One of the pioneer officers and finest gentlemen ever to be produced by the Nigeria Army, Major-General David Akpode Ejoor (OFR, GCON) who answered the final summons of humanity on 10th of February 2019 at the ripe age of 87 years will be buried today. Although he was a soldier in the finest military and cultural traditions, Ejoor was indeed a man of peace who carved a niche for himself as a man of sound counsel and native wisdom in the history of Nigeria. He lived the rest of his life virtually out of public glare though he quietly and discreetly intervened on issues of national importance. Indeed he lived a Spartan life reminiscent of officers in the best military tradition, which sadly has been jettisoned by most retired military officers.
David Ejoor was born on January 10, 1932 in Ovu now in Ethiope East Local Government Area of Delta State. An Urhobo by ethnicity from Ovwor-Olomu, the young Ejoor attended Ovu CMS School 1939; Baptist School Ovu 1940, Native Administration School Orerokpe 1946-47; Government College Ughelli 1948-1952; Officer Cadet Training Centre Teshie Ghana 1953-54; Officer Cadet Training Unit Eaton Hall, Chester UK 1954; Royal Military Academy Sandhurst UK 1955-56; Instructional and Communications Training Hythe UK 1958; State College Camberley UK 1963 and Royal College of Defence Studies UK 1971.
His brilliant military career started with the Royal West African Frontier Force as an officer and ended as Chief of Army Staff (January 1971 to 1975 July). He became a Lieutenant Colonel and was appointed Commander of the Army Battalion Enugu when the first coup broke out. It is also on record that he commanded the Army Guard during the Independence parade on October 1st 1960. He also served on the United Nations Peace Keeping force in the Congo from December 1960 to July 1961 following which he was promoted to the rank of Major. Ejoor then went ahead to hold many sensitive and important positions in Nigeria. He was also the first Nigerian Commandant of Nigeria Defence Academy (NDA) from January 1969 to January 1971).
After the first military putsch of January 15, 1966 he was appointed Military Governor of Midwest Region and member of the highest ruling body in the country, the Supreme Military Council (SMC). The so-called bicycle escape from Benin-city then in the stranglehold of Igbo forces has been well-documented. While some have said it was an act of cunning that saved his life and the day, others have had different opinions. But in the words of the immortal George Bernard Shaw, a hero is the man who braves all odds and remains alive; not the one who foolishly courts death. Indeed he survived several attempts on his life because of his pro-federalist stance in the heat of the crisis that bedeviled Nigeria in those heady and uncertain days. As military governor he laid the foundation of some institutions such as the major newspaper of the region, the radio station and the Midwest Institute of Technology, which his successor Brigadier Samuel Osaigbovo Ogbemudia built upon.
As a federal officer, he stood for the unity of Nigeria in spite of the turbulence of the period. After he was appointed Director at Army Headquarters he was given the task of traveling abroad to convince some foreign nations, notably the United State of America, France and India, to support the Nigerian side. He carried out this assignment with military dispatch and deep conviction.
His military career abruptly came to an end in July 1975 when he was retired by the Murtala/Obasanjo administration. Throughout his career there was no financial scandal linked to his name. In other words, he was not a soldier of fortune as became the generals who took over the mantle of leading the country. In retirement, Ejoor played a stabilizing role in the ethnic politics of his native ancestral home, the Urhobo nation when he was widely elected as President General of the Urhobo Progress Union (UPU), the apex organization of the Urhobo people.
Ejoor wrote some books as part of his attempt to document history as seen from his experiences. For example, in Reminiscences, he gives an account of the civil war without unduly ascribing prowess and success to himself as some others have done. Tributes have come from different quarters. The President, himself a retired general had this to say: “Ejoor will be long remembered and honoured as a man of positive character and vision, who provided profound inspiration to countless military officers and Nigerians that came in close contact with him.” The governor of his home state, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa has said Ejoor, “had an illustrious military career and served the nation with all his heart; with dedication and commitment to duty. His contributions to the end of the Nigeria Civil War remain indelible in the minds of Nigerians.”
As General David Ejoor is laid to rest today in Ovwor-Olomu, his birth-place, interred with him is a repository of Nigerian history, the nation’s struggle for unity and a still lively hope for nationhood.