Within a spate of one week, Nigeria lost two of its illustrious sons: Senator Joseph Waku and Maj-Gen. David Ejoor.
Sen. Waku died on Sunday, February 3,
Although an indigene of Benue state, the late Lar appointed Chief Waku as a board member of the Plateau Publishing Company Ltd., publishers of The Nigeria Standard newspapers.
He served along with two others who were also non-indigenes of the state, Chief Areoye Oyebola, former editor of the Daily Times and Chief Ebun Oyagbola.
The trio shared the same political ideology with Chief Lar as progressive elements. Chief Waku, famous for his long pipe tucked in the left corner of his mouth, was a fiery social critic who had zero tolerance for injustice and oppression of the common man. The attributes played out in the Fourth Republic when he was elected into the Senate representing Benue North on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
He was a pain in the necks of the fellow senators who did not breathe the same air with him. Although he served for only one term (1999-2003), he will be remembered for standing up against former President Olusegun Obasanjo, criticising his high-handedness and over-interference in the affairs of the Senate where he served on various committees like Works and Housing, Health, Establishment and Water Resources, among others.
He was also unrelenting in his attacks on proestablishment elements even as a non-senator. Chief Waku later found his voice in the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) and stirred up controversies when he said that the Middle Belt Forum (MBF) was deliberately excluding non-Christians from the organisation, explaining that the ACF was formed to give voice to northern minorities including those in the MBF. Gen. Ejoor, who passed on at the age of 87 in a Lagos hospital on Sunday after a protracted illness, came to limelight when he was appointed as the military governor of the defunct Mid-Western Region and was on ground during the Civil War.
He will be remembered for bicycling from the state capital, Benin, to Lagos to seek refuge when the rebel forces overran his territory. After the hostilities, the then Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon (retd) appointed Ejoor as the Chief of Army Staff and served between 1971 and 1975.
Earlier, the Delta-born military icon from Ovu in the present-day Ethiope East Local Government Area, had served as the first indigenous commandant of the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA) between 1969 and 1971. However, unlike most of his contemporaries who veered into politics at various times, the late Ejoor remained apolitical for the rest of his life.
He lived a life devoid of controversy, preferring to remain a self-effacing elder statesman whose views were highly respected and sought after in his immediate community. Until his death, not much was heard about him at the national level, leaving one to wonder whether or not he had been around. In his tribute to the great son of the soil, the Governor of Delta state, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, expressed sadness over the passage of the retired general.
He said his death had devastated him, especially as the nation is going into another round of election, but was consoled by the fact that the late army chief would remain immortal and never to be forgotten. He said, “As Deltans, we are extremely proud of the outstanding contributions of Gen. Ejoor to the Nigerian Army where he first served as the Military Governor of Mid-Western region from January 1966 to August 1967, first Nigerian Commandant of the Nigerian Defence Academy from January 1969 to 1971 and later Chief of Army Staff. “On behalf of my family, the government and people of our dear state, I extend my deepest condolences to the Ejoor family, the Urhobo nation and the people of Ovwor-Olomu where he hailed from.”
The Blueprint also joins millions of Nigerians in mourning the two departed icons. Their wise counsels will be sorely missed at this critical stage of our nation building. May God grant their souls eternal rest and their families the fortitude to bear the irreparable losses, Amen.