By BENJAMIN NJOKU
Onyeka Onwenu is unarguably one of Nigeria’s foremost female singers. She has remained on top of her game till date. A fortnight ago , the “Elegant Stallion,” as she is fondly called by her fans, proved to everyone that music runs in her blood. She rekindled the old passion, performing “Wait for Me” alongside King Sunny Ade, an evergreen song which they did together in the late 80s to set the tone for the maiden edition of the #Space Legends Series which held at Oriental Hotel, Lekki, Lagos. Showtime Celebrity cornered her shortly after her performance. She spoke on the duet, her career and why she’s still rocking ‘low-cut’ among other things.
I just watched you perform some of your evergreen songs. You still have the energy to stay long on stage?
As God gives me strength. I never really left the stage. I am still on.
Your voice too has not changed?
I use my voice to give God glory. When He knows where you are coming from, He will give you strength and He will also keep giving you ideas. You will continue to grow from strength to strength. That’s what I am all about.
When you were performing alongside King Sunny Ade, that evergreen song “Wait for Me”which you did with him back then, what did it remind you?
It reminded of the good old days. That guy (Sunny Ade) has not really changed. We did the song when it wasn’t the usual thing for artistes to come together and collaborate. We had three songs altogether (two of them were on social issues) and we took time to promote them. It’s still on, unbelievable. And it’s a great thing to see young artistes who are flying the nation’s flag all over the world and they are still growing strong.
When did you do the song with King Sunny Ade?
We did the song in the late 80s. We started with “Madalówun” which was in my album “ Dancing in the Sun” and then we were approached by the John Parkson University in the United States to promote family planning in Africa, so that African families would know how to space their children and also to encourage young girls to hold onto their virginity; to wait till that time when they are matured enough to deal with their sexual lives. The song made a huge impact because I remember that we toured the country. I went to schools where I was speaking to the young girls. Some of them walked up to me to thank me for helping them retain their virginity. The song did affect lives and I am very happy about that.
In your time, your songs conveyed very powerful messages to the audience but that is not what obtains today?
Let’s give the young ones a break. I also sang a lot of love songs, love songs are good. But the only thing I’m worried about is this shaking..shaking ..shaking of a thing. It’s getting too much and I’m always wondering why it’s only the women who are ‘shaking’. let the men also go and shake their own so that we can see. But it’s a process and I’m happy, they are enjoying their young years.
You have come a long way as a leading female singer in Nigeria. How did the journey begin for you?
I may have started singing from the womb because my mother was a singer and I was born singing. My mother taught me how to sing while I was three. She would take me around the town to raise money for orphanage homes. She also taught me some songs and would do duets with me. Surprisingly, my mother wrote, “Ochie dike Nne.” She was a fantastic singer and a fantastic actress. That was how I grew up. I inherited singing and I also inherited the work ethics and the commitments to use my talent to help the society that has made me what I am today. So, it has always been with me.
So, you took after your mother?
I did, and she took after my grandfather who was a beautiful singer. My father also was a pianist. He could play the piano and he appreciated music.
In your over three decades sojourn in the entertainment industry, what would you count as your most memorable moment?
So many memories, where do I begin! I am putting together a book that I will be launching at the end of the year. People will know that it has been a long, fruitful and interesting career. I give God all the glory for making me to stay on top of my game.
When you released your first album, were you tempted to dump music because it was not a hit?
The album went straight to the top. I titled it, “Living Music” produced by Sunny Okosun. I went straight to the top and I stayed there. I give God all the glory.
At a point, you delved into acting?
Yes, I did and I’m loving it. My fans should expect more things from me although I have been working lately as an administrator. I am a politician and also a public administrator. I’m the Director-General , National Centre for Women Development. We have done all that. To God be the glory, anyone that comes along, I know that God wants me to use something, and I give my very best. But I never stopped singing and I wouldn’t stop acting as long as the good scripts come my way.
Was it easy for you to find your feet when you delved into politics?
No, it wasn’t. I never planned to go into politics, even though I was born into a political family. My father was the first Arondizuogu man to be in the House of Representative in the first Republic. He worked with people like Mazi Mbonu Ojike who was his best friend. That was my story. I’m the last child of my parents, but I never knew I would go into politics. What inspired my decision to go into politics was the need to help my people.
I realized there is so much I could do for them. But as a politician, I can help to make laws or execute projects that will affect people’s lives. So, I just woke up one day and said, I’m vying for the local government chairmanship. I didn’t know it was going to work out. It started a political process for me. Who knows where it’s going to take me. But I’m proud of everything that I have done over the years.
How long have you been rocking your low cut?
I can’t remember now, but it’s been a long time. It’s convenient and I can wash my hair any time I want to do so. In the past, I tried to allow it grow but it never worked. Each time it started touching my neck I would chop it off.