BREAKING NEWS: Music Icon Onyeka Onwenu Defends Toni Payne Against ThisDay Journalist!

Legendary musician Onyeka Onwenu PR camp sent the following article below authored by the artist to LadybrilleNigeria. The article takes on the defense of women and specifically Toni Payne, Ms. Onwenu’s publicist, who has been targeted by Journalist Azuka Ogujiugba, a writer for Nduka Obaigbena’s ThisDay Newspaper. What are your thoughts?  Should Ms. Onwenu have stepped in? Should ThisDay fire Ogujiugba?


I have rarely made it my business to respond to newspaper articles, but when I do, you can be sure that I have been sorely provoked.

You can also imagine that in nearly thirty years as an Entertainer, running the whole gamut of the industry as Singer/Songwriter, Actress, Broadcaster etc, I have had more than a fair share of unwarranted attacks. I have also witnessed others go through it, especially women. I have come to accept these attacks as some of the hazards of the job we do. There are people who are just jealous of others’ progress and who perhaps live vicariously, albeit with malicious intent, through the doings of those they envy. Some of these people happen to be journalists who by virtue of their profession, have the advantage of the pages of a newspaper or the air waves, as instruments of harassment and denigration.

That said, let me remind all, that I am a journalist and have unlimited respect for my profession and training. Nigerian journalists are among the best in the world and I am indeed proud to be one of them. Nigeria is a society which professes to respect women, but in practice we do not. Our tradition is to keep them down, relegate them to the background where they are best seen and not heard. When they manage to break through the glass ceiling, striving to be themselves and excelling against all odds, we celebrate them, quite alright, but with an undertone of fear for their “brazen”, “aggressive” and “uppity” disposition. And as soon as the slightest opportunity presents itself, we quickly pull them down.

A journalist who never fails to disappoint in this regard is Mr Reuben Abati of the Guardian Editorial Board. On the issue of Nigeria’s First Ladies and their “Powers”, Abati’s language is almost always condescending and denigatory, to the extent that I am compelled to conclude that he harbours a deep resentment for women – for some reason. His last contribution to the Okirika Waterfront demolition debate and Her Excellency, Dame Jonathans’ expression of concern, earlier this year, comes readily to mind.

Quite a few journalists in the 80s and 90s made their names criticizing Onyeka Onwenu, mostly for no reason other than their wanting to be noticed. I refer to people like Azuka Jebosi and Ladi of Punch Newspapers, Mayor Akinpelu and Faj of the defunct Fame Magazine.

At a point, Dele Momudu, God bless him, was moved to admonish Faj, who, not so subtly had tried to rubbish my CD “Onyeka” inspite of the fact that it was adjudged to be a brilliant outing in 1992. Mayor Akinpelu declared to all who cared to listen that he “could not stand Onyeka Onwenu” who according to him was indeed “finished”, as an Artiste. This was during the campaign for PMAN (Performing Musicians Association of Nigeria) Presidency, which pitted me against King Sunny Ade, in 1998. The Anti – Onyeka campaign continued with great intensity until I took a number of Entertainment Publications to court and won substantial amounts of money. These publications sought to damage my reputation. I was portrayed as a person of easy virtue, a prostitute, a trouble maker and an unserious Artiste. Hard to believe, is it not?

My crime was my audacity of purpose, outspokenness and insistence on being given my due respect. For displaying a modicum of self respect and restraint in my public conduct, I was labelled a snub, with the usual comment, “who does she think she is”.
Well, I was never one to back down from a challenge and I gave as good as I got. I made no apologies and I continued to be myself – self assured, focused and dedicated to my work. In due course and grudgingly, these journalists had no choice but to begin to show respect and appreciation for my person and my work.

In all these attacks, the most perplexing were the ones from a female journalist, the Queen of Junk, she was called, at the time. For some reason, she really had it in for me, other female Artistes and even fellow female journalists.
I had taken enough courses in psychology in college to realize that the attacks were coming from a sense of inadequacy, in herself. When her career of bitterness and vendetta took a nose dive and she couldn’t compete in an era where journalism of personal attack had lost its lure, I concluded that I was right.

And that brings me to Azuka Ogujiuba and Toni Payne.

Ms Toni Payne is my publicist and a young woman who impresses me with her zeal for work and excellent knowledge of the Nigerian Entertainment terrain with regards to what she does, which is publicism. She is respectful and conducts herself with decorum. She handles assignments with a seriousness that belies her young age. Ever since I came in contact with her, for the publicity of my Legend CD early this year, I have not ceased to be amazed by her appetite for work and sincerity of purpose.

To watch her pummelled on Azuka’s Saturday This Day column, week after week, and unnecessarily, has been a torture for me. Ms Payne has laughed off these obvious attacks but I am not prepared to do so.

In her article “A Blaze of Glory for Tuface”, in discussing the issue of Tuface’s Baby mothers and the “danger they portend to his career (an issue I most definitely do not want to delve into), Azuka manages, as usual, to draw in Toni Payne, whom she describes as a “Groupie”. This is for marrying the Artiste 9ice, I suppose. Hear Azuka, “Toni Payne who conspicuously falls into this category because of her undying and unimaginable love to be called “Celebrity” has finally created the biggest Rift or ‘BEEF’ as they say in the Nigerian Entertainment scene. Azuka goes on and on, wondering how Toni Payne could live with herself. She ends the tirade with this: “Some even suggest that 9ice’s decision to end their marriage was a smart move”.
My dear Azuka, if you have a thing for 9ice, why don’t you go after him and leave Toni Payne alone. You have become too obvious and deliberate in your attacks. This is not journalism but vendetta, unprovoked, unwarranted and unbearable for those of us who pay money to buy This Day on Saturdays.

Your Editor should now call you to order. Enough!

I had not intended to write this article. I had made a personal phone call to Ms Ogujiuba, to try and speak with her about her unrelenting attacks on Toni Payne. This is the conversation that ensued.

Me: “Hello! May I please speak with Azuka Ogujiuba?”
Azuka: Silence (there is some talking in the background).
Me: “Hello, my name is Onyeka Onwenu. Am I speaking to Azuka?”
Azuka: “Yes, what do you want?”

Me: “You seem not to know me but I really would like to talk with you about Toni Payne and the fact that…”
Azuka: Cuts in – “How did you even get my number?”
Me: “Oh I see that you are intent on being rude. Well, I will write your Editor instead. I don’t do rude” I switched off.
My song “One Love” has a line which says “living in the world is a struggle just staying alive” and that is true, particularly for a young, professional woman in Nigeria. The last thing she needs is a misdirected, ambitious and envious journalist, trying to put her down, ostensibly, because of her marriage choice.

I am not interested in Toni Payne’s private life and it is not my place to defend her choices but I do take exception to a journalist attacking someone for no good reason, particularly a woman. Azuka Ogujiuba, get a life and leave Toni Payne alone to live hers.

God bless you.

Onyeka Onwenu (MFR)

Ladybrille Magazine

Founded in 2007, Ladybrille® Magazine is a California based pioneer digital publication demystifying the image of Africans in the west through contemporary African fashion and celebrating the brilliant woman in business and leadership, with an emphasis on the African woman in the diaspora. Our coverage includes stories on capital, access to markets, expertise, hiring and retention, sales, marketing, and promotions.

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  1. Lucci says:

    OMG! Wale Bakare, am sure if Azuka reads this she’ll probably go crazy, which might save her the shame of answering your questions.

    But why Azuka, whose dirty past or present is an eye-sore or ear-sore is bent on nailing other people based on their personal lives beats my imagination!

    Onyeka Onwenu, the Nigerian icon, the woman whose made women in Nigeria proud, whose legacy and footprint in the Nigerian music industry cannot be erased has spoken well, Azuka take heed!

  2. Wale Bakare says:

    Watching the dregs of Azuka’s supporters trying to put up a defence for her on this forum and on facebook pages, Linda Ikeji’s blog, and Uduak’s Blog confirm the following:

    1. Azuka has handed her people the short end of the stick on this one.
    2. Onyeka Onwenu is way out of Azuka’s league. She’s a woman of class. Well educated and articulate.
    3. She’s taken the battle to a level Azuka and her people can only dream of every reaching hence they are finding it hard to respond appropriately.
    4. There is something sinister about Azuka’s attacks on Toni Payne.

    There’s no substance to her allegations against Toni Payne and it is recommended that she should apologize and desist from attacking Toni or anyone at all unfairly.

    I have some questions for Azuka and her supporters.
    1. Is it true that when you had your baby, out of wedlock, you pinned it on a respectable married man who happened to have paid you for a one-night stand. You did everything you could to wretch his marriage and when he eventually asked for a DNA test, you ran and you were never seen by him or his family again?
    2. Is it true that you have pinned this Chidera daughter of yours on over four men before you were able to find someone to accept her has his?
    3. Is it true that your boss Nduka Ogbiagbena sleeps with you at will and pimps you out to Nigerian governors and that is why no matter what you do, he will never sack you from ThisDay?
    4. Is it true that you are Mr. Ogbiagbena’s pimp – organising girls for him and his friends and associates on call?
    5. Is it true you entered into a power play based on your escapades with Nduka with your Style Editor, Ruth Osime. You wanted to unseat her because you have bottom power with Nduka and Ruth ended up pushing you out of the style desk. You were an orphan till the Saturday Editor, Ijeoma took you on.
    6. Is it true that you can’t write anything yourself. Started your career with colleagues doing stories for you and you always have a house boy on the side who writes and you claim ownership. Is it true that your closeness with the Lanre Alfred and his brother has to do with them loaning you their stories to make up your pages. Is it true to Odu Black was your most recent pimp in this regard and when he left via the scandal of collecting money from people on your behalf you were left with no abiliy to write hence paying penalties at thisday for always bringing in your content late? Is it true that you are a cut-and-paste journalist and that press releases you get end up verabatim published by you?
    7. Is it true that you destroyed the relationship between Omo and Kemi? And want to pressurize Omo to marry you by all means? Though Omo is younger than you, even beats you up, and ill treats you in everyway. You would do anything to answer Mrs Omo Nobody just to spite Kemi?
    8. Is it true that you owe millions to fashion retailers in Lagos? You go to their shops, use THisday to collect merchansdize running into hundreds of thousands of Naira and disappear into thin air. When they demand their money, you threaten them with nasty stories about them and their marriage in the press?
    11. It is true that you were pimping some crazy stories about IBB’s daughter-in-law which were being sponsored by her rival till it landed the rival with a sack from the family by Mariam before she passed? You joined hands with Moriam Musa to get this done and destory a home?
    10. Is it true that you ran a N12 extortion scam against Andy Uba and shared the money with your co-conspirators – Lanre Alfred and CHarles Nwagbara?
    11. Is it true that three years ago, you were diagnosed with HIV/Aids and hence your intense weight loss, which you now cover up with a fake weight loss programme? Is it true that you know your days are numbered hence your reckless behaviour. You don’t care about tomorrow. You don’t care if you live or die? And you want to take as many people as you can to hell with you?

  3. Tope says:

    I am so impressed and grateful for Onyeka Onwenu’s defense of Toni Payne.Azuka, get a LIFE!!!!!!!!! Its now obvious to everybody that you are vindictive,bitter,and inadequate. This is not the first time, u did so last year with Joan Okorodudu and others you’ve blackmailed.I dont why your editor still allows you to write.You are so pathetic.Really feel sorry for you.

  4. shakira says:

    To me i don’t care about d s.o.a.b. Azuka, i really appropriate my icon standing up for a woman like herself no matter what she had done Jesus say “let He without sin cast the first stone.and to the woman “go and sin no more”.
    Life is not a long lane without bend so i don’t see why she should be crucify, and for Azuka you are advice to remain silence because anything you said will and shall be used against you in front of the lord.

  5. Anne says:

    This is the same Azuka who almost wrecked someone’s matrimonial home by claiming the child she had was for him, whilst knowing fully well it wasnt’. I’m not saying the man is faultless. So how dare she come and attack Toni Payne, for the wrong choices she’s made or 2face’s baby mama’s for their choices? I mean this is the height of hypocrisy if ever i’ve seen one.

    It’s obvious Azuka craves the celebrity limelight and cos she has failed to reach there, she decided to attack celebrities. Azuka, go home and look after your child and stop ruining the journalism profession cos u are obviously a quack.

  6. daboss says:

    I think Azuka is just a rubbish reporter…Ive read week after week her bashing of Toni Payne, DBanj and other celebs…She lacks words really…what happened between TPayne and 9ice is personal and I dont see why she is hell bent on rubbishing TP… Maybe she has a thing for 9ice. I do believe so. He crassness chows from her nasty attitude…anyway, you can never buy class and what Azuka will never have is class..

    Well done Aunty Onyeka, very well said!!

  7. Iamwondering says:

    Hmm what can i say. Onyeka a well respected woman has spoken. let us listen.

  8. DaBoss says:

    Ok…Ms. Ogujiuba, u don provoke d lioness ryt now and trust me I don’t envy you at all.

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