By CHIDI OBINECHE
Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, John Cardinal Onaiyekan last week took the surprise lane when he called on Christians to rise up and Christianize Nigeria rather than whining endlessly about plans to Islamize the country. It was a grave throwback, a rustle that shattered established thought on the congruency of relations between the two major faiths. He had intoned, “They have every right to do so provided they also know that I have the right to Christianize the whole of Nigeria.“The answer is not in complaining and crying; stand up like a man and Christianize Nigeria”
In a snowy way, the Cardinal is saying that though marriages are made in heaven, so are thunder and lightning. Just like a derelict stray in a boat. To many, it may jolly well be a rant of exculpation, insipid and rancid, but it was a roll on the grass, a roll down the window, an illumination, and a restatement of the obvious. Down the road, Onaiyekan whispers that the strongest men can fracture, that the low can stand up taller, that the grudge is one of a choice in giving in, remaining on the ground, or turning the fissures to scars. Every so often, a surreal landscape of Islamic conurbation of Nigeria is painted, of ecumenical hope gone cold, of empty Christian tower blocks, of horrid blood chilling orgies that end in encampment.
The fanning hearth however draws strength from the words of R. N Frasher in his observation that “ there may or may not be a hell in afterlife but suffering injustice quietly is a sin, punishment for it is a living hell here and now”. It gorily belies the wise aphorism of the ancients that when life comes at you, come back twice as hard. Like Mahatma Gandhi, His Eminence enjoins that where there is only a choice between cowardice and violence, he would advise violence. This is the real horizontal meditation, the authentic inmost strength of the heart, the wild art of exhortation. On the plodded path, the United States of America, USA President, Donald Trump cannot take the backstage for a canonical bouquet with his undying statement of courage that “When somebody challenges you, fight back. Be brutal, be tough.” This is the takeaway homily from the hallowed precincts of the pulpit, because when pushed to the limits and you explode, you are the mean one.
He was born on January 29, 1944 in the town of Kabba , in what is now Kogi State to Bartholomew and Joan Onaiyekan. He has been the Catholic Archbishop of Abuja since 1994 and was made a Cardinal in 2012. He has served as President of the Christian Association Of Nigeria, CAN, President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria and Bishop of Ilorin. In October 1980, Pope John Paul11 named him to a five- year term on the International Theological Commission. During the administration of ex- President Olusegun Obasanjo, Onaiyekan spoke out against the regime for its failure to support democratic principles and wide ranging corruption.
Speaking at a service in his cathedral in 2005 with the president in attendance, he called on Obasanjo to resist the temptation to stand for a third term, which the Nigerian Constitution did not allow, and asked him to” to resist the deadly temptation to want to remain in power perpetually by hook or by crook.” He was named Pax Christi International’s 2012 Peace laureate. On September 18, 2012, Pope Benedict XVI named him one of the Synod Fathers for the October2012 Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization. On January 14, 2013, he was appointed a member of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith by Pope Benedict XVI (CDF) and a member of the Presidential Committee of the Pontifical Council for the Family. He can hold these positions until his 80th birthday.