politician and educationist, D.K. Onwenu, Onyeka Onwenu was born on 17th May 1952. She is a singer, actress, songwriter, journalist and politician. She is a musician whose name stands out in the midst of others. Coupled with the rhythmic flow of the songs she sings is the very inspirational undertone that accompanies the genre of her music.
She has inspired women and youths alike to venture into the entertainment industry and other careers (which had hitherto been the exclusive preserve of men) due to the niche she has carved for herself in the industry. Dubbed by the Nigerian press as “Elegant Stallion”, Onyeka has written many memorable and evergreen songs in Nigeria’s entertainment industry. She stands out as one of the rare breeds of musicians to have infused pop with highlife and juju music. Her consistency and uniqueness over time is worthy of emulation.
Due to her contribution to the music industry and the Nigerian populace at large, she was awarded The Member of the Federal Republic (MFR). She is a well known brand who knows her onion. She bagged a Bachelors degree in International Relations and Communication from Wellesley College in Massachusetts, USA and also a Master’s Degree in Media studies from the New School for Social Research in New York. Before returning to Nigeria in 1980, she worked at the United Nations in New York for many years. She underwent the compulsory one-year National Service at the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) where her impact as a fearless, incisive and articulate reporter remains documented. A BBC/NTA documentary titled “Nigeria, A Squandering of Riches” which exposed corruption in Nigeria as well as the agitation for resource control and campaign against environmental degradation in the Niger Delta – an oil rich region of Nigeria was written and presented by her.
In 1981 while still working with the NTA, she began her music career with the release of the album titled “For the Love of You.” Though she started out as a secular artist, she now sings majorly gospel, though continues to write and sing about mutual coexistence and peace, respect for women rights, the plight of children and health issues such as HIV/AIDS. One of her latest songs is titled “Inspiration for Change” which beams the light on the need for a complete attitudinal turn around in every sphere of the nation. She later served on the board of the NTA.
In recognition of her outstanding contributions, the former governor of Imo State, Ikedi Ohakim appointed her as the Chairperson of Imo State Council for Arts and Culture and on 16 September 2013, she was appointed as the Executive Director/Chief Executive Officer of the National Centre for Women Development by Dr. Goodluck Jonathan – Nigeria’s former president. In 2013 also, she was selected as one of the three judges on the Nigerian version of The X Factor. She has always rocked a Teeny Weeny Afro (TWA) having never worn long hair or a weave.
In 2006, she won the African Movie Academy Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role. Films she has featured in include: Half of a Yellow Sun, Not Your Wealth, Conspiracy, Chain Reaction, Government House amongst others.
Some of her albums include; Endless Life, For The Love Of You, In The Morning Light, One Love, Dancing In The Sun. She is fondly remembered for her duet with King Sunny Ade in her songs titled “Wait for Me” and “Choices” which she composed by herself. In 1988, she was awarded the Performing Musicians Association (PMAN) Best Pop Artist of the year. Her duet with King Sunny Ade is hailed for her ability to break new grounds and also for her innovative creativity.
Due to her contribution to the Social, Artistic, and Cultural Fiber of Nigeria, she was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2013. She also serves as the Goodwill Ambassador for a non-governmental organization – The Leprosy Mission of Nigeria and Friends Africa.