Cardinal Olubunmi Okogie, the outspoken Archbishop of Lagos, retires at 76
After a meritorious clerical career spanning a record 39 years (from 1973 until last week), Anthony Cardinal Olubunmi Okogie has honourably bowed out as the Catholic Archbishop of Lagos. In the course of his stewardship, he minced no words in condemning social injustices, he defended the poor and the oppressed and he extolled religious values and the dignity of the human person. His has been an exemplary career devoted to the service of the Catholic Church in particular and humanity in general. He remains a role model in a society where there are few people worth looking up to.
As a Christian leader Cardinal Okogie has also been a worthy example, especially given that the new generation of clerics seems to be
more interested in material acquisition while most of their flocks go hungry. But within the polity, the former Archbishop of Lagos will be most remembered for his unflinching advocacy for the right to private education in Nigeria, especially during the Second Republic. And throughout the military era in the eighties and nineties, he was a constant torn in the flesh of the authorities as he denounced military tyranny and oppression.
As President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) for several years, Cardinal Okogie spoke truth to power yet he did it with compassion and without personal malice. And by his action and comportment, he helped to elevate CAN to a respectable platform for national peace and cohesion.
The road to retirement began for Okogie upon attaining the age of 75 last year, the canonical retirement age for Catholic Bishops). But the
Vatican, in its wisdom, directed that he should continue to hold forte pending the appointment and installation of his successor. About four months ago, Alfred Adewale Martins, the former Catholic Bishop of Abeokuta Diocese, was named as the new Archbishop of Lagos to replace Okogie.
And on Saturday, August 4, at a solemn Mass and colourful inauguration ceremony attended by many personalities across religious divides, Martins was installed the new Catholic Archbishop of Lagos.
As Okogie retires from his ecumenical duties, we cannot but salute his dogged commitment and resilience in upholding the rights of man while his long stint as Archbishop of Lagos was marked by an enduring commitment to the promotion of peace, equity and the building of a new civilisation of love.
Born to a royal family at Uromi, Edo State, on June 16, 1936, Cardinal Okogie who holds a licentiate in sacred theology, attended the Holy Cross Primary School, Lagos and later, St Peter & Paul Major Seminary, Ibadan for his theological studies. He was ordained a Catholic Priest on December 11, 1966. In 1971, he was ordained titular Bishop Mascula, and Bishop of Oyo.
In 1973, he became the Archbishop of Lagos. A former CAN president, Okogie headed the Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria from 1994 to 2002. On October 21, 2003, he was ordained as a Cardinal by the late Pope John Paul 11. As a result of this creation, Okogie became one of the Cardinal electors who participated in the 2005 Papal Conclave that elected Pope Benedict the XV1.
While wishing Cardinal Okogie a peaceful and most fruitful retirement, we urge the current Christian leadership in the country to emulate his exemplary lifestyle and worthy dedication to his calling. We also urge them to use their positions for the promotion of human rights, human dignity and spiritual values which have endeared Cardinal Okogie to the hearts of many Nigerians.