Early Life And Political CareerEdit
Dr. Okoi Arikpo was a Chemist, Anthropologist, Lawyer, Politician and Diplomat. He was born in Ugep in 1916 and died in 1995. He was educated at the famous Hope Waddell Training Institution, Calabar. Dr Arikpo was a distinguished Academic. He was awarded a First Class Degree in Chemistry in the University of London. He changed into anthropology and got a Doctorate Degree at University College, London. He later studied Law and was called to the English Bar in 1956. He authored many books including the classic: the development of Modern Nigeria (1967). He was reputed to be the First West African to be awarded a Doctor of Philosophy Degree in Anthropology.
Dr. Okoi Arikpo was President of the West African Student's Union in the United Kingdom in the early 1940s. This organization was the rally point for students from West Africa who were studying in the Great Britain. WASU was lobbying members of the British Parliament to draw their attention to the political problems facing African Colonies and their leaders back home in different African Countries. The organization was the pivot for galvanization for support of some left thinking people to the plight of the colonial territories. WASU was the fulcrum of social and political activities of Students and people of West African Origin in the United Kingdom. Some of its activities include lobbying members of the British Parliament to draw their attention to the political problems facing African Colonies and their leaders.
Dr. Okoi Arikpo was the first Minister for Lands & Survey in the Nigerian Government that was formed after the Macpherson Constitution came into force. Okoi Arikpo was one of the four Legislators elected into the Eastern Regional House of Assembly who were chosen to represent the Eastern Region in the Central House of Legislature in Lagos that was promulgated after the coming into force of the Macpherson Constitution. Okoi Arikpo was also a cabinet Minister in the 1957 Government formed by Sir Abubukar TafawaBalewa.
Okoi Arikpo was an Activist. He was at the vanguard of the campaign to draw the attention of the Colonial Government to the plight of the minority people of the Eastern and Northern Region. He resigned from the NCNC in protest at the treatment meted out to the then Leader of Government Business in the Eastern Nigerian Government, late Professor Eyo Ita, who was pressured by the leadership of the NCNC to step down in order for Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe to assume the position he was occupying after he had lost out in the power struggle in the Western Nigeria where members of this Party in the Western Region had succumbed to pressure mounted on them not to allow Dr. Azikiwe, an Igbo become leader of Government Business after his Party won the Western Regional election.
Thereafter Dr. Okoi Arikpo teamed with other minority rights activists to form the United Nigeria Independence Party which later allied with the Action Group as the opposition in the Eastern Region. He was in the forefront of the fight for autonomy of the ethnic minorities in the East for a creation of the Calabar/Ogoja/ Rivers State. He was the Secretary-General of the COR State and Honourable Justice Udo Udoma was the President.
Okoi Arikpo was among the people from the minority ethnic groups who drafted and articulated the position of the minority groups in the country before the Willink Commission was set up by the departing British colonizers to examine the fears of minorities of the Niger Delta. The Willink Commission called attention to the grave dangers in the Niger Delta.
Okoi Arikpo was the first Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission. Okoi Arikpo was the longest serving Minister for Foreign Affairs (External Affairs) 1967 - 1975. He was the person who was sent to all the Western Capitals and the United States of America to make a strong case why Nigeria should not be allowed to be Balkanized during the heady days of the Civil War. This was after the secessionist Regime had launched a vehement and vociferous propaganda in Western Capital and the United States of a deliberate policy of genocide being waged against the Igbo people of Nigeria which always turned the scale against Nigeria. Okoi Arikpo, a cerebral intellectual of no mean standing, employed his formidable intellectualism and savvy to turn the tide against the Biafra Regime.
In the Africa continent, Okoi Arikpo's effort to ensure that Biafra does not win more recognition after the dramatic recognition accorded it by France, Cote de Voire, Tanzania and Gabon was commendable. A commentator noted thus
“Meanwhile, the OAU Council of Ministers meeting in Kinshasa began on September 4 and lasted till September 11, 1967. The Council meeting normally prepares the agenda for the Heads of State meeting. Okoi Arikpo, Gowon's External Affairs minister had a short but firm mandate for the preparatory meeting: ‘Under no circumstances allow the Nigerian crisis to appear on the agenda for the OAU Summit.’ To back up his mandate, Arikpo would cite Article II (2) of the OAU Charter, which states that member states should not interfere in the internal affairs of other members unless invited to do so. He also insisted that Nigeria was not keen to invite the mediation of a third party. Gowon also mandated Arikpo to stage a walk-out from the Summit should the matter, by any means, appear on the agenda or be mentioned during the Summit’’.
“The pivotal role that the Ministry of External Affairs was able to play in the foreign policy decision-making system was also due to the sort of leadership that the Commissioner for External Affairs was able to provide. Dr. Okoi Arikpo, who was the Commissioner, was a respected politician and an able administrator. His steady and competent leadership earned respect and support of the career diplomats who dominated the Ministry of External affairs. Arikpo’s ability to work effectively with the career diplomats was also enhanced by his cautious and moderate foreign policy approach shared by the career diplomats. The effective and competent manner in which Arikpo and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that he headed managed Nigeria’s international relations during the Civil War period and the immediate Post- War period showed that Gowon’s Government was correct in allowing the Ministry to have clear primacy in the foreign decision making system. During the Civil War, the Ministry was able to help Nigeria to develop new vital relationships with East European (Military weapons from the Soviet Union and other East European countries) were very important in helping the Nigeria Military extinguish the succession of Biafra) while still maintaining adequate relationships with the traditional friendly countries of the West’’.
- Arikpo, Okoi (1967). The Development of Modern Nigeria. Penguin Books
- Arikpo, Okoi. 1958. Who Are the Nigerians? Lugard Lectures. Federal Ministry of Information
- 'ITM May Be Named After Okoi Arikpo' Website Calitown.com, Dec. 2013
- Okoi Obono-Obla Blogspot, March 2012
- Powered by DMflex WebGen --- www.dmflex.com (2010-10-02). "The Foreign Affairs Managers, Articles". Thisday Live. Archived from the original on 2012-06-17. Retrieved 2012-09-16.