Olusegun Obasanjo
Former Nigerian president

Olusegun Mathew Okikiola Aremu Obasanjo, GCFR born circa 5 March 1937) is a former Nigerian Army general who was President of Nigeria from 1999 to 2007. A Nigerian of Yoruba descent, Obasanjo was a career soldier before serving twice as his nation's head of state, as a military ruler from 13 February 1976 to 1 October 1979 and as a democratically elected president from 29 May 1999 to 29 May 2007. From July 2004 to January 2006, Obasanjo also served as Chairperson of the African Union.

His current home is Abeokuta, the capital city of Ogun State, where he is a nobleman as the holder of the chieftaincy titles of the Balogun of the Owu Lineage and the Ekerin Balogun of the Egba clan of Yorubaland.


Family and early life

Ọbasanjọ was born in Ogun State; and grew up in Owu (Abeokuta). His first name, Olusegun, means "The Lord is victorious".


In 1987, his second wife/ex-wife Lynda was ordered out of her car by armed men, and was fatally shot for failing to move quickly.

On 23 October 2005 the President lost his wife, Stella Obasanjo, First Lady of Nigeria the day after she had an abdominoplasty in Spain. In 2009 the doctor only known as 'AM' was sentenced to one year in jail for negligence in Spain and ordered to pay restitution to her son of about $176,000. Obasanjo has many children, who live throughout Nigeria, the United Kingdom and the United States.

His son, Dare Obasanjo, is a Principal Program Manager for Microsoft.

Career

At the age of 21, he enlisted in the Nigerian Army in 1958. He attended the 6-month Short Service Commission training at Mons Officer Cadet School in Aldershot in England, and was thereafter commissioned as an officer in the Nigerian Army.[11] He was also trained in India at the Defence Services Staff College, Wellington and at the Indian Army School of Engineering. He served at 1 Area Command in Kaduna. Promoted to Chief Army Engineer, he was made commander of 2 Area Command from July 1967, which was redesignated 2 Division Rear, and then the Ibadan Garrison Organisation. He was also trained in DSSC, Wellington. During the Nigerian Civil War, he commanded the Army's 3 Marine Commando Division that took Owerri, effectively bringing an end to the civil war.
Obasanjo in 1978

Although Brig. Ọbasanjọ did not participate in the military coup of 29 July 1975, led by Murtala Mohammed, he supported it and was named Murtala's deputy in the new government. As chief of staff of Supreme Headquarters, Obasanjo sought advice from Rogerlay of Akobi and gained support of the military. On 13 February 1976, coup plotters, led by Army Col. Dimka, marked him, Murtala and other senior military personnel for assassination. Murtala was killed during the attempted coup, but Obasanjo escaped death. The low profile security policy adopted by Murtala had allowed the plotters easy access to their targets. The coup was foiled because the plotters missed Obasanjo and General Theophilus Danjuma, chief of army staff and de facto number three man in the country. The plotters failed to monopolize communications, although they were able to take over the radio station to announce the coup attempt.

Obasanjo and Danjuma established a chain of command and re-established security in Lagos, thereby regaining control. Obasanjo was appointed as head of state by the Supreme Military Council. Keeping the chain of command established by Murtala, Obasanjo pledged to continue the programme for the restoration of civilian government in 1979 and to carry forward the reform programme to improve the quality of public service.
With US President Jimmy Carter in Lagos, 1978

The second republican constitution, which was adopted in 1979, was modelled on the Constitution of the United States, with provision for a President, Senate, and House of Representatives. The country was prepared for local elections, to be followed by national elections, to return Nigeria to civilian rule.
Oil boom

The military regimes of Murtala and Obasanjo benefited from oil revenues that increased 350 percent between 1973 and 1974, when oil prices skyrocketed, to 1979, when the military stepped down. Increased revenues permitted government spending for infrastructure and improvements on a large scale; critics thought it was poorly planned and concentrated too much in urban areas. The oil boom was marred by a minor recession in 1978-79, but revenues rebounded until mid-1981.

The government planned to relocate the federal capital from Lagos to Abuja, a more central location in the interior of the country. It intended to encourage industrial development inland and relieve the congestion in the Lagos area. Abuja was chosen because it was not identified with any particular ethnic group. Olusegun Obasanjo during his tenure from 1999 to 2007 was Minister of Petroleum.

Transition to democracy

On 1 October 1979, Obasanjo handed power to Shehu Shagari, a democratically elected civilian president, hence becoming the first military head of state to transfer power peacefully to a civilian regime in Nigeria. In late 1983, the military seized power again, Gen. Buhari and Gen. Idiagbon took over and Gen. Babangida seized power from them in 1985.
Later career and second presidency

During the dictatorship of Sani Abacha (1993–1998), Obasanjo spoke out against the human rights abuses of the regime, and was imprisoned for alleged participation in an aborted coup based on testimony obtained via torture. He was released only after Abacha's sudden death on 8 June 1998. While in prison, Obasanjo became a born-again Christian.


In the 1999 elections, the first in sixteen years, Obasanjo decided to run for the presidency as the candidate of the People's Democratic Party (PDP). Obasanjo won with 62.6% of the vote, sweeping the strongly Christian Southeast and the predominantly Muslim north, but decisively lost his home region, the Southwest, to his fellow-Yoruba and Christian, Olu Falae, the only other candidate. 29 May 1999, the day Obasanjo took office as the first elected and civilian head of state in Nigeria after 16 years of military rule, is now commemorated as Democracy Day, a public holiday in Nigeria.

Obasanjo spent most of his first term travelling abroad. He succeeded in winning at least some Western support for strengthening Nigeria's nascent democracy. Britain and the United States, in particular, were glad to have an African ally who was openly critical of abuses committed in Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe at a time when many other African nations (including South Africa) were taking a softer stance. Obasanjo also won international praise for Nigeria's role in crucial regional peacekeeping missions in Sierra Leone and Liberia. The international community was guided in its approach to Obasanjo in part by Nigeria's status as one of the world's 10 biggest oil exporters as well as by fears that, as the continent's most populous nation, Nigerian internal divisions risked negatively affecting the entire continent.

Some public officials like the National Assembly speaker and Senate president were involved in conflicts with the president, who had to battle many impeachment moves from both houses. Obasanjo managed to survive impeachment and was renominated.
Olusẹgun Obasanjo with Donald Rumsfeld at The Pentagon

Second term

Obasanjo was re-elected in a tumultuous 2003 election that had violent ethnic and religious overtones, his main opponent, fellow former military ruler General Muhammadu Buhari being a Muslim, who drew his support mainly from the north. Capturing 61.8% of the vote, Obasanjo defeated Buhari by more than 11 million votes.

In November 2003, Obasanjo was criticized for his decision to grant asylum to the deposed Liberian president, Charles Taylor.

On June 12, 2006 he signed the Greentree Agreement with Cameroonian President Paul Biya which formally put an end to the Bakassi peninsula border dispute. Even though the Nigerian Senate passed a resolution declaring that the withdrawal of Nigerian troops from the Bakassi Peninsula was illegal, Obasanjo gave the order for it to continue as planned.

Nominated by Afam Nnaji

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