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Okoi Arikpo: The First West African To Be Awarded A Doctorate Degree In Philosophy In Anthropology


Early Life and Education

Dr Okoi Arikpo was a Chemist, Anthropologist, Lawyer, Politician and Diplomat. He was born in Ugep in 1916 and died in 1995. He was born in Ugep, Yakurr Local Government Area, Cross River State. He was educated at the famous Hope Waddell Training Institute, Calabar. Dr Arikpo was a distinguished Academic. He was awarded a First Class Degree in Chemistry at the University of London.

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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.

Political Career

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 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 was 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 Abubakar Tafawa Balewa.

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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 after he had lost out in the power struggle in Western Nigeria.

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 at the forefront of the fight for the autonomy of the ethnic minorities in the East for the 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 Nigerian Civil War.

This was after the secessionist Regime had launched 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.



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Jeremiah Aluwong

Jeremiah is a scholar and a poet. He has a keen eye for studying the world and is passionate about people. He tweets at @jeremiahaluwong.

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