Pope Benedict XVI has promoted Nigerian Bishop John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan along with five others six as cardinals.
Onaiyekan becomes the third Nigerian cardinal after Francis Arinze and Olubumi Okogie. Before his promotion Onaiyekan was the Archbishop of Abuja.
Others named along with Onaiyekan are: Archbishop of Bogota, Colombia, Ruben Salazar Gomez; Archbishop of Manila, Philippines, Luis Antonio Tagle; Patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites in Lebanon, Bechara Boutros Rai; and the major Archbishop of the Trivandrum of the Siro-Malankaresi in India, Baselios Cleemis Thottunkal.
Onaiyekan was born in the town of Kabba, in what is now Kogi State, to Bartholomew and Joann Onaiyekan. He attended St. Mary's Catholic School in Kabba from 1949 until 1956, Mount St. Michael's Secondary School in Aliade, Benue State from 1957 until 1962, and Ss. Peter & Paul Major Seminary in Bodija, Ibadan from 1963 until 1965. He completed his religious studies in Rome in 1969, and was ordained as a priest on August 3 of that year Ahmadu Bello, Premier of Nigeria's Northern Region, had offered him a scholarship to study abroad.
Onaiyekan taught at St. Kizito's College, Isanlu in 1969. He became rector of St. Clement Junior Seminary in Lokoja in 1971. He finished his Licentiate of Sacred Scripture in 1973 and earned his doctorate in 1976. He became Vice Rector of Ss. Peter & Paul in 1977.
In October 1980, Pope John Paul II gave Onaiyekan a five-year appointment to the Pontifical International Theological Commission. In November, he joined the International Catholic/ Methodist Dialogue Commission.
Onaiyekan was ordained as bishop on January 6, 1983, and became the Bishop of Ilorin, Kwara State. In 1990 he became Co-Adjutor Bishop of the Diocese of Abuja, and when the diocese became a Metropolitan See in 1994, John Onaiyekan became the Metropolitan of Abuja.
Onaiyekan was elected to the position of Vice President of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) in 1994, and President of that organization in 2000.
Archbishop Onaiyekan was named Pax Christi International's 2012 Peace Laureate.
On Tuesday, September 18, 2012, Archbishop Onaiyekan was appointed by Pope Benedict XVI to serve as one of the papally-appointed Synod Fathers for the upcoming October 2012 Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization.