Onyeka Onwenu

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Onyeka Onwenu in 2020

Onyeka Onwenu (born 31 January 1952) is a Nigerian singer and songwriter, actress, human right activist, social activist, journalist, politician, and former X Factor series judge. Dubbed the "Elegant Stallion" by the Nigerian press, she is a former chairperson of the Imo State Council for Arts and Culture. In 2013 she was appointed the Executive Director/Chief Executive Officer of the National Centre for Women Development.




  • “NTA used ‘Iyi Ogogo‘ to open and close their station for eight years, but they didn‘t pay me a kobo. They didn‘t even ask my permission. When I asked, they barred me from being shown on NTA and I went on hunger strike. They felt they were doing me a favour by using my music. Ben Bruce said ‘Don‘t touch that lady. I don‘t want to see her face, I don‘t want to hear her music on my station‘. And I said no, it wasn‘t his station, that NTA belonged to the nation. This was in 2000.”
    • [1]
    • A Quote extracted recalling when she went on a one-man protest and a hunger strike outside the gates of the NTA Channel 5 over the station’s refusal to pay royalties on her song.


  • “Politics must not be left in the hands of notorious people or the mediocre. We must bring our best into it and no one has a right to complain if one refuses to get into politics, and some other people ventured into it and make laws that will affect your generation yet unborn.”
    • [2]
    • A Quote extracted from her interview granted The Vanguard Newspaper on her sojourn in Politics.


  • “I was targeted and abused for being an Igbo woman who came to give jobs to and elevate my people while sidelining them.”
    • [3]
    • A Quote extracted recalling how tribalism played a part in her time as Director-General of the National Centre for Women Affairs.
  • “Be careful of what you live for posterity. If you can’t give your best, don’t step out because what you recorded is always going to be there for long, so you got to give it the very best. Center your artistry around something that will last with meaning, not just shaking bumbum and it’s just the women that are always shaking it, the men don’t shake anything. Women are worth more than shaking their bumbum. Enough of the bumbum. Though, everyone is free to be creative, but just know that yours will not last while the other person with meaningful lyrics will remain evergreen.”
    • [4]
    • A Quote extracted from an interview granted The Guardian Life magazine admonishing female musicians to stop shaking bum bum and focus on leaving legacies behind.


  • “I cried my eyes out, with the realization that as difficult as my life was, it could not be compared with what Winnie Mandela was going through. I was no Winnie Mandela for sure, but I could identify with her loneliness and some of her pain. That night, I could not sleep. I had to put my pain to a song. I needed to give something back to Winnie for the sacrifice of her life to the Apartheid struggle, in which every decent human being had a stake. I saw her sacrifice as a global one, made by an African Woman, brave and courageous beyond words, for her man and her country.”
    • [5]
    • A Quote extracted from her statement on why she wrote the song – Winnie Mandela.
  • “My personal memory of Dr Alvan Ikoku covers the period of the Biafra war when he made every effort to ferry my sister Ijeoma, my first cousin Ifeoma Ejindu and myself to Gabon, to save us from the war. Eventually, Ijeoma and Ifeoma were cleared to leave but I was not. I remember vividly how we all visited with the old man and knelt down to thank him for his efforts in saving us from the war. Dr Alvan was particularly touched by my show of gratitude, even though he did not succeed in getting me on the approved list and he said so. As fate would have it, the war ended just two weeks before my sister and cousin were to leave Biafra.”
    • [6]
    • A Quote extracted from her statement on her Memories of Biafra.


  • "I am just an ordinary human being, a woman trying to live her life in the best way possible; dealing with the issues of life, making contributions to the society and to leave this place better than I met it. Hopefully, I can achieve that even at a personal level, because if you look at the country as a whole, the country has deteriorated. So I probably will not leave it better than I met it, unfortunately."
    • [7]
    • A Quote extracted from an interview granted The Saturday Sun Newspaper describing herself.
  • "I have great admiration for market women. The incredible thing that we don’t know is that they are holding up a large sector of the economy of this country. These women that sell tomatoes, pepper, onions; that is how they raise their children. That is how they train their children up to university level. That is how they hold their families together."
    • [8]
    • A Quote extracted from an interview granted The Saturday Sun Newspaper, revealing her great admiration for market women.
  • “I probably would have been somewhere buying and selling like every other woman who is trying to survive. If I didn’t have education, it would still have been the same thing. I can buy and sell at all levels, considerably.”
    • [9]
    • A Quote extracted from an interview granted The Saturday Sun Newspaper, sharing what she would have loved to be other than being a musician, songwriter, actress, social and political activist, and politician.
  • “I don’t live like a star. When I go on stage, my reality takes nothing away from me, because I will diva you. That is my training that is my life. I will bring whatever I have to bring to the stage. I give the best performance and lift people up. When I come down from the stage, I am a mother, I am a homemaker, I am a gardener, a cleaner, I go to the market, I cook. I have never employed a cook in my life. Those are the things that rule my life.”
    • [10]
    • A Quote extracted from an interview granted The Saturday Sun Newspaper, reflecting on stardom.
  • “I have learnt to keep my privacy out of the public purview especially in discussions with journalists. But there is nothing hidden in my life. I live a very open life. But I decided from day one not to discuss my family on the pages of newspapers, because it is not fair to them. They do not have the opportunity to present themselves the way they would have liked to. And that is not fair.”
    • [11]
    • A Quote extracted from an interview granted The Saturday Sun Newspaper, on keeping her private and family life away from the Press.
  • “I wonder why government is not doing anything to protect the copyright of artistes. These are the things that affect our economy. The music industry is a large section of the economy of this country. Why is government not paying attention, not caring? These are frustrations. Your intellectual property is your wealth and somebody is sitting on it. People are making money off someone’s work.”
    • [12]
    • A Quote extracted from an interview granted The Saturday Sun Newspaper, on how frustrating the administration of copyright in Nigeria is.
  • “Mistakes make you human. But the point is, how do you look at your mistakes? What are they there for? Nobody is infallible. You are going to forge ahead based on what you have learnt from them. When you fall down, you have to get up. Learn your lessons, get up and keep going even stronger.”
    • [13]
    • A Quote extracted from an interview granted The Saturday Sun Newspaper, on having any regrets in life.
  • “These young artists of today will evolve. They will evolve. I am hoping that they will evolve. They cannot remain at the nonsensical level of shaking their bum-bum and exposing body parts. No. That’s not what your art is all about. You can express yourself that way, but please, to a certain extent, do not make music a pornographic thing,”
    • [14]
    • A Quote extracted from an interview granted The Saturday Sun Newspaper, reflecting on how music has evolved.
  • “Small minds, narrow minds can’t comprehend a great spirit when they see it. When they insist in stereotyping you, even when the evidence is there, look at them carefully, they are lacking some sort of professionalism.”
    • [15]
    • A Quote extracted from an interview granted The Saturday Sun Newspaper, on being regarded as an arrogant and snobbish woman.
  • “When people ask me, ‘what is it that you have,’ I tell them it is contentment. My spirit as a Christian fills me in with contentment. We are here for a purpose. Find that purpose and work towards realizing it. The challenges will come. I mean you can’t run away from them. In life there must be issues. It is only when you’re six feet deep that you don’t get them anymore. If you can put all that together and put your faith and trust in God who sent you here, you’re fulfilled.”
    • [16]
    • A Quote extracted from her interview granted The Saturday Sun Newspaper, on being fulfilled as an artiste.


  • “The example of her life was a teaching tool because she showed that she could stand as a woman on her own…be a contributing member of the community.”
    • [17]
    • A Quote extracted from her interview granted The Guardian Life magazine asserting that learning from her mother has made her the confident woman that she is.
  • “My mum was the one who when I was in college would write, ‘remember your music.’ She knew that I had followed the family tradition by going to school, she encouraged me to not forget the artistic side of it. There was a rule in my house that when you had done your Masters, and only after that, get your education first.”
    • [18]
    • A Quote extracted from her interview granted The Guardian Life magazine averring that her mother was responsible for the persistent encouragement to pursue her music career.

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