Olusegun Obasanjo is a Nigerian statesman and diplomat. He served as head of state under the military rule, and as a democratically elected president of Nigeria. He began his career as a military officer in 1958, and rose quickly through the ranks becoming a Nigerian Army General.
Obasanjo is the first Nigerian to serve as a military head of state and a civilian president. Today, he is an icon in the Nigerian political landscape.
He was born Olusegun Mathew Okikiola Aremu Obasanjo on March 5 1937. He was born to Amos Adigun and Ashabi Obasanjo in Abeokuta, Southwest Nigeria. Obasanjo lost his mother and father to death in 1958 and 1959 respectively.
In 1948, he attended Saint David Ebenezer School, Ibogun for his primary education. Subsequently, he moved to Baptist Boys’ High School (BBHS), Abeokuta. In 1958, Obasanjo joined the Nigerian Army. At age 81, Obasanjo holds a Master and Ph.D degree in Christian Theology from the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN).
Obasanjo has been married many times to Bola Alice, Esther Oluremi, late Lynda, late Stella Abebe and late Mojisola Adekunle. Altogether, he has twenty children. Some of his children are also leading at the helms of Nigerian affairs.
Additionally, Obasanjo is the Balogun of Owu and the Ekerin Balogun of the Egba clan of Yorubaland. Also, Obasanjo announced that he gave his life to Christ while he was in prison.
Olusegun Obasanjo joined the Nigerian Army in 1958 and went on to study in England and India. In the army, he rose quickly through the ranks. After joining, he served in the 5 Battalion in Kaduna and Cameroon. In 1959, he became a second Lieutenant, and in 1960, he was promoted to a Lieutenant.
While a Lieutenant, he served in the Nigerian Contingent of the United Nations Force in Zaire. He was selected for the Congo operations due to his creditable performance in training and internal security exercises earlier in Southern Cameroon.
Furthermore, he was promoted in 1962 to a temporary captain and then attended the Royal College of Military Engineering, England for a course. After training in 1963, he joined the engineering unit of the Nigerian Army and became the unit commander. That same year, he was promoted to the rank of a captain and attached to the College of Military Engineering at Kirkee, India.
In 1965, he became a major and subsequently attended the Defence Services Staff College Wellington, India. There, he was regarded as the best Nigerian officer sent to Wellington.
In 1967, he became a lieutenant colonel, and was appointed as commander, second area command of Nigerian Army. Thereafter, a commander, Garrison, Ibadan, Nigeria, until 1969.
In 1969, he was promoted to colonel and appointed general officer commanding 3 Infantry Division, Nigerian Army.
Civil War And Aftermath
Obasanjo was made Commander in charge of Marine Commando Division, South-Eastern Nigeria during the Biafran Civil War. And in 1970, he accepted the Biafran surrender ending the Nigerian Civil war.
From 1970 – 1975, Obasanjo commanded the Engineering Corps, and was promoted to the rank of Brigadier General in 1972.
In January 1975, Gen. Yakubu Gowon, the then Head of State made him the Federal Commissioner for works and housing. And in July of same year, he was appointed as the Chief of Staff Supreme headquarters after Gen. Murtala Mohammed took over as the head of state in a military coup. The following year, he became a Lieutenant General.
As the Head of State (1976 1979)
While Obasanjo was the head of state, he reformed agriculture by establishing the Operation Feed the Nation’ Programme. He also built the Warri refinery and revenue from oil increased. Additionally, he built the Murtala Mohammed International Airport in Lagos.
Also, under his regime, the Nigerian universities increased from five to thirteen. He established the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB). Also, there was a boom in industrialisation and more investments were made on infrastructure.
Olusegun Obasanjo was the first Nigerian head of state to hand-over power to a democratically elected civilian president
Obasanjo was imprisoned by Sani Abacha in 1995 after he spoke out about the abuse of human right that characterised Abacha’s regime. He was accused of allegedly participating in an aborted coup. He was sentenced to death which was later reversed to 30 years jail term.
Fortunately, he was released after the sudden death of Abacha on June 8, 1998. And in the following year, he ran for the presidential elections under the Peoples’ Democratic Party, PDP. He won with about 63% votes defeating Chief Olu Falae, the joint candidate of the All Peoples Party, APP and the Alliance for Democracy, AD.
This was the first democratic election after sixteen years of military rule. Obasanjo was sworn in as the president of Nigeria on May 29, 1999 and the day is commemorated as a Democracy Day in Nigeria. Although, it was recently changed by President Muhammadu Buhari in 2018 to June 12 in honour of Chief M.K.O Abiola.
As The President, Federal Republic Of Nigeria (1999-2007)
President Olusegun Obasanjo served two terms as the president of Nigeria. He was elected for his second tenure in 2003 after defeating Gen. Muhammadu Buhari. Then, he handed over to President Umar Musa Yar’adua.
As the President, he made some notable contributions to Nigeria. For instance, he sustained democracy in Nigeria.
To enhance Nigeria literacy level, he introduced Universal Basic Education (UBE). Also, he created Niger Delta Development Commission. He reformed pension and established the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) and Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
He also introduced the Global System of Mobile (GSM). This was after the mobile technology was already existing in neighbouring countries like Benin, Togo, and Ghana. Additionally, he secured debt pardons for Nigeria from the Paris and London Club. Also he initiated extensive privatization programme of public enterprises.
Obasanjo is an author and he has written series of books. Some of them include;
- Not my Will, 1990
- My Command, 1980
- Management in Agriculture and Rural Development, 1983
- Nzeogwu, 1987
- Africa in Perspective, 1987
- Forging a Compact in U.S. African Relations: The Fifth David M. Abshire Endowed Lecture, Dec. 1987.
- Africa Embattled, 1988
- Constitution for National Integration and Development, 1989
- Hope for Africa, 1993
- The Animal Called Man, 1998
- Guides to Effective Prayer, 1998
- Sermons from Prison, 2000
- A New Dawn, 2001
- Africa Through the Eyes of a Patriot, 2001
- I see Hope, 2002
- Standing Tall, 2005
- Years of Reconstruction, 2007
- My Watch, 2014
- My Watch Volume 1: Early Life and Military, 2015
- Volume 2 My Watch: Political and Public Affairs, 2015
- My Watch Volume 3: Now and Then, 2015
- Making Africa Work: A Handbook, 2017
- Democracy Works: Re-Wiring Politics to Africa’s Advantage, 2019
Obasanjo is a business man and has so many personal investments.
For his love for agricultural development, he established Obasanjo farms in 1979. Today. Obasanjo Farms provides employment for thousands of Nigerians.
Also, in 1995, he established a co-educational school, the Bells comprehensive secondary school. The secondary school is located in Ota, Ogun state.
Additionally, under The Bells Foundation, he established the Bells University of Technology in 2004.
Obasanjo awards prizes in his name on yearly basis. Some of the prizes are: Star Prize, Prize for Scientific discovery and many more.
He established a not-for-profit organisation, Africa Leadership Forum because of his love for peace and good leadership.
In order to help humanity, he also established the Olusegun Obasanjo Foundation.
Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library (OOPL)
Obasanjo became the first African president to establish a Presidential Library. The idea was first conceived in a conversation with Mr Nyaknno Osso in 1998.
Later on, an OOPL Foundation was incorporated as a not-for-profit organisation on Nov. 12, 2002. The Foundation was set up to advise, promote and encourage the establishment and development of the library. And in 2017, the Library was established.
Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library is one of the biggest educational tourism institutions we have in Africa. It was created as a national archive for the preservation of documents and materials used by the Nigerian president during his tenure. It is located in Ogun State and serves as a tourist attraction in Nigeria.
Olusegun the richest Nigerian politician with an estimated net worth of $1.8 billion USD.
Awards And Recognition
Obasanjo is a multi-award winner. He is a Grand Commander of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (GCFR). He has been recognized both locally and internationally.
His notable awards and medal include:
- Defence Service Medal
- Forces Service Star
- General Service Medal
- Meritorious Service Star
- National Service Medal
- Republic Medal
- Silver Jubilee MedalOther awards are;
- Prize for Freedom, Liberal International, 1997
- National Achievement Award, Africa America Institute (AAI), 1999
- Agricola Medal, UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, December 2003
- Lifetime Achievement Award, African Telecom Hall of Fame Award, 2010
- Global Leadership Award, United Nations, 2012
- Centenary Award, President Goodluck Jonathan, 2014
- Exemplary Ambassador Award, Heartlink, 2015
- Leadership in Africa Award, African Muzik Magazine Awards (AFRIMMA), 2017
- Father of the Nation, National Youth Council of Nigeria, 2019