Major General David Medaiyese Jemibewon (rtd), one of Nigeria’s oldest military Generals, statestamen and patricians who has had a rich history in public service with gangbusters records of achievements joined the octogenarian club Tuesday.
At 80, Jemibewon, (hailed by admirers as the People’s General) has created a path that made his years of existence to be eventful, rewarding and impactful with selfless service to the Nigerian state and humanity at large.
Young Jemibewon started proving his mettle in public service during his early years as his patriotic zeal for the nation took him into the Nigerian Army in 1961 as a cadet officer and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in April 1962 at Aldershot, England. The Army was known then as the Queen’s Own Nigerian Regiment.
Educated in the UK and US, the Kogi-born General had served in various capacities, distinguishing himself in all the roles and in the process rising to the enviable rank of a Major General.
As a demonstration of his sheer patriotism to the Nigerian nation, Jemibewon, while recounting on his life and time, said he did not look back when he joined the military. “I did not inform my parents about my enrolment into the Army. I had gone to Britain, got commissioned and back before my parents became aware of my enrolment into the Army,” he said in a recent interview.
In addition to his illustrious service in the Nigerian Army where he manned strategic positions such as General Officer Commanding First Infantry Division and as Adjutant General, he equally served as Military Governor of the now defunct Western Region (Oyo State), making valuable contributions to the development of the country.
After leaving the Army following a successful career, Jemibewon, who holds a chieftaincy title of the Jangunmolu of Ibadan, became a foot soldier for victims of state-sponsored political persecution, while military’s dictatorial regimes lasted in the country.
The New Diplomat recalls that the General oversaw the life-saving mediation that rescued his superior in the military, General Olusegun Obasanjo from the gulag of the then Military Head of State, General Sani Abacha in 1995.
Obasanjo was charged and convicted by the instruments of the state for alleged complicity in a coup plot in 1995. But it was on record that Jemibewon and General Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma quickly came to Obasanjo’s rescue. Successfully, they were able to intercede on his behalf with Abacha.
Obasanjo would later become President upon Nigeria’s return to civil rule in 1999.
Beyond his achievements in the military, Jemibewon’s post-army career as a legal practitioner was also marked with outstanding success. When he became the Minister of Police Affairs under former President Obasanjo, he helped to advance massive reforms which are still benefiting the Nigerian Police.
General Jemibewon had lived through Nigeria’s smooth and rough sailing years.
From Nigeria’s struggle for independence to its attainment of self-government in 1960; the coup and the counter-coup that punctuated the 60’s, triggering the brutal civil war; the shortlived return to democratic rule; military take-over and now, the fourth republic, he saw them all, contributing his own quota to nation building throughout those periods.
A Nigerian civil war veteran and an ardent advocate for a united and prosperous nation, General Jemibewon, believes Nigeria could achieve the lofty dreams of its founding fathers, with citizens proudly raising their shoulders among the comity of nations, if Nigerians can unite against the promoters of divisive actions and corruption. “Those who draw back our progress as a nation should be punished for the disgrace they bring to our country in governance, businesses, professions, universities etc. Tribalism, corruption and outright stealing, has led to underdevelopment of the country,” the former military Governor of old Oyo said, while bemoaning Nigeria’s uneven growth since independence.
Extoling his virtues, President Muhammadu Buhari reserved kind words for the former Minister of Police Affairs.
The President who joined family members and associates to celebrate with the former military officer, described him as a statesman “who played many pivotal roles in shaping the nation’s history, both in the private and public sectors.”
Recalling some of Jemibewon’s achievements, Buhari remembered his services as a “former Governor of the defunct Western State, and later Oyo State, and taking up strategic positions in the Nigerian Army as General Officer Commanding First Infantry Division and as Adjutant General.”
Buhari’s greetings to Jemibewon were contained in a statement released in Abuja on Sunday by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina.
He wrote further, “As a former Minister of Police Affairs, the President affirms that the reforms instituted by the former governor strengthened the Nigeria Police Force for better service, especially the setting up of the Police Service Commission, and initiating a process for the expansion of the security agency with more officers, and modelling of some global best practices in operations.
“President believes Maj.-Gen Jemibewon’s interest in the country continued to soar after retirement as he contributed to the process of returning the country to democratic governance, and has consistently played an active role in advocating good governance and development that directly impact on the people.
“The President prays that the Almighty God will continue to bless the former governor with good health and strength to keep serving the nation,” Buhari said.
General Jemibewon made history as the first serving military officer to author a book while still in service in 1977. His book, ‘Combatant In Government’ was like a journey into his accomplishments and reforms while serving as military governor of old Oyo state became a pathfinder and a reference research material for many. He is the author of other notable books including ‘The Nigeria Police In Transition: Issues, Problems and Prospects’ as well as ‘The Military, Law and Society; reflections of a General’.
A deeply cerebral retired General who voluntarily retired from the Nigerian Army in 1983 after fruitful years of service, Jemibewon launched into another career: legal practice with his flourishing chambers focusing on property law, international law and diplomacy.
Earlier in the week, family members, friends and admirers across the world came together via zoom to celebrate the people’s General.