The Archbishop Emeritus of the Ibadan Catholic Archdiocese, Most Rev. Felix Alaba Job, on Thursday, described Anthony Cardinal Okogie as a dogged defender of the common man in the last 50 years of his priesthood.
Job said this in his homily at the Holy Cross Cathedral in Lagos to celebrate the 80th birthday and 50 years of priestly ordination of Anthony Cardinal Okogie.
“Okogie was born and bred in Lafiaji, hence, he was well groomed to fight whenever and wherever there was the need to fight for justice, the rights of the church and ordinary citizens.
“He stood the ground against governors and rulers and championed the cause of justice, equity and development.
“He was and still is in the forefront of the fight for good and holistic education of citizens and a fair wages for workers,” he said.
The cleric said that while Okogie was the president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria, the church in Nigeria witnessed growth and spread.
“As president of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), he spoke clearly against political mismanagement of the country’s resources and politicians had to listen to him willingly or unwillingly,” he added.
The cleric urged Nigerians to turn to God, saying that Nigerians were God’s creation and there was hope for Nigerians, if they returned back to God.
The Catholic Archbishop of Jos, Most Rev. Ignatius Kaigama, said Okogie’s voice in the Nigeria church and nation was strongly prophetic, loud, clear and consistent and it contributed to saving Nigeria from the brink of collapse.
“His patriotic instinct and fearless confrontation on social issues helped to bring stability to this nation. His voice was a voice of hope and tranquility, his numerous qualities are unquantifiable.
“Okogie stood very frank on principles, even in those days facing the menacing and intimidating circle of military rulers whose dictatorial culture raped Nigeria for many years of the advantages of democratic governance,’’ he added.
Also speaking, the Catholic Archbishop of Lagos, Most Rev. Adewale Martins, described Okogie as a man who has enjoyed uncommon favours from God.
“As we take a retrospective look at your ministry, we are moved by your consistent simplicity. You were able to discuss with poor people and make them to feel welcomed.
“You are able to dialogue with the wealthy with the same enthusiasm. We admire your prayer life and ascetic life for those of us who know you,” he said.
Anthony Cardinal Okogie was born on June 16, 1936, and was ordained as a Catholic priest on Dec. 11, 1966.
In 1971, he was ordained a titular Bishop of Mascula and an Auxiliary of Oyo, and in 1973 became an Archbishop.
He was proclaimed Cardinal by Pope John Paul II on Oct. 21, 2003; Okogie was one of the Cardinal electors who participated in the papal conclave of 2005 that selected Pope Benedict XVI.
He resigned on his attainment of the age limit of 75 years and the resignation was accepted on May 25, 2012.