John Onaiyekan

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John Onaiyekan
Cardinal, Archbishop emeritus of Abuja
  • 7 July 1990 (Coadjutor)
  • 28 Sep 1992 (Bishop)
  • 26 Mar 1994 (Archbishop)
Retired9 November 2019
PredecessorDominic Ekandem
SuccessorIgnatius Ayau Kaigama
Other post(s)Cardinal priest of San Saturnino (2012‍–‍present)
Personal details
John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan

(1944-01-29) 29 January 1944 (age 80)
Previous post(s)
MottoFiat Voluntas Tuo
(Latin for 'Thy Will Be Done')
Coat of armsJohn Onaiyekan's coat of arms
Ordination history
Priestly ordination
Ordained byAuguste Delisle
Date3 August 1969
Episcopal consecration
Principal consecratorPope John Paul II
Date6 January 1983
PlaceSt. Peter's Basilica, Rome
Elevated byPope Benedict XVI
Date24 November 2012
Episcopal succession
Bishops consecrated by John Onaiyekan as principal consecrator
Michael Ekwoy Apochi2003
Martin Dada Abejide Olorunmolu2006
Anselm Umoren2012
Godfrey Igwebuike Onah2013
Michael Gobal Gokum2014

John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan[pronunciation?] (born 29 January 1944) is a Nigerian prelate of the Catholic Church. He was archbishop of the Latin Church archdiocese of Abuja from 1994 to 2019 and was made a cardinal in 2012. He has served as president of the Christian Association of Nigeria, president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Nigeria and bishop of Ilorin.

Education and early career[edit]

Onaiyekan was born in the town of Kabba, in what is now Kogi State, to Bartholomew and Joann Onaiyekan. He attended St. Mary's Catholic School in Kabba from 1949 until 1956, Mount St. Michael's Secondary School in Aliade, Benue State, from 1957 until 1962, and Ss. Peter & Paul Major Seminary in Bodija, Ibadan, from 1963 until 1965. He completed his religious studies in Rome in 1969 and was ordained as a priest on 3 August of that year by Bishop Auguste Delisle of Lokoja Diocese.[2] Ahmadu Bello, Premier of Nigeria's Northern Region, had offered him a scholarship to study abroad.[3]

Onaiyekan taught at St. Kizito's College, Isanlu, in 1969. He became rector of St. Clement Junior Seminary in Lokoja in 1971. He completed his Licentiate of Sacred Scripture at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in 1973 and earned his doctorate in 1976.[2] He became Vice Rector of Ss. Peter & Paul in 1977.[2]

Church leader[edit]

In October 1980, Pope John Paul II named Onaiyekan to a five-year term on the International Theological Commission. In November, he joined the International Catholic/Methodist Dialogue Commission.[2]

Onaiyekan was appointed auxiliary bishop of Ilorin in Kwara State, and titular bishop of Thunusuda on 10 September 1982.[4] He received his episcopal consecration on 6 January 1983 by Pope John Paul II. He was named Bishop of Ilorin on 20 October 1984.[5] On 7 July 1990 he was appointed coadjutor bishop of Abuja. When that diocese became an Archdiocese on 26 March 1994, Onaiyekan became its first archbishop.[2]

Onaiyekan was elected Vice-President of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) in 1994 and President of that body in 2000.[2]

During the administration of Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, and especially during his second term between 2004 and 2007, Onaiyekan spoke out against the regime for its failure to support democratic principles and its corruption. Speaking in 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 "resist the deadly temptation to want to remain in power perpetually by hook or by crook". His stance was credited with saving Nigeria from the imposition of a dictatorship.[6] He was named Pax Christi International's 2012 Peace Laureate.[7]

On 18 September 2012, Pope Benedict XVI named Onaiyekan one of the Synod Fathers for the October 2012 Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization.

He was created a cardinal by Pope Benedict XVI in a consistory on 24 November 2012.[6] As Cardinal-Priest he was assigned to the titular church of San Saturnino.

On 31 January 2013, Pope Benedict XVI appointed Onaiyekan a member of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) and a member of the Presidential Committee of the Pontifical Council for the Family. He can hold these positions until his 80th birthday.

He was one of the cardinal electors who participated in the 2013 papal conclave that elected Pope Francis.[8]

Pope Francis appointed Onaiyekan the Apostolic Administrator of the diocese of Ahiara in Imo State in eastern Nigeria on 3 July 2013.[9]

Pope Francis appointed him to a five-year renewable term as a member of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments in October 2016.

He won the election for the position of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) President on 19 June 2007 with 72 votes over Anglican Primate Peter Akinola who had 33 votes.[10][11] In 2010 he was succeeded by Ayo Oritsejafor.

Pope Francis accepted his resignation as Archbishop of Abuja on 9 November 2019.[12]



  • "The Priesthood in Pre-monarchial Ancient Israel and among the Owe-Yoruba of Kabba: A Comparative Study", unpublished dissertation (1976)
  • "The shariah in Nigeria: a Christian view", Bulletin on Islam & Christian-Muslim Relations in Africa (1987)


  1. ^ "John Olorunfemi Cardinal Onaiyekan". David M. Cheney. 30 January 2023. Archived from the original on 16 October 2023. Retrieved 3 February 2024.
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Archbishop's Page". Catholic Archdiocese of Abuja. Archived from the original on 11 September 2007. Retrieved 11 November 2007.
  3. ^ Kukah, Matthew Hassan (23 March 2003). "Peace in a Time of War". Thisday online. Leaders & Company. Archived from the original on 27 December 2004. Retrieved 11 November 2007.
  4. ^ Acta Apostolicae Sedis (PDF). Vol. LXXV. 1983. p. 173. Archived (PDF) from the original on 11 October 2017. Retrieved 6 April 2021.
  5. ^ Acta Apostolicae Sedis (PDF). Vol. LXXVII. 1985. p. 88. Archived (PDF) from the original on 30 August 2021. Retrieved 6 April 2021.
  6. ^ a b Allen Jr., John L. (26 November 2012). "Vatican consistory creating six cardinals packs global punch". National Catholic Reporter. Archived from the original on 6 January 2017. Retrieved 5 January 2017.
  7. ^ "Archbishop Onaiyekan is 2012 Pax Christi peace laureate". Vatican News Service. Archived from the original on 6 January 2017. Retrieved 6 December 2016.
  8. ^ "List of Cardinal Electors". Zenit. 12 March 2013. Archived from the original on 6 April 2019. Retrieved 26 January 2019.
  9. ^ "Rinunce e nomine". 3 July 2013. Archived from the original on 11 September 2015. Retrieved 30 April 2015.
  10. ^ "Onaiyekan is new CAN president". Catholic Bishops' Conference of Nigeria. 19 June 2007. Archived from the original on 20 July 2007. Retrieved 16 September 2007.
  11. ^ "Okoh Emerges CAN Vice-President. He was succeeded by Pastor Ayo Orisajfor". Daily Champion. AllAfrica Global Media. 30 July 2007. Archived from the original on 8 July 2008. Retrieved 13 September 2007.
  12. ^ "Resignations and Assignments, 09.11.2019" (Press release). Holy See Press Office. 9 November 2019. Archived from the original on 9 November 2019. Retrieved 9 November 2019.

External links[edit]

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Concordio Maria Sarte
Titular Bishop of Thunusuda
10 September 1982 – 20 October 1984
Succeeded by
Preceded by Bishop of Ilorin
20 October 1984 – 7 July 1990
Succeeded by
Preceded by Archbishop of Abuja
26 March 1994 – 9 November 2019
Succeeded by
Preceded by Cardinal-Priest of San Saturnino
24 November 2012 –
Religious titles
Preceded by President of the Christian Association of Nigeria
19 June 2007 – 5 July 2010
Succeeded by