How Islamic inscription, star emblem was introduced in crest of Nigeria Army

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An Urhobo officer, General David Akpode Ejoor introduced the Islamic (Arabic) inscription and the Star emblem into the Nigeria Army crest contrary to the misunderstanding by some folks.

There was this controversy on the “Islamic” writings and “Star of David” on our military badge… Here, General David Akpode Ejoor explains in detail how he incorporated these symbols.

Page 16 of his autobiography has details…

“In the colonial days, the cap badge of the army was a palm tree. This could be interpreted to represent the wealth of the country which the British were to exploit. For that reason, the palm tree had to go. Besides, the Action Group party had a palm tree as its symbol, and it was important that the army and a political party should not have the same symbol. My job was to seek a new meaningful design for the cap badge of the Nigerian Army. I set to work.”

“In seeking a new design, I was anxious that the symbol should reflect the duty of the army and should be capable of inspiring officers and men. As I searched, I remembered the battle between the British and the Sokoto forces in 1903.

“At that battle, the Sokoto forces had carried the Sultan’s flag with an Arabic inscription on it. That Arabic inscription I learnt meant, “VICTORY IS FROM GOD ALONE”. This, I thought was an excellent symbol that had meaning and could inspire. What is more, the British had themselves incorporated the symbol into the regimental colour which the Nigerian Regiment carried on parade. I decided to incorporate the Arabic INSCRIPTION INTO THE CAP BADGE TO REPRESENT DEFENCE…

“Next, I searched for a symbol that would depict unity. I found an answer in Lugard’s interlaced triangles which he designed at the amalgamation to represent the coming together of NORTHERN and SOUTHERN NIGERIA. In choosing this symbol for the Nigerian Army cap badge, I hoped it would remind the Nigerian Soldier that his duty was to defend the unity and integrity of his country. I now had two symbols representing DEFENCE AND UNITY.”

Now, for something that could inspire the army in it’s task of defending the nation, I landed on the idea of the Eagle. Again this was not original. The nation had chosen the eagle as the national emblem.

The eagle is a powerful bird, indeed, the king of birds. It this represented strength. The eagle had a reputation, when once had located its prey, of swooping and striking swiftly, accurately and decidedly- qualities which the Nigerian army should strive to achieve.

Having decided on these symbols, my next task was to get an artist to put them together into a unified design for the cap badge of the Nigerian Army. This was eventually done. Then I was required to defend my design before the ministerial committee.

The committee was made up of three Ministers.

1: Muhammadu Ribadu (Defence)
2: Festus Okotie-Eboh (Finance)
3: Yar’adua (Works and Housing).

It was awe-inspiring to have to appear before these great names of the First Republic. I had to defend the design. I remember that was when I got to the interlaced triangle, Ribadu and Yar’adua exchanged glances and showed some concern. Now I know why.

The interlaced triangles also represented the star of David- the symbol of Israel. This alarmed the two Muslim ministers. Fortunately for me, there was the Arabic inscription. This, although at the time I was not thinking in terms of Islam and Christianity, my design happened to incorporate symbols that could be associated with those two religions. Just as well, perhaps. At the end of my defence, the design was approved.

This left a permanent mark on part of the uniform of the Nigerian Army. This is a rare privilege for any serving officer. I thank God for affording me that opportunity…

Source: REMINISCENCES by David Akpode Ejoor.

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