Catherine Acholonu was born in Orlu to the family of Chief Lazarus Olumba. She attended secondary schools in Orlu before becoming the first African woman to gain a master's degree (1977) and a PhD (1987) from the University of Düsseldorf, Germany. She taught at Alvan Ikoku College of Education, Owerri, commencing 1978.

Acholonu was the author of over 16 books, many of which are used in secondary schools and universities in Nigeria, and in African Studies Departments in USA and Europe. Her works and projects enjoyed the collaboration and the support of United States Information Service (USIS), the British Council, the Rockefeller Foundation and in 1989 she was invited to tour educational institutions in USA, lecturing on her works under the United States International Visitor's Program. In 1990 Catherine Acholonu was honoured with the Fulbright Scholar in Residency award by the US government, during which she lectured at four colleges of the Westchester Consortium for International studies, NY, USA.

Part of her work took her into the wider sphere of sustainable development. In 1986 she was the only Nigerian, and one of two Africans to participate in the United Nations Expert Group Meeting on "Women, Population and Sustainable Development: the Road to Rio, Cairo and Beijing”, which was organised jointly by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the Division for the Advancement of Women, and the Division for Sustainable Development. This took place in the Dominican Republic, and focused on the mainstreaming of gender into the Plans of Action of the UN world conferences of Rio, Beijing and Cairo.

From 1999 to 2002, she was the Special Adviser on Arts and Culture to the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, a post she resigned from to seek election, along with a number of other writers who felt their inclusion in Nigerian politics would for the good. However, she lost the contest for the Orlu senatorial district seat of Imo State, and drew attention to irregularities and rigging.

She was recently appointed African Renaissance Ambassador by the African Renaissance Conference with headquarters in the Republic of Benin, and Nigeria's sole representative at the global Forum of Arts and Culture for the Implementation of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNFAC). Prof Acholonu holds several awards from home and abroad. She was listed in the International Who's Who of World Leadership, USA; the African Women Writers' Who's Who; the Top 500 Women in Nigeria; Who's Who in Nigeria; and the International Authors and Writers Who's Who, published in Cambridge, UK.

Acholonu was the Director of the Catherine Acholonu Research Center, Abuja (CARC), which she co-founded with Ambassador (Dr.) Ajay Prabhakar. The center, based in Abuja, is pioneering research into Africa's pre-history, stone inscriptions, cave art, and linguistic analyses of ancient symbols and communication mediums from the continent. She argues that Nigerian rock-art inscriptions, known as Ikom Monoliths, prove that "Sub-Saharan African Blacks possessed an organized system of writing before 2000 B.C." and that she and her assistants are able to translate these.

In her book, They Lived Before Adam: Prehistoric Origins of the Igbo The Never-Been-Ruled, she says that Igbo oral tradition is consistent with scientific research into the origins of humanity. Speaking at the Harlem Book Fair, Acholonu summarised the content of her argument as follows:

Our research includes the origin and meanings of symbols used in every religion and sacred literature all over the world. In these, we found that the Hebrew Bible, the Kabbalahs of the Hebrews and the Chinese, the Hindu Vedas and Ramayana, and the recently discovered Egyptian Christian Bible called the Nag Hammadi are of immense importance in revealing lost knowledge. Wherever we looked we found evidence confirming the claims by geneticists who have been conducting mitochondrial DNA research in four leading universities here in the USA that all mankind came from sub-Saharan Africa, that Eve and Adam were black Africans...Igbo oral traditions confirm the findings of geneticists, that by 208000BC – 208000 BC – human evolution was interrupted and Adam, a hybrid, was created through the process of genetic engineering. However, our findings reveal that the creation of Adam was a downward climb on the evolutionary ladder, because he lost his divine essence, he became divided, no longer whole, or wholesome. All over Africa and in ancient Egyptian reports, oral and written traditions maintain that homo erectus people were heavenly beings, and possessed mystical powers such as telepathy, levitation, bi-location, that their words could move rocks and mountains and change the course of rivers. Adam lost all that when his right brain was shut down by those who made him