Senate President, Sen. Godswill Akpabio and a former Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon, have urged Nigerians to emulate the Christ-like and inter-religious lifestyle exhibited by His Eminence, Cardinal John Onaiyekan.
They made the call in Abuja on Thursday, at a book presentation to mark the 80th birthday celebration of the Emeritus Catholic ArchBishop of Abuja, Cardinal Onaiyekan.
They admonished Nigerians to ensure religious tolerance and harmony, especially among religious leaders and followers.
Akpabio, who chaired the book presentation, described Onaiyekan as an indefatigable advocate of justice and a rare creation of God, whose unwavering commitment to justice had touched the lives of many.
He said that Onaiyekan lived his life worthy of emulation, which had brought about peace to the country, adding that he dedicated his life to the service of mankind.
“Onaiyekan’s leadership and ministry have been marked by a resolute pursuit of justice and equality. In the face of injustice, he has been a tireless advocate for the marginalised and the voiceless.
“He has taught us that true leadership lies not in the pursuit of power, but in the relentless pursuit of justice and the untiring commitment to uplifting the most vulnerable among us.
“But it is not just his actions that inspire us; it is his words that resonate in our hearts,” he said.
Akpabio added that beyond his religious leadership, Onaiyekan had also been a champion for interfaith dialogue and understanding.
He explained that in a world often divided by religious differences, Onaiyekan has tirelessly worked to build bridges of understanding and foster a spirit of unity among all faiths.
“As we celebrate His Eminence’s 80th birthday, we are reminded of the profound impact he has had on the lives of countless individuals, both within and beyond the Catholic Church.
“His legacy is one of compassion, humility, and a deep commitment to the ideals of justice and equality.
“He has shown us that one person can make a difference, that a life dedicated to service is a life well-lived,” he added.
Gowon, who in his remarks corroborated Akpabio, urged Nigerians to reflect on the work of a great person as Onaiyekan and to emulate his exemplary work toward building a greater Nation.
The former military head of state said that the Emeritus Catholic Archbishop of Abuja lived his life worthy of emulation, which had brought about peace to the country.
He said that Onaiyekan had dedicated his life to serving God and left a landmark in our hearts.
He added that his value has bonded us as humble being, adding that his life was a testimony to the church and world at large.
Gowon said that Onaiyekan unwavering commitment to justice had touched the lives of many, which must be emulated by all, especially the youth.
Earlier in his address of welcome, Doma Lulu-Briggs, the host of the occasion, described Onaiyekan as a true icon worthy of celebration.
Lulu-Briggs said that such a man who had championed religious tolerance and peace should be celebrated and emulated by all, especially younger Nigerians.
He called on Nigerians to emulate the teachings and values of Onaiyekan for greater unity and peace among religions.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the book titled, “Religion and Peace Post Retirement Reflection of John Cardinal Onaiyekan on Interfaith Dialogue,” edited by Rev Fr. George Ehusani was reviewed by Prof. Jibrin Ibrahim.
Ibrahim described the book as a true reflection of Onaiyekan’s stand on religious issues till date.
According to him, Onaiyekan preaches that the core value of religion is peace and whoever breaches that flawed the essence of religion.
“Cardinal Onaiyekan is the metropolitan catholic Archbishop Emeritus of Abuja, the immediate past co-chair of Africa council of religious leaders, and former Christian moderator of the world council of religion for peace,” he said.
A former governor of Anambra, Chris Ngige, while unveiling the book, said it was full of satire and would make a good reading.
Onaiyekan in an interview with newsmen at the sidelines of the event said “true religion must reflect peace and that whatever you hurt your neighbor is not religion.”
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that highlight of the celebration was unveiling of the book with the money realised will go to the Cardinal Onaiyekan Foundation for Peace (COFP).
COFP is a Non-Governmental Organisation with the mandate to provide a platform for building and strengthening the processes of peace and social change in Nigeria and Africa at large. (NAN)
Edited by Isaac Aregbesola