It Should Not Happen To Okoi Arikpo!

By Okoi Obono-Obla
By Okoi Obono-Obla

I wept uncontrollably when I read the news item published by www.calitown.com, about the derelict and dilapidated state of the tallest building (?) in Calabar, coincidentally named after Dr. Okoi Arikpo, SAN . It is obvious from what I read and what I can also see that the building suffers from benign neglect. Maybe authorities whose function it is to maintain the building do not know that the name of the legendary Dr. Okoi Arikpo inscribed on the building has been totally defaced; it is disheartening and uncharitable for this to be allowed to happen.

Indeed, while I consider this an insult to the memory of Dr. Okoi Arikpo , it is unacceptable and a shame for our state government to let this happen and I make bold to say so for reasons I will put down here. First, who is OKOI ARIKPO?

In better climes Dr. Okoi Arikpo Egede as iconic a figure as he is, will be a source of inspiration to the younger generation in particular and the larger population in general because this is a man who graduated with a First Class degree in Chemistry from the University of London in 1935, a time when most communities in Cross River had not experienced formal education’. He taught in the University of London before veering into Anthropology and bagging in the process, a Doctor of Science degree in that discipline in the early 1940s. Okoi Arikpo is reputed to be the first West African to bag a Doctorate in Anthropology just like he was the first President of the West African Student Union, formed to cater to the interest of West African Students in the United Kingdom. The West African Student Union played a tremendous role in the agitation for the independence of African countries under British, French and Portuguese colonial rule. Arikpo was elected member of the Central Legislature created by the Macpherson Constitution in 1951 to represent the Eastern Region and was eventually appointed Minister of Lands and Survey.

In 1953 he resigned from the political party, NCNC, to form the United Nigerian Independence Party in protest at the removal of Professor Eyo Ita who was before the removal, the Leader of government business in the Eastern Regional House of Assembly. That party quickly allied with the Action Group and formed the Calabar/Ogoja/Rivers State Movement to fight for the creation of the Calabar/Ogoja/Rivers State for the eastern minorities. In 1964, recognizing not just his uncanny educational ability but also his administrative prowess, government appointed Okoi Arikpo the first Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission. It was followed by his appointment as Federal Commissioner for Trade in 1967 and again Federal Minister of External Affairs. Reputed to be the longest serving Nigerian Minister of Foreign Affairs till date,(1967-1975), he was conferred with the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria in 1980 for excellence in legal practice and scholarship. In order that we do not mix up records, it is not disputable that the man was called to the Bar in 1956 and became the first lawyer from the old Cross River State(which also included present day Akwa Ibom state) to attain the distinguished rank of a SAN.

I painfully call on the Government of Cross River State to immediately carry out a renovation of the said building and ensure that the glorious name of the eminent Okoi Arikpo is not defaced and insulted in such a despicable manner. For a man who has through a dint of hardwork etched his name in the sands of time, our responsibility as a people should not be the deliberate crossing out of his name from our collective psyche. It is criminal, callous and out of place to deny today’s Cross Riverians, yesterday’s heroes. If we commit ourselves to doing this, posterity will call us all to account and often the outcome(s) remain unpleasantly with us long after our deliberate inactions have whittled away. Short of urging the Governor Liyel Imoke to query the perpetrators of this horrendous act, I know that this warning bell has been loudly sounded.

© 2014, Admin. All rights reserved.

1 Comment

  1. Dr. Okoi Arikpo clearly deserves a better treatment. In this present age when many of the people we look up to have proved to be unworthy examples, he remains an unrivalled hero.

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