The sonorous songstress Onyeka Onwenu is 70, and the world is celebrating her; but my duty here is to add the human angle to the story of the goddess.
Onyeka Onwenu, inimitable singer, ace broadcaster and classy actress takes no prisoners in all her undertakings.
Back in 1986, in the early days of the defunct THISWEEK magazine; Onyeka was billed to feature in the colourful “People” page of the trailblazing weekly that was then printed in London on Sunday and sold on the Lagos newsstands every Monday.
The young lady journalist chosen to interview Onyeka; was educated in the United States just like the celebrated musician.
It was a case of things flowing smoothly in all dimensions as the camera-ready magazine was sent to London and landed in Lagos in arresting resplendence.
Onyeka was indeed a beauty to behold once the magazine hit the newsstands; because her bold smile was like a charge of electricity on the page.
Now this: Onyeka Onwenu stormed the 113 Ogunlana Drive, Surulere office of the magazine in shorts, and the anger on her face could have been visible to even Stevie Wonder!
The question that shot out of Onyeka’s mouth was straight to the point: “Where is that young lady who interviewed me?”
As the street homeys would say: “Alarm don blow!” There was panic in the air, and there was no escaping the clear and present need to put the young interviewer out of harm’s way; before undertaking the task of pacifying Onyeka.
What could have gotten Onyeka so annoyed?
Let’s get to grips with the background of the matter so that there would be “one love” at the end of the story.
The lady who interviewed Onyeka was a class act, and not your run-of-the-mill junk journalist. She was the well-schooled daughter of the best friend and classmate of Chinua Achebe in Government College, Umuahia, and University College, Ibadan.
To give the journalist her due, she faithfully reported all that Onyeka had told her without adding any ingredients whatsoever.
I need to report here that there were too many mad characters in the THISWEEK newsroom; who refused to be gentlemanly like me.
One of these characters of the newsroom was a guy who attended the elitist Kings College; Lagos only to end up living with Fela Anikulapo-Kuti in Kalakuta Republic!
This Kings College alumnus who doubled as Fela’s buddy knew everything in Lagos; because he was like James Hadley Chase’s Al Barney who had “An Ear to the Ground”.
It was the guy who revealed to us that Onyeka Onwenu; was married and had a husband whom she did not want to reveal to the public.
The story got even sweeter with the information that; the sweet Igbo Christian lady Onyeka Onwenu was married to a Yoruba man and a Muslim to boot!
Call it the mother of all scoops; there was a compelling urge to add the hidden Onyeka husband matter to the story.
It had to be eventually decided to put in just the name of Onyeka Onwenu’s husband without adding the ethnic politics in Nigeria issue since we were not Professor Okwudiba Nnoli.
Onyeka Onwenu ranks quite high as a leading liberated Nigerian woman who would not be bordered with parading as a Mrs. Somebody.
In the manner of committed feminists she dared to carry on and win laurels based on her capabilities without advertising the appendage of a man.
The fact that THISWEEK magazine; ventured into terrains where angels feared to tread by revealing not just Onyeka’s status; but the name of her husband was akin to touching the tiger by the tail.
The songstress who another mad reporter in the magazine had nicknamed; “The Elegant Stallion” was geared up for an epic battle.
The arrival of Onyeka Onwenu in the magazine premises had to be tackled with immediate strategic actions; such as hiding the supposedly offending young journalist and getting the singer to cool her temper somewhat.
The best plan of action that manifested was to lead Onyeka Onwenu into the office of the editor of the magazine; the ever charismatic Sonala Olumhense.
Trust Sonala to work magic in short seconds because when one re-entered the editor’s office; after a while it was a smiling Onyeka Onwenu that was on parade.
The photo-journalists had to be summoned to take promotional pictures of Onyeka Onwenu posing with copies of the magazine, stickers and sundry mementoes.
She sashayed as only she could and the entire staff of the magazine got carried away with the sensational ways of the personable superstar.
No mention was ever made again of the hurt that was inflicted on her through the reportage of the magazine.
This recall here is my little way of celebrating my big sister Onyeka Onwenu; the lionized daughter of “Ochie Dike Nnem” who has just crossed the Biblical “three score and ten.”