John Cardinal Onaiyekan on Tuesday in Abuja formally handed over as the Catholic Archbishop of Abuja to the new Archbishop, Ignatius Ayau Kaigama. Kaigama would on Thursday be formally inaugurated in Abuja.
This follows the Pope’s acceptance of the retirement of Cardinal Onaiyekan who clocked the retirement age of 75 on January 29, 2019.
Archbishop Kaigama on March 11 earlier this year was announced by the Pope, who was represented by Apostolic Nuncio to Nigeria, Archbishop Antonio Guido Filipazzi, in Abuja during the opening ceremony of the first plenary meeting of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN).
Filipazzi then named Kaigama as the Coadjutor archbishop of Abuja and administrator of Jos archdiocese, where he served as its chief Shepherd in the last 19 years. Speaking during the handover ceremony, Onaiyekan assured Nigerians that he will not retire from speaking against all forms of oppression in the country until social justice is achieved for all citizens. Onaiyekan, who finally retires from his role as the episcopal leader of the Catholic Church in FCT, Kogi, Nasarawa, and Benue states after 25 years, urged political leaders to prioritize social justice and equity, if the nation must make progress and should not be afraid of retiring. “I am confident in the abilities of my successor to lead the Archdiocese to the next level of development.
There were no elections to determine who will succeed me. There were no campaigning and lobbying. His (Kaigama) appointment was simply in line church practice,” he said. On his part, the incoming Archbishop of Abuja province, Most Revd Ignatius Kaigama, noted that many things had gone wrong in Nigeria but vowed to wage serious war against the social ills and vices impeding the development of the country. “We are the hope of Nigeria. So many things have gone wrong but we cannot just sit and say prayers. We have to go beyond prayers because faith and action go together.
We have to mobilise our people to be integrated and work genuinely for the progress of Nigeria and the happiness of our people. “I am not going to be hunting for problems but when they come, I will do my best to tackle them with my priestly character and identity. I will not be idle. I will always be doing something for church and country; attacking ills, social vices, and anything that will not be helpful to the development of Nigeria,” Kaigama said.
He also lamented that despite the government’s promise to tackle graft among public office holders, the menace has failed to give way for probity and accountability, saying “if there wasn’t corruption, there would have been an equitable distribution of resources and our people will be living well above the poverty line.