7 November 2012

Nigeria: The Rise and Rise of Cardinal John Onaiyekan


In the last thirteen years, I have had close encounter with a fine gentleman who incidentally is a clergyman of the Roman Catholic Church - the Right Reverend Dr. John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan, Catholic Archbishop of the Metropolitan Archdiocese of Abuja Ecclessiastical Province.

As one of his subjects, I have come to know this scholar and human rights activist as my spiritual father and an eminent intellectual guardian so much so that in the last five years that the Human Rights Writers' Association of Nigeria has existed as a registered non-partisan platform that champions the protection and promotion of the fundamental human rights of all Nigerians, the Archbishop gentleman has always attended all our national human rights lectures.

Importantly, Cardinal Onaiyekan has provided the needed moral fabric and the much needed spiritual background to our common fight and advocacy for the rights of all oppressed Nigerians.

Few years back, we bestowed on him the national award of human rights excellence and also enrolled him into our national human rights hall of fame.

Long before we collectively gave him this award, we always believed that His Holiness Pope Benedict the 16th will surely reward this hardworking missionary of God with higher calling and we are in no way surprised that our prediction was quick in becoming a reality when recently the Church raised him to one of the highest offices in the worldwide Catholic Church as a Cardinal, making him eligible to participate in any future conclave to elect a new Pope whenever the need arises.

Only recently, he alongside the Sultan of Sokoto were nominated as possible winners of the 2012 Nobel Prize for Peace which controversially was later awarded to the European Union by the Sweden-based group.

At that award ceremony of our organization, Cardinal Onaiyekan provided serious food for thought regarding how best human rights can be protected and promoted but never shied away from the controversial same gender sexual orientation of a section of the developed Western world that is gradually finding its way into Africa and Nigeria particularly. He criticized this unnatural sexual orientation and called on Africans not to allow it to permeate our clime.

I hereby take the liberty of his recent elevation to the prestigious office of a cardinal of the Church to reproduce salient aspects of his thoughts on human rights to show how he may pilot his new global office especially in this age and time that even some gay persons have ceased the church by the jugular. His disposition towards gay marriage, just like most Christians, will surely bring him into collusion and ideological confrontation with supporters of gay sexual orientation worldwide.

Cardinal Onaiyekan had stated thus; "In general, what strikes me is the painful gap between words and deeds, between policies and realities as regards the protection of human rights of Nigeria". In his words, despite some obvious lacunae and even outright contradictions within the texts of the Nigerian Constitution, the general spirit within our present deficient constitution declares and prescribes the basic norms for a proper protection of the human rights of Nigerians.

Cardinal Onaiyekan who was the only black African to be so appointed among the six new Cardinals had proffered solution to the myriads of Nigeria's constitutional problems made worse by the complete disregard by government officials and business leaders of the concept of human rights.

He stated thus; "The problem therefore is not really with regard to our laws and our Constitution. Furthermore, our country is also a signatory to the major International Human Rights Declarations and Conventions. The problem we have is clearly that of implementation, matching words with action and ensuring that the realities on the ground coincide with the policies that we claim to hold".

"All this is in my opinion due to bad or weak government. Often there is no political will to do the right thing and even where there is the political will, there are no clear and efficient structures on ground to ensure that the right thing actually gets done. A typical example is in the whole area of access to redress in the law courts. Access to justice at the law courts which should be a right of every citizen has now become the privilege of the few who are rich and powerful", so says Cardinal Onaiyejkan.

On poverty in Nigeria which is widespread, he called for quick surgical operation to end this evil trend. In his words; "Over and above, there is the tyranny of poverty, rampant and abject poverty which has rendered many people powerless and voiceless, incapable of resisting injustice, less still fighting for their rights. This practically makes whatever we may say about human rights in Nigeria a dead letter".

What is discernable from the above is that we now have a Cardinal that can unequivocally stand up to challenge the antics of the big money spenders who support the spread of the same gender sexual orientation including Gay marriage. He has a tough battle and ideological war ahead with these forces that are powerful and rich in the Western world.

- Onwubiko is the Head, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria

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