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  Catherine was a Nigerian author, researcher and political activist. She served as a Senior Special Adviser (SSA) to President Olusegun Obasanjo on Arts and Culture and was a founder-member of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA).
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Early life, marriage and education:

Catherine Obianuju Acholonu was born in an affluent Catholic Igbo family to Chief Lazarus Emejuru Olumba and Josephine Olumba, at Umuokwara Village, in the town of Orlu, Imo state. She was the eldest of four children and was born on the 26th of October 1951. She completed her primary and secondary education in The Holy Rosary School, before being married off at an age of 17 to Brendan Douglas Acholonu, a surgeon from the same clan, who was then settled in Germany. Catherine was subsequently enrolled at the University of Düsseldorf as a student of English, American literature, and Germanic linguistics in 1974, from where she post-graduated in 1977. In 1982, she obtained her PhD in Igbo Studies, thus becoming the first African Woman to earn both Master’s and PhD from Dusseldorf. She went on to attend her first conference at the Ibadan conference on Pan Africanism, next year and presented four papers.



Acholonu taught at the English Department of Alvan Ikoku Federal College of Education, Owerri since 1978, and had authored over 16 books. In 1982, she established AFA: A journal of Creative Writing which was the first journal concerned with African literature. In 1986 she was the only Nigerian, and one of the two Africans to participate in the United Nations Expert Group Meeting on “Women, Population and Sustainable Development: the Road to Rio, Cairo and Beijing”.[4] In 1990, she was selected as a Fulbright Scholar by the US government (as a result of her documenting the Igbo roots of Olaudah Equiano, a famed abolitionist and slave autobiographer) and served as a visiting faculty to several private colleges. The African American Studies program was initiated at Manhattanville College, as a result of her efforts. She also co-founded the Catherine Acholonu Research Center to focus on historical revisionism centred around the Pre-History of the African continent, in what was the first research initiative named after a Nigerian woman.


In 1992, she had unsuccessfully ran for the post of Nigerian president as a candidate at the National Republican Convention. During that time, her husband was the deputy governor of Imo State from the same party.
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From 1999, she served as the Senior Special Adviser (SSA) to President Olusegun Obasanjo on Arts and Culture before resigning in 2002, to contest for the Orlu senatorial district seat of Imo State as a National Democratic Party candidate and re-enter active electoral politics. However, she lost to Arthur Nzeribe.

Works and reception:


Catherine has been widely held as one of the most notable female poets from Nigeria. Her poems have been included in the Heinemann Book of African Female Writers and other anthologies. Afro-Surrealist themes have been noted. Some of her poems include: “Going Home”, “Spring’s Last Drop”, “Dissidents”, “Harvest of War”, “Other Forms of Slaughter” She also had drama and plays such as:
  • Trial of the Beautiful Ones: a play in one act, Owerri, Nigeria: Totan, 1985—based on the Igbo ogbanje myth.
  • The Deal and Who is the Head of State, Owerri, Nigeria: Totan, 1986
  • Into the Heart of Biafra: a play in three acts, Owerri, Nigeria: C. Acholonu, 1970
She wrote the following essays and non-fiction:
  • Western and Indigenous Traditions in Modern Igbo Literature, 1985.
  • Motherism, The Afrocentric Alternative to Feminism, 1995.
  • The Igbo Roots of Olaudah Equiano, 1995, revised 2007.
  • The Earth Unchained: A Quantum Leap in Consciousness: a reply to Al Gore, 1995
  • Africa the New Frontier – Towards a Truly Global Literary Theory for the 21st Century. Lecture Delivered to the Association of Nigerian Authors annual Convention, 2002.
  • The Gram Code of African Adam: Stone Books and Cave Libraries, Reconstructing 450,000 Years of Africa’s Lost Civilizations, 2005
  • They Lived Before Adam: Pre-Historic Origins of the Igbo – The Never-Been-Ruled (Ndi Igbo since 1.6 million B.C.), 2009. Winner of the USA-based International Book Awards (2009) in the Multi-cultural non-fiction category.
  • The Lost Testament of the Ancestors of Adam: Unearthing Heliopolis/Igbo Ukwu – The Celestial City of the Gods of Egypt and India, 2010
  • Eden in Sumer on the Niger: Archaeological, Linguistic, and Genetic Evidence of 450,000 Years of Atlantis, Eden and Sumer in West Africa, 2014

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She authored the following books:
  • The Igbo Roots of Olaudah Equiano: An Anthropological Research Jan 1, 1989
  • The Deal and Who is the Head of State
  • Nigeria in the year 1999 (TOT Series)
  • Into the Heart of Biafra (TOP Series)


Catherine self-identifies as an environmental humanist and rejects feminism. She disagrees with the thought schools of Alice Walker, Buchi Emecheta, Flora Nwapa and other feminists, accusing them of harbouring excessive misandry and radical concepts like lesbianism squarely situated outside the boundary of African morality, whilst glossing over the concepts of motherhood, central to African femininity. She instead asserts that it is not gender but rather an economic status that determines power hierarchies in Africa. Thus, the concept of motherism which promotes a theme of “motherhood, nature and nurture”—advocates for a return to traditional pro-natal womanhood, and promotes a conciliatory stance rather than confrontations, as to male-female cooperation. Her views have been challenged by the later generation of African feminists.


Some of her articles and chapters include:
  • (with Joyce Ann Penfield), “Linguistic Processes of Lexical Innovation in Igbo.” Anthropological Linguistics. 22 (1980). 118–130.
  • “The Role of Nigerian Dancers in Drama.” Nigeria Magazine. 53.1 (1985). 33–39.
  • “The Home of Olaudah Equiano – A Linguistic and Anthropological Research”, The Journal of Commonwealth Literature. 22.1 (1987). 5–16.
  • “L’Igbo Langue Litteraire: Le Cas du Nigeria.” [Literary Igbo Language: The Case of Nigeria.] Notre Librairie: Revue du Livre: Afrique, Caraibes, Ocean Indien. 98 (Jul–Sept 1989). 26–30.
  • “Mother was a Great Man.” In The Heinemann Book of African Women’s Writing. Ed. Charlotte H. Bruner. London: Heinemann, 1993. 7–14.
  • “Motherism: The Afrocentric Alternative to Feminism.” Ishmael Reed’s Konch Magazine. (March–April 2002).

Death and Honors

Acholonu died on 18 March 2014, at an age of 62 from a year-long renal failure. She was enlisted among the greatest women achievers of Nigeria by the National Council of Women Societies (NCWS) in 1997. Her works have been selected as reading material for secondary schools and universities in Nigeria, and African Studies Departments of universities across America and Europe. Reference Featured Image Source: Facebook
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This article was first published on 23rd April 2022


Jeremiah is a scholar and a poet. He has a keen eye for studying the world and is passionate about people. He tweets at @jeremiahaluwong.

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