It is Roy T. Bennett who said; “If you have a strong purpose in life, you don’t have to be pushed. Your passion will drive you there.”
Bishop Godfrey Igwebuike Onah, the second catholic bishop of Nsukka diocese is man of purpose.
He will be described as a leader who understands his calling and has been living to the fullest the grace shining though him. he has proven to be man on a mission which undoubtedly makes you appreciate the cnviction in his spirit.
Born on 18th August 1956 to the family of Mr. Gabriel and Mrs. Susanna Onah a devout catholic family from Imilike-Ani in Udenu Local Government Area of Enugu Stare, Bishop Onah a former Vice-Rector of the Pontifical Urbaniana University (Universitas Urbaniana), Rome, and professor of philosophy (1992-date), was appointed and consecrated the Catholic Bishop of Nsukka Diocese by Pope Francis.
He was consecrated Bishop on 4th July 2013 following the retirement of the pioneer Bishop of Nsukka Diocese, Most Rev. Francis Emmanuel Ogbonnaya Okobo, on April 13, 2013.
Bishop Onah whose humility remain incorrigible, thus, has remained indelible considering his fatherly posture to be addressed as ‘Father Bishop’ as against the nominal ‘His Lordship’.
He would go on to complete his junior seminary formation in 1975 at St. John Cross Seminary, Nsukka where he enrolled as an enthusiastic young lad on 14th January 1871. He obtained brilliant grades in the West African General Certificate of Education examinations which earned him a one-year apostolate of pupil teaching in his Alma Mater. He taught courses on the History of West Africa and Biology while also coordinating the seminarians’ participations in liturgical exercises and co-managing the school’s soccer team. He would later qualify as Grade II Referee with the Nigerian Referees’ Association.
He studied philosophy at the Philosophy Campus of Bigard Memorial Seminary, Ikot Ekpene (now St Joseph Major Seminary) from 1976 to 1980 and theology at the Bigard Memorial Seminary, Enugu, both in Southeastern Nigeria. He obtained the bachelor’s degree in both disciplines and in both instances graduated in First Class honours (Summa cum laude probatus). He served as Editor-in-Chief of The Fountain (1978/79) and The Torch (1982/83) magazines – the signature students’ publications of both Major Seminaries respectively. His major pastimes during his years in the Seminary were singing, drama and football refereeing. Godfrey was ordained to the priesthood on 28 July 1984 by the late Bishop Michael U. Eneja at the Holy Ghost Cathedral Enugu, Nigeria. Upon the creation of the Diocese of Nsukka out of Enugu in November 1990, he was incardinated into the new diocese.
Advanced Studies and Specialization. In 1988, Bishop Onah enrolled at the Pontifical Urbaniana University, Rome, for postgraduate studies in philosophy. Majoring in philosophical anthropology, he explored the relationship between meaning and healing in Viktor Frankl’s Logotherapy for his licentiate which he completed yet again in Summa Cum Laude in 1990. He would explore the complex nature of the human spirit through his doctoral thesis titled, “Self-Transcendence and Human History in Wolfhart Pannenberg”. In 1992, he was awarded a PhD in Philosophy, incredibly yet again at the Summa Cum Laude grade, of this university. The nature and the importance of the individual human being were at the core of both investigations. But, these two brilliant works by no means constitute the benchmark for the compelling centrality of the human person, every human person, in the priestly ministry of this scholar clergy.
In the course of over 30-year stewardship in the Lord’s vineyard in the two continents of Africa and Europe, Bishop Onah, fluent in several languages, including Igbo, English, French, Italian and German, has performed diverse pastoral duties in rural and urban parishes; Minor and Major Seminaries; universities and the chaplaincies of institutions and of lay apostolate organizations. Notable among which is the Vice Rector, Pontifical Urbaniana University, Rome, 2008 to 2013 (two terms) and Consultor, General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops, Vatican City, 2009 to 2013 amongst many others.
Bishop Onah was honoured with the rank of a Chaplain of His Holiness (Monsignor) on 9 May 2012 by Pope Benedict XVI. He has participated in four Assemblies of the Synod of Bishops as an ‘expert’ (peritus). The Synod is an Assembly of Catholic Bishops invited from all over the world to reflect with the Pope and to advise him on important issues related to his teaching and governance of the Universal Church. The experts, through their scholarly researches and reflections, collaborate with the Bishops in this delicate aspect of the Church’s work of evangelization. Significantly, Bishop Onah was one of the first seven Consultors (drawn from among the experts) ever to be appointed to the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops on 22 December 2009 by Pope Benedict XVI.
After his doctoral studies in 1992, Father Godfrey joined the faculty of his Alma Mater, the Pontifical Urbaniana University, Rome, as lecturer in the Faculty of Philosophy. For the past 21 years, he has taught undergraduate and graduate courses in philosophical anthropology, African philosophy, philosophy of religion, history of contemporary philosophy, scientific methodology, history and culture of Medieval Europe, etc, rising gradually to the rank of a full professor. He has also been supervising honours and graduate research thesis at this university. In addition to his teaching and research responsibilities, he has also over the years assumed progressively responsible managerial positions in the university.
These roles have included Director, Institute for Research on Non-belief and Cultures, 2001 to 2007.
He was appointed Vice Rector of this university in 2008, a position he held until his severance from the university in order to assume the leadership of Nsukka Diocese. In addition to the Pontifical Urbaniana University, he has taught in other Catholic Universities and Higher Institutes in Italy. These include the Ateneo Regina Apostolorum, Rome; Pontificia Facoltà di Scienze dell’Educazione, “Auxilium,” Rome; and the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Milan. He has also taught African Philosophy at the John Carroll University at Vatican City Programme since its inception in the Fall of 2005.
Bishop Onah, described as an established authority in philosophical anthropology, has explored several dimensions of this discipline as well as its interface with the Gospel message in his many peer-reviewed published works in reputable international journals and other media.
Bishop Onah has been a vociferous force in the scheme of things in the country.
He has stood against the rising spate of insecurity, palpable Islamization agenda in the country as well as the mounting corruption and brazen insensitivity by politicians in government.
This of course has not gone unnoticed. He was recently accused of bigotry and a call for his arrest by some misguided elements form a section of the country following his fearless stand on the obvious injustices in the country.
As an undeterred Father, he debunked every accusation of bigotry following the successful completion and dedication of the beautiful St. Theresa Cathedral, Nsukka where he further declared his love for everyone, no matter their creed, religious inclination or political leaning. His Tour-de-force in leadership has continued to squelch an obvious conundrum through a sifting approach to the rubrics of life and our collective existence.
From the images of his very humbling humility when sited on a motorcycle sometime this year during a pastoral visit to one of the hinterland parishes in his Diocese, to his joining in the construction of the St. Theresa Cathedral when he was seen dressed like a labourer while helping with work, Bishop Onah has always shown the trueness of the American writer, Ernest Hemingway’s postulation which said; “There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.”
Bishop Godfrey Onah is The Choice Flame Man of the year, 2020.