Onyeka Onwenu (born 17 May 1952) is a Nigerian singer, songwriter, actress, journalist, politician, and X Factor series judge. She is the youngest daughter of the Nigerian educationist and politician D.K Onwenu. Dubbed the “Elegant Stallion” by the Nigerian press, she is a 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.
Onwenu possess a BA in International Relations and Communication of the Wellesley 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 at the United Nations in New York before returning to Nigeria in 1980, where she completed the mandatory one-year National Service, at the NTA where 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.
Onwenu began her music career in 1981 while still working with the NTA, releasing the album “For the Love of You”. Originally a secular artist, 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 effort titled, “Inspiration for Change,” focuses on the need for an attitudinal turn around in Nigeria.
She is in partnership with Paris-based La Cave Musik, headed by Nigerian cultural entrepreneur Onyeka Nwelue, and 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 in November.
In 2013, she 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.
A member of the People’s Democratic Party, Onwenu was in the running to become Local Council Chairman of her native 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 16 September 2013, President Goodluck Jonathan appointed her the Executive Director/chief executive officer of the National Centre for Women Development.
Onwenu has featured in numerous Nollywood movies and in 2006 won the African Movie Academy Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role, In 2014, she was in the movie Half of a Yellow Sun with Chiwetel Ejiofor and Thandie Newton.