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2nd October, 2010.

His Excellency,

Dr. Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan (GCFR)

President, Federal Republic of Nigeria,

Presidential Villa,

Aso Rock, Abuja,


Your Excellency,


May, I respectfully use this medium to congratulate you on the 50th Anniversary of the attainment of Independence of Nigeria from Great Britain. I will further congratulate you on your declaration to contest the election to choose the Presidential Candidate to carry the banner of the Peoples Democratic Party in the 2011 General Election. I fervently pray that the Almighty God will see you through the forthcoming contest.
You will recall that as part of activities lined up for the nation’s 50th Independence Anniversary Celebrations, 50 eminent Nigerians and Foreigners (Britons) were listed to be honoured by the Federal Government of Nigeria by Mr. President for their contributions to the development of the country since Independence was attained on the 1st October, 1960.
The recipients are: Herbert Macaulay (Lagos), Dr. Nnamdi Azikwe (Anambra), Alhaji Ahmadu Bello (Sokoto), Chief Obafemi Awolowo (Ogun), Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa (Bauchi), Chief Samuel Akintola (Oyo), Mallam Aminu Kano (Kano) and Chief Anthony Enahoro (Edo), Ernest Okoli (Bayelsa), Jaja Wachukwu (Abia), Dennis Osadebay (Delta), Maj-Gen J.T.U Aguiyi-Ironsi (Abia), Generals Yakubu Gowon (Plateau), Olusegun Obasanjo (Ogun), Abdulsalami Abubakar (Niger), and Prof. Kenneth Dike (Anambra). Also, Profs Wole Soyinka (Ogun), Chinua Achebe (Anambra), Alhaji Abubakar Imam (Kaduna), Alhaji Babatunde Jose (Lagos), Justices Adetokunbo Ademola (Ogun), Egbert Udo Udoma (Akwa-Ibom), Prof. Teslim Elias (Lagos), Chief Rotimi Alade Williams (Lagos), Justice Mamman Nasir (Katsina), Alhaji Alhassan Dantata (Kano), Alhaji Aliko Dangote (Kano), Chief Mike Adenuga (Ogun), Richard Ihetu aka Dick Tiger (Abia), Kanu Nwankwo (Abia) and Chioma Ajunwa (Imo), Daniel Igali (Bayelsa), Michael Akinwunmi (Ogun), Mrs Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti (Ogun), Mrs Margaret Ekpo (Cross River), Hajia Gambo Sawaba (Kaduna), Hajiya Ladi Kwali (Abuja), Princess Alexandra (Britain) and Lillian Joel Williams (Britain). Others are Profs. Jacob Ade Ajayi (Ekiti), Ishaya Audu (Kaduna), Iya Abubakar (Adamawa), Chief Emeka Anyaoku (Anambra), Alhaji Shehu Shagari (Sokoto), Alhaji Yusuf Maitama Sule (Kano), Joseph Tarka (Benue), Shettima Ali Monguno (Borno), Cardinal Francis Arinze (Anambra), Alhaji Abubakar Sadiq 111, Sultan of Sokoto (Sokoto) and Oba Adesoji Aderemi (Osun).
I, immensely thank Mr. President for his thoughtfulness in remembering to honour these people who have greatly contributed to the development of the country. The honouring of these eminent people by Mr. President would go a long way in encouraging other Nigerians that a good name is better than silver and gold. However, Mr. President I do not know the parameters you used in arriving at your decision to honour these people who as I had previously submitted are eminently qualified to be honoured, but I am hugely disappointed that the name of Dr. Okoi Arikpo (SAN) of blessed memory was conspicuously omitted or missing from the list. I do not know if this was deliberate or an omission but it amounts to gross injustice that the name of this great Nigerian whom I fervently believe is one of the most qualified Nigerians to be honoured from whatever criteria was employed in arriving at the decision.
Mr. President, I seriously think there is a deliberate policy by the successive Federal Governments of Nigeria to blot the name of Dr. Okoi Arikpo out of human memory. I vividly remember that recently the Federal Government of Nigeria under the aegis of the Federal Capital Territory Development Administration decided to name some major Streets in Abuja after some eminent Nigerians but nobody remembered Dr. Okoi Arikpo.
I can say without fear or contradiction that no major Street in the Country is named after this great Patriot. I will not want to subscribe to the view of some people that Okoi Arikpo is forgotten because he is from the wrong part of the Country. However, the recent decision made by Mr. President (I believe on the advice of some bureaucrats) seemed to reinforce this view. Some of the people honoured were contemporaries and colleagues of Okoi Arikpo in the Federal Executive Council under the leadership of General Yakubu Gowon (1967-1975). These include Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Alhaji Shehu Shagari, Joseph Tarka, Chief Anthony Enahoro, Mallam Aminu Kano, and Shettima Ali Monguno. If your decision not to include Okoi Arikpo was informed by the advice you got from the Government of Cross River State (his home State), I will humbly submit that such advice was tendentious and bias for obvious political considerations. This advice by the Government of Cross River State was probably informed by a deliberate policy to use revisionism to distort history and suppress the truth.
I respectfully submit that the omission of the name of the Great Okoi Arikpo among the list of 50 distinguished Nigerians who were honoured by President Jonathan for their contribution to the development of the country as part of the activities to mark the country’s 50th anniversary of Independent from Great Britain is a sad commentary and an injustice. There is no reason why Dr. Okoi Arikpo from Cross River State of Nigeria should not be on the list. I agree that Margaret Ekpo and several others on the list contributed immensely to the development of the country but I do not see their contributions weightier than that of Okoi Arikpo.
Mr. President, kindly permit me bore you with some of the contributions made by Dr. Okoi Arikpo which from a dispassionate and objective standpoint are outstanding and indelible in the history of Nigeria.
1. 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 Institute, Calabar. Dr Arikpo was a distinguished Academic. He bagged a First Class Degree in Chemistry in the University of London. He strayed into anthropology and bagged a Doctorate Degree in the 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 bag 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. Gladly, Justice Udo Udoma was among the people you honoured.

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’’.

Another commentator, Ufot Bassey Inamete in his Book, “Foreign Decision Making Policy in Nigeria’’, rightly noted the immense contribution of Okoi Arikpo during the Civil Wars thus:

“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’’.
I will want to believe that the omission of the name of Okoi Arikpo was an act of inadvertence which can be corrected now that I have pointed it out. I, therefore respectfully nominate Okoi Arikpo to be included in the list of those honoured as part of the activities to mark the 50th anniversary of Nigeria’s Independence by Mr. President and accordingly a date set aside by Mr. President to present the Gold Medal which was given to the honourees to representatives of members of Okoi Arikpo’s family.

Undoubtedly, it is a blatant injustice of immense proportion and great disservice to the memory of Okoi Arikpo for successive Federal Governments to continue to blot his name from the list of those whom she has honoured over the years for their various contributions to the development of Nigeria.
Alternatively, I respectfully propose that the new Building of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Abuja, Federal Capital Territory be named after Dr. Okoi Arikpo Egede.

Yours Sincerely,

Okoi Ofem Obono-Obla

Senator Liyel Imoke,

Governor of Cross River State of Nigeria,

Governor’s House,

Hope Waddell Avenue,

Cross River State,


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