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The enigmatic Onoyima @78

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Rev. Fr. Emmanuel Ndu

It was the British writer and statesman, Edmund Burke, who said that all it takes for evil to thrive in any society is for good men to do nothing.

This further affirms St. Augustines definition of evil, as privatio boni, that isabsence or lack (privation) of good. We are where we are today because those who should speak out against evil failed to do so. Rather, they choose to pander to the whims and caprices of those in power in order to secure their daily bread.

Those who muster the courage to speak the truth, maintaining discipline and order, not minding whose ox is gored, are given negative sobriquets. Rt. Rev. Msgr. Dr. Taddeo Onoyima belongs to the latter. This chief disciplinarian cannot stand evil and indiscipline without raising an eyebrow.

He believes that without discipline, there is no life at all and if we do not discipline ourselves, the world will do it for us. Beyond this hostile-looking man is a peaceful, unassuming, unobtrusive, urbane, charitable, and wisdom-packed priest of God.

Born on August 16, 1942 in Umundu, Udenu L.G.A., Enugu State, he was ordained a priest in 1973 by Pope Paul VI in Rome. This came after he had studied Scripture at the famous Biblicum, Rome. Msgr T.O. has passed through thick and thin. He first hogged the limelight in 1980 with his TV programme,Philosophy and life. Like F. J. SheensLife is worth living,Taddeo engaged occult grandmasters and scholars on scripture-based and religious discussions.

Significantly, today he clocks 78 on earth. Within these 78 years, he has spent 47 years in service to God and humanity as a priest. Like the biblical Samuel, Msgr. Onoyima has made kings, influenced people, and has written his name boldly in the hearts of people through his achievements. For instance, upon his return from Rome in 1978, he became a formator at Bigard Memorial Seminary Enugu for 22 years, where he churned out saints and scholars of the Church, amongst whom are 2 papal nuncios, 2 archbishops, 8 bishops, and countless priests of God, including a supreme court judge. Are these not kings?

He has equally served as the Chaplain of the University of Nigeria, Enugu Campus (UNEC) for 20 years, and Nsukka campus (UNN) for 14years and three months. He also served as the Grand Spiritual Director of Knights of St. John International (KSJI) for 24years, Vicar General of Nsukka Diocese for 12 years, and many more. He is widely quoted by his students and lovers of his wisdom because of his practical approach to existential issues, thematic preaching and generosity. He has 63 publications to his credit, books that are easy to comprehend, original, eye-opening, educative, real, interesting, exciting, fun, and straight to the point. His generosity is outstanding. Like his mentor, Teresa of Calcutta, one can beat his chest and say that Msgr. Taddeo has built more than 200 houses for the poor, trained about 300 indigent youths in schools and craftworks, and equally set up businesses for countless people. Helping the poor gives him joy, and their prayers sustain him too.

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The enigma of the man Taddeo does not lie in his altruism and selflessness. It lies rather in the hand of God upon his life. Interestingly, you may not have known that Msgr. Onoyima and Samuel the son of Elkannah share a number of things in common. For instance, in this interplay of desitiny, Samuel was a priest, prophet and king; Taddeo is a priest, prophet and king. Samuel answered Gods call while serving Eli; Taddeo answered God while serving his elder brother, Catechist Michael Onoyima at Ekwegbe. Take a look at this interesting synchrony: Taddeo (has 6 letters), Samuel (6 letters); Onoyima (7 letters), Elkannah (7 letters).

Perhaps, the most striking similarity between the two leaders is their courage and fearlessness. Samuel confronted the mountainous problems that faced Isreal with remarkable zeal and ease. He was ever ready to obey God, and so did carry out His injunctions to the letter. At the request of the people, he refused to anoint a king, until God asked him to do so and he went on to anoint Saul king. When Saul later lost Gods favour, Samuel anointed David. Taddeo is fearless in fighting a just cause while remaining very obedient to constituted authorities. He fought indecent dressing to a standstill at UNEC and UNN. It was a cliché for female students to ask their roommates, Will Onoyima permit this attire? before going to church.

This piece is not beatificatory, but rather a testimony of a life of beatitude. A testament of hope and an x-ray of an enigmatic personality. Like the Catholic Church which canonizes a saint but does not put one in heaven, mine is to drum it loud and clear that this sincere and empathic man who has a special affection for the poor and needy has not wasted his 78+ years on earth. Ichie Go Slow has such a magical way of touching lives with his warmth, openness and frankness. Beneath this seeming fierce man is an uncommon and unmistakable firmness in his voice, which gave him the grace, respect and poise he is being known for. If not that we are humans, I could have been tempted to state confidently that this enigmatic monsignor is almost infallible.

The puzzle, which to so many onlookers is a magic wand, is that Msgr. Onoyima is 78 yet still hail, hearty and goes about his duties like an agile young man. The secret is not farfetched. He takes absolute care of his health and is completely detached from mundane things. Do you know that he does not eat salt, pepper, magi and oil? He drinks only hot water and takes other health precautionary measures. Interestingly, these were not doctors prescription. He started abstaining from them from the 70s. Presently, he hasnt and views no television, listens to no radio, and uses no refrigerator. He, however, garners news from newspapers and spends his time meditating, praying and writing his books.

Happy birthday Msgr. TO Onoyima (Ichie Go Slow)

As I invite you to sing happy birthday to him, please have a glimpse of his books

Fr. Emmanuel Ndu is assisting Msgr T. Onoyima at St. Victor’s Parish, Onuiyi, Nsukka


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