Former Chief of Army Staff and ex-military governor of the defunct Mid-West Region, Major-General David Akpode Ejoor, has passed on. He died in Lagos on February 10, 2019 at the age of 87. David Ejoor was one of the pioneer officers of the Nigerian Armed Forces. Born on January 10, 1932 in Ovu, in Ethiope East Local Government Area of Delta State, Ejoor attended primary school in his village and later entered Government College Ughelli in January 1948 and was an outstanding student. His exploits in sports and leadership in the school earned him commendation from his principal, V.B. Powell, who described him in 1953 as “a thoroughly nice boy in the best sense….”
After a brief stint with the Customs and Excise department, he took the entrance examination to join the army. He was the only successful lad among the eleven that took the examination at the Enugu centre. At the next recruitment stage in Lagos, he was among the six that passed. Four came from the ranks, while he and the late Victor Banjo made history as the first Nigerian Officer Cadets to get regular commission into the Nigerian Army. Early military training took him from Nigeria through Ghana, then to Eaton Hall in the United Kingdom and finally at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst. His outstanding performances in sports earned him laurels, including a black belt in Judo. He represented Sandhurst at the French Military Academy in 1955 and 1956. He commanded the Armed Guards at the dawn of independence on October 1, 1960. The event foreshadowed the significant role he was destined to play in the unity and survival of Nigeria. The late Gen. Ejoor was in the United Nations Peace keeping Force in Congo and on returning to Nigeria in July 1961 he was promoted to the rank of Major. He designed the Nigerian Army cap badge and rank insignias.
Following the January 15, 1966 military coup, he was appointed the first military governor of the Mid-West Region and a member of the Supreme Military Council (SMC). He also established the first radio station in Benin and set the template for the infrastructural development of the region. He was said to have survived three assassination attempts when his base was overran by invading Biafran soldiers, before fleeing to Lagos through his famous bicycle ride. He became a director at the Army Headquarters in Lagos, and in 1968 assumed duties as the first Nigerian Commandant of the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA), Kaduna. He was promoted to Major-General on May 1, 1971 and became the Chief of Army Staff in January 1972.
He did so much to retool the military to fit into a post-war institution. Key among these was the building of barracks, resettlement of soldiers, discipline and restructuring of the army. He enjoyed the confidence and respect of many, especially the then Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon. The coup that toppled General Gowon on July 29, 1975 also brought to an abrupt end the illustrious career of the late military icon at 43 years of age.
He retired to a life of community service and nation building and was at a time the President-General of Urhobo Progress Union, one of Nigeria’s oldest socio-cultural organisations. His submission for a two- party system was adopted by the S. J. Cookey Political Bureau which midwifed the Gen. Ibrahim Babangida’s transition programme. He was a recipient of the Order of the Federal Republic (OFR) and Grand Commander of the order of the Niger (GCON).
We believe that his discipline, distinction in military service and patriotism will serve as inspiration to members of the Nigerian Armed Forces. The Federal Government should immortalise the late military chief. We commiserate with his family, the people and government of Nigeria on the sad loss. May God grant his soul eternal repose.