His Eminence John Cardinal Onaikan clocks 75

By Emmanuel Tortiv

Last week, the Metropolitan Archbishop of Abuja Arch Diocese of the Catholic Church, His Eminence, John Cardinal Onaikan celebrated his 75th birthday with a press briefing on the eve of his birthday on the 29th of January, 2019

Addressing the Press at the Catholic Secretariat in Durumi, Abuja, Cardinal Onaikan said at 75 he had nothing to say than to be grateful to God for enabling him pass the life expectancy in Nigeria which is at 50 and to add an extra five years above the Biblical baseline in relative good health. He said at 75 he was in the waiting lounge of Heaven as he is waiting for the flight to be called.

Responding to a question on whether he has received any correspondence from the Pope on his retirement plan, John Cardinal Onaikan said Nigerians should not be caught by surprise when he shall leave office having attained the retirement age. He said though he wrote the Pope ahead of his birthday and was yet to receive any reply, he will notwithstanding send a reminder to Rome that he has reached the benchmark of 75 years and continue to wait until when the reply comes.

He opined that Nigeria at the moment was on a democratic adventure and not a journey. “Since 1960, we have been taking two steps forward and five steps backward. Since 1966, we have been roaming around the bush as far as democracy is concerned when a major decision was taken by a group of soldiers to violently overthrow the government and install military rule that lasted for more than 30 years. The nation was run like some private empire of a strong man who happened to be carrying our guns”, stated the Archbishop.

He said the country was yet to recover from the ‘infection’ of military rule such that many of the key actors are still operating with the mentality of military coup plotters when they make reference to capturing power in an election and go around mounting flags as if we are in a battle.

When asked whether the Catholic Church is still a member of the Christian Association of Nigeria, John Cardinal Onaikan said the Catholic Church founded the Association as Christian Council of Nigeria but the Church stepped aside after it noticed that a few people hijacked CAN until that ‘wave of madness’ passed.

He said the Catholic Church is gradually and fully re-integrating with conditions, with some state chapters actually doing very well.

Asked to comment on the utterances of the founder of Adoration Ministry in Enugu, the Archbishop said Rev. Fr. Ejike Mbaka does not represent the Catholic Church and no one knows exactly what Mbaka wants or why he talks that way having defiled his Bishop’s call to order.

“As a Catholic, I don’t feel like weeping because of what Mbaka says. But if you want to know what the Catholic Church says or believes, you don’t go to Mbaka to ask him. You know where to go,” concluded the Archbishop.

Abuja Digest Weekly gathered that John Cardinal Onaikan celebrated 36 years as a Bishop recently. He will celebrate 50 years as a Priest before the end of this year. Other activities that were also slated for the weeklong celebration of the birthday of the man that has come to be addressed as the Prince of the Church included the celebration of a post-thanksgiving Mass at the Pro-Cathedral in Area 3and a Dinner at Chida International Hotel in Jabi on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, two books were to be presented in his honour at Transcorp Hilton while on Thursday; he was to visit St. Mary’s Orphanage Homes in Gwagwalada while a Colloquium was to hold at the National Universities Commission.

On Saturday the 2nd of February, he was scheduled to ordain new Priests into the Church at the 12 Apostles Cathedral. The celebration came to an end with a Special Thanksgiving Mass on Sunday the 3rd of February, 2019.