Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
The newly appointed Archbishop of the Abuja Catholic Archdiocese, His Grace Ignatius Kaigama, has formally assumed office as the substantive Archbishop of the Abuja Archdiocese.
He took over the mantle of office from His Eminence Cardinal John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan, who retired on the attainment of the mandatory 75 years of age.
In his goodwill message, President Muhammadu Buhari expressed confidence that Archbishop Kaigama would do justice to his new office.
He said the various positions which Kaigama had occupied especially as the president of the Bishops Conference of Nigeria and chairman of the Plateau State Interreligious Committee for Peace put him in great stead to ably discharge his new assignment.
On his part, former President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, described Kaigama as a man of immense experience and a peace builder.
“The Catholic community in Nigeria and the Christendom will no doubt gain a lot as you continue to deploy your wealth of experience as a peace builder in your devotion to service to God in your new office,” he said.
Also speaking at the event, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo described the archbishop as a man of peace and remarkable humility who is very committed to peace and unity of the country.
He said the coming of Kaigama at this period is very auspicious as the country wants all hands on deck to ensure peace and stability.
While congratulating Cardinal Onaiyekan on his retirement, Osinbajo described him as a man always “associated with truth.”
He expressed the hope that Onaiyekan would continue to speak out against societal vices and not lose his voice in retirement.
The Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) and Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, who spoke on behalf of the governors at the Archbishop’s inauguration ceremony, described Kaigama as a promoter of peace and one who is not afraid to speak truth to power.
According to Fayemi, the new Catholic Archbishop of Abuja is not new to the NGF as he had a very engaging working relationship with the forum, especially in the area of seeking peace and good governance.
In the same vein, the Secretary of the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. Boss Mustapha, said the appointment of Kaigama is a confirmation of the trust and confidence that the leadership of the Catholic Church has on him.
Mustapha recalled the exploits made by Kaigama in brokering peace between the feuding Christian and Muslim communities in Plateau State during his stay there.
In his speech, Archbishop Kaigama pledged to discharge his duties to the best of his ability.
The cleric, who said he was initially disoriented when he received the news of his appointment, became emotional, saying he had always been posted to handle challenging assignments.
He said almost all the people he had taken over from in various positions were high flyers, a situation which often poses challenge to him.
According to Kaigama, “I have always been given heavy assignment, mainly to succeed people who are usually more experienced and more gifted than I am,” adding that he would rely on the Holy Spirit and people of goodwill for assistance to succeed in the new assignment.
Speaking further, the archbishop said he believed that priesthood is about servant-leadership and being ready at all times to sacrifice for others.
He added that leadership is not about surrounding oneself with weapon-wielding security men and dogs or making one inaccessible to the governed.
At the impressive ceremony held at the Cathedral of the Twelve Apostles, popularly known as the Papal Ground in Kubwa, Abuja, the new archbishop was formally handed the staff of office known as ‘Crozier’ by his predecessor, Cardinal Onaiyekan, to signify his assumption of duty.
While also performing the handing over ceremony, Papal Nuncio to Nigeria, Most Rev. Antonio Filipazzi, read Pope Francis message prayer for the Holy Spirit to guide Kaigama in his new assignment.
He said: “This hand over of the Crozier reminds us of the apostolic succession of the bishops that goes back to the apostles. This is the pastoral ministry entrusted by our Holy Father, Pope Francis, to Archbishop Ignatius Ayau Kaigama as the new shepherd of the Archdiocese of Abuja. In his ministry, he will be guided by the Holy Spirit and certainly inspired by his eminent predecessor. I am confident that he will be able to count on the prayers and generous help of all the priests, the religious and the lay faithful of his new Archdiocese.”
In his goodwill message, Pope Francis said Archbishop Kaigama’s appointment was based on merit having been found capable of holding the exalted position.
The Pope, whose message was read by Papal Nuncio to Nigeria, Filipazzi, said Kaigama possesses all the qualities and pastoral experience needed for the job.
Many dignitaries, including Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, governors of Taraba, Benue and Ekiti States, former Governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi; ministers, top government officials, church leaders from various denominations and lay church faithful were at the venue of the inaugural Holy Mass by the incoming Archbishop.