As the Olumba family of Umuokwara Orlu and the Acholonu Royal dynasty remember with nostalgia and gratitude to the creator of the universe and honour the memory of a quintessential woman of letters, an amazon, a leader of women and literary icon, Late Professor Catherine Obianuju Acholonu who traversed this planet and departed to the great beyond seven years ago.
Today marks exactly seven years since this great lady of sterling qualities with her several recognized attributes blazed and traversed this horizon before returning to her creator, ever to be remembered by her maiden home, her matrimonial family, Orlu Society, Imo State and men of the academic world and the political class as one who came, saw and conquered leaving outstanding legacy to be emulated by her children and women of this clime. .
A resume of this great woman shows that Her Excellency, Late Prof. Catherine Obianuju Acholonu was born to the family of Chief Lazarus Emejuru Olumba (Nwoke n’ eloruibe n’ Orlu) and Ezinne Josephine Lolo Adaoha Olumba (Nne Onyenekwe) of Umuokwara Orlu, on 26th October, 1951.
She attended Holy Rosary Primary School (now Township School), Orlu from 1964 to 1971 because the war interrupted her education. She was so brilliant in school that she left no one in doubt as to what manner of personality she would become in future.
Young Obianuju traveled to the then West Germany in 1972 where she obtained a Master’s Degree in English and American Language and Literature as well as Germaine Literature and linguistics at the University of Dusseldorf, Germany in 1977. She also obtained her doctorate degree and Professorship in African Literary Studies from the same University (1982-85) and finished with Magna Cum Laudae of Distinction, the first African woman to do so. She was later to obtain four additional doctorate degrees in different fields.
Professor Catherine Acholonu was married to Dr. Douglas Acholonu, the former Deputy Governor of Imo State and a member of the Royal family of Orlu ancient Kingdom of Imo State. Their marriage was blessed with four children- two boys and two girls. In spite of her busy schedule, she made out time to give her children sound upbringing.
She started her career as a lecturer at Alvan Ikoku College of Education, Owerri in 1981 and later lectured in various institutions of higher learning around the word. She published over 20 books which included the bestsellers. “The Igbo Roots of Olaudah Equiano (1988); the Grand Code of African Adam (2005); They Lived Before Adam (2009); The Lost Testaments of the Ancestors of Adam (2010); Eden in summer on the Niger (2013/14)”, among others.
In 1986 she was the only Nigerian, and one of only two Africans to participate in the United Nations Export Group meeting on Women population and Sustainable Development; the Road to Rio, Caito and Beijing, which was organized jointly by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the Division for the Advancement of Women, and the Division for Sustainable Development which took place in Dominican Republic, focusing on he mainstreaming of gender into the Plans of African of the UN world conferences of Rio, Beijing and Cairo.
Following the publication of “The Igbo Roots of Olaudah Equiano she was invited in 1989 as an American International Visitor on tour USA Universities to share her research findings. In the same period, she was sponsored by the British council and the United State Information service on tour of Universities in the United Kingdom and Untied State lecturing on her research. Thereafter, in 1990, she was offered the Fulbright scholar- writer-in residence USA at the Westchester Consortium for International Studies, Purchase, New York USA.
An icon of the literary world, Her Excellency Prof. Catherine Obianuju Acholonu, was a winner of several awards of Excellence across the globe. Among her numerous awards were:
Fellow-Nigerian Institute of Corporation Administration,
Fellow-Nigerian Charactered Institute of Public Administration,
Winner, Woman of Merit Gold Award, 2000,
Winner-Flora Nwape Award for Literary Excellence, New York, 2009,
Winner-the Philis Wheatley Award for Work That transcends Culture and perception.
Prof. Acholonu was listed in the Whos’ Who of World Leadership, USA 1980’s and Who’s Who in Nigeria, 2003. She was the first person to be honoured by the Manhattanville College Black Students Union, New York 1991.
Prof. Acholonu was also honoured with numerous chieftaincy titles from many communities and institutions, among which were “Nneoma” (She was the first person to be so honoured by the Catholic Women Organization of Holy Trinity Parish, Orlu) and “Ugo gbuzuo” a highly revered title bestowed to her by Eze Nri Ancient Kingdom.
In the field of politics, ‘Ugo gbuzuo’ also made her marks felt. As the wife of the then Deputy Governor (1991-93), she was very kind-hearted and touched many lives with her pet projects. She set the pace for the emancipation and empowerment of the women folk and practically dignified womanhood as well as motherhood.
She later served as the Special Adviser on Arts and Culture to Nigeria’s President Olusegun Obasanjo (1999-2003).
She was also a one-time Presidential aspirant (1999) and a Governorship aspirant of the DPN in Imo State (2003). She was also a Goodwil AMBASSADOR for the UNCCD Forum for Arts and Culture, Nigeria (2003-2012).
Much of her works were dedicated to research aimed at unearthing the hidden meanings of ancient Nigerian rock art/inscriptions which led to the listing of the Ikom Monoliths of Cross River State in the World Monument Fund’s 2008 list of 100 Most Endangered Sites; her research demonstrated that Sub-Saharan African Blacks possess an organized system of writing and civilization before 2000 B.C. (more than 4000 years ago) and a Pre-History recorded on stones and cave libraries thus disproving the notion that most of Africa had no form of writing or accorded history beyond oral narratives.Years ago she founded the Ebo Landing Project which was designed to encourage the Diaspora (descendant of the people who were forced to leave Africa) to see Africa as a second home and to join hands with Africans to develop the continent.
Until her death, she was s United Nations Ambassador (for Africa) on Combating Desertification and Promoting Culture.
She is greatly missed not only by the Acholonu and Olumba families of Orlu but also by the entire Orlu Autonomous Community, the Literary World, students, scholars and other researchers who make use of her intellectual works around the world to enhance their knowledge and status.
This great and highly cerebral, dignified, honoured and always to be remembered, woman died seven years ago, in 2014.