By Paul Obi
Over the years, Nigeria has continued to grapple with the task of fine tuning how best to make local government councils work effectively and efficiently. To many, the idea of local government being the government closer to the grassroots and the people has since lost its essence and value. The emasculation of the local government by state governors since the return of democracy in 1999 has gone a long way to cast doubt about the importance of local government administration.
But times were when the people actually felt the positive impact of local government. It was a time when local government elections were real; no rigging, no ballot box snatching and no imposition by Godfathers. Local government administration then had value and as well extended goodwill to rural dwellers. Elections at local government were won squarely and in the field. That was the era that the former Boki Local Government Area Chairman, late Chief Bartholomew Arah Okurushi belonged.
Okurushiâ€™s emergence as the Boki Local Government Area Chairman in 1992 local government elections under the Social Democratic Party (SDP) was a remarkable political feat that would remained timeless in Cross River State political history. With his campaign slogan; â€œOnly the Best is Good Enough for Boki,â€ he systematically sold SDP to the rest of Boki. And relying on Luke 16: 10 – â€œHe who is faithful in little, will also be faithful in much,â€ the Boki electorates bought into his dream and elected him. Given that Cross River State was somehow dominated by the National Republican Convention (NRC), Okurushiâ€™s victory was a political tsunami that kept tongues wagging.
For instance, Cross River Central Senatorial District was under the firm grip of NRC. As it will turned out, Mr Clement Ebri of NRC won the governorship, Sen. Liyel Imoke won the Senate seat and the current Director General of Institute of Peace and Conflict Resolution (IPCR), Prof. Oshita Oshita won the House of Representatives seat. To the consternation of many, Okurushi will go on to defeat late Dr James Ewa of NRC to emerge Boki Local Government Area.
The reasons for the victory were not far-fetched. Okurushi fit into the mould of Chinua Achebeâ€™s â€˜A man of the People.â€™ He was altruistic, a grassroots mobilizer and an enigma that was in touch with the electorates. With these qualities, and alongside Dr Pius Tabi Tawo, late Patrick Obi (Paddy Sorrow) of Kakwagom, late Paul Odu (Oduruku) of Bansan Community, they and others traversed Boki land campaigning and marketing SDP. Okurushi will later proved his love for his people with the spread of social amenities across the various clans of Boki. Under his regime, he built culverts in Kakwagom, health centres, markets, rural roads and schools.
Okurushi was born on 27th June, 1957 in Bateriko, Boki Local Government Area of Cross River State. He attended St. Michaelâ€™s Primary School, Bateriko and went on to study Philosophy at the University of Calabar. He also served as Executive Secretary of Ikom Education Authority, Secretary, All Farmers Association, Cross River State chapter, board member, Cross River State Borders Development Commission and member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Speaking to THISDAY, his schoolmate and former Boki Local Government Area Chairman, Barr Augustine Tase said: â€œOkurushi was an energetic fellow; he had a passion and love for his people, and was also in touch with the grassroots and local politics.â€ According to Tase, Okurushi never diverted from his ideology that â€œevery politics is local.â€
In the latter years, he had his challenges, including health, leading to his dead in October. He had an uncommon zeal in getting along. His dynamism was in recognising the collective power of the people and understanding the portent power of local politics. He holds the title of Otu Eyare 1 of Boki and was crown by Igbo Union resident in Boki as the Eze Igbo 1 of Boki. Okurushi has since be laid to rest today in Bateriko, joining his maker and ancestors in the great beyond.