Cardinal Onaiyekan was born in Kabba on January 29, 1944.
He was ordained a Priest for Lokoja, Nigeria on August 3, 1969. On September 10, 1982 he was appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Ilorin, Nigeria and Lokoja, Nigeria. His ordination as Bishop took place on January 6, 1983.
Just over a year later, on October 20, 1984, he was appointed Bishop of Ilorin, Nigeria, and on July 7, 1990, he was appoined Coadjutor Bishop of Abuja, Nigeria.
He succeeded as Bishop of Abuja, Nigeria on September 28, 1992, and was appointed Archbishop of Abuja, Nigeria on March 26, 1994.
He was elevated to Cardinal on November 24, 2012 and appointed Cardinal-Priest of San Saturnino.