Chief Olusegun Mathew Okikiola Aremu Obasanjo,GCFR, Ph.D. (born 5 March 1937) is a former Nigerian Army general who was President of Nigeria from 1999 to 2007. Obasanjo was a career soldier before serving twice as his nation’s head of state. He served 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.
Olusegun Obasanjo was born on 5 May 1937 to his father Amos Adigun Obaluayesanjo “Obasanjo” Bankole and his mother Ashabi in Abeokuta, Ogun State, Nigeria. His mother died in 1958 and his father died in 1959. He became an orphan at the age of 22.
In 1948, Obasanjo enrolled into Saint David Ebenezer School at Ibogun, for his primary school education. From 1952 to 1957, he attended Baptist Boys’ High School (BBHS), Abeokuta, for his secondary school education.
In 1958, Olusegun Obasanjo joined the Nigerian army. Some of his studies and training includes Mons Cadet School, Aldershot, England; Royal College of Military Engineers, Chatham, England; School of Survey, Newbury, England; Indian Army School of Engineering, Poona; and the Royal College of Defence Studies, London.
Obasanjo served in the 5th Battalion of the Nigerian Army in Kaduna and in Cameroon between 1958 and 1959. He was commissioned second lieutenant in the Nigerian Army 1959 and promoted a lieutenant in 1960.
At the rank of lieutenant, Obasanjo served in the Nigerian contingent of the United Nations Force in the Congo (formerly Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of Congo) in 1960. He later joined the then only engineering unit of the Nigerian Army and became its unit commander in 1963.
In 1963, Obasanjo was promoted to the rank of captain, in Nigerian Army. He was attached to Indian Army Engineering School, at Kirkee, India in 1965. That year he was promoted to the rank of major.
In 1965, he attended the Defence Services Staff College Wellington, India (In a book, the 40th anniversary book on the Defence Services Staff College, Wellington, India, 1947–1987, Col. R.D. Palsokar (retired) quoted the commandant’s confidential report on the then Major Obasanjo of the 20th staff course set in 1965, as saying that he was “the best officer who was sent up till then from that country (Nigeria) to Wellington. Palsokar also stated: “He was particularly popular in all circles).
Obasanjo was promoted lieutenant colonel in 1967, appointed commander Second Area command of the Nigerian Army. He was made Commander, Garrison, Ibadan, Nigeria, between 1967 and 1969.
Obasanjo’s colonel promotion came in 1969. He was appointed from 1969–1970, general officer commanding 3rd Infantry Division, Nigerian Army. He was later made the commander, Third Marine Commando Division, South-Eastern State, during the Nigerian Biafran Civil War.
On 12 January 1970, Obasanjo accepted the Biafran surrender ending the Nigerian Civil War.
From 1970 to 1975, he was the commander of the Engineering Corps, Nigerian Army. Earlier in 1972, he was promoted to the rank of brigadier general.
In January 1975 the head of state for the federal republic of Nigeria, General Yakubu Gowon, made Obasanjo the Federal commissioner for works and housing.
On 29 July 1975, when General Murtala Mohammed took power as head of state via a military coup, Obasanjo was appointed as the chief of staff supreme headquarters. In January 1976 he was promoted to lieutenant general.
Following a failed coup by Lt. Col. Buka Suka Dimka in which General Murtala Mohammed was killed, Obasanjo was chosen as head of state by the supreme military council on 13 February 1976.
Obasanjo resigned as head of state and also resigned from the army on 1 October 1979, handing over power to the newly elected civilian president of Shehu Shagari.
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. During Democracy Day, Nigerians host celebratory dinners and festivals around the country, having fun with family, friends and plenty of food.
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 the 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 battled many impeachment attempts from both houses. Obasanjo managed to survive impeachment and was renominated.
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, was Muslim and drew his support mainly from the north. Capturing 61.8% of the vote, Obasanjo defeated Buhari by more than 11 million votes.
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.
He became chairman of the PDP Board of Trustees, with control over nominations for governmental positions and even policy and strategy. As one Western diplomat said, “He intends to sit in the passenger seat giving advice and ready to grab the wheel if Nigeria goes off course.” He voluntary resigned as the chairman board of trustees of the PDP in April, 2012. Afterwards, he withdrew from political activities with PDP.
In March 2008, Obasanjo was “supposedly” indicted by a committee of the Nigerian parliament for awarding $2.2bn-worth of energy contracts during his eight-year rule, without due process. The report of this probe was never accepted by the whole Nigerian parliament due to manipulation of the entire process by the leadership of the power probe committee. It is not on any official record that Chief Obassanjo was indicted.
Obasanjo was appointed Special Envoy by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon to the war-torn Democratic Republic of the Congo. He held separate meetings with DRC President Joseph Kabila and rebel leader Laurent Nkunda.
AU Observation Head – President General Olusegun Obasanjo visits President Robert Mugabe -Zimbabwe General Election 2013
During the Zimbabwean election of July 2013, Obasanjo headed a delegation of African Union election observers.
On May 2014, Obasanjo wrote to President Goodluck Jonathan requesting that he should mediate on behalf of the Nigerian government for the release of the Chibok girls held by the Boko Haram militants.
On 16 February 2015, he quit the ruling party and directed a PDP ward leader to tear his membership card during a press conference. He was later to be known as the navigator of the newly formed opposition party, the APC.
On 24 January 2018, he wrote serving President Muhammadu Buhari highlighting his areas of weakness and advising him not to run for office in 2019. To date all his letters to incumbent presidents have preceded their downfall.
On 31 January 2018, his political movement called “Coalition for Nigeria Movement” (CNM) was launched in Abuja.
On 10 May 2018, the movement adopts a political party, African Democratic Congress (ADC), to realise its dream of a new Nigeria.
Obasanjo was married four times. His wives were Esther Oluremi, Lynda (deceased), Mojiosola Adekunle (deceased), and Stella Abebe (deceased).
Obasanjo has twenty children. In alphabetical order they are: Bisoye, Biyi, Bola, Bukola, Busola, Damilola, Dare, Dayo, Deboye, Funke, Funso, Gbenga, Iyabo, Juwon, Kofo, Kunle (nephew Obasanjo adopted as a son), Olu, Segun, Seun, and Toyosi.
His son, Dare Obasanjo, is a Principal Program Manager for Microsoft.
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 addition to a variety of chieftaincy titles, Obasanjo holds the titles of the Balogun of Owu and the Ekerin Balogun of the Egba clan of Yorubaland.
In December 2017, Obasanjo defended his Ph.D thesis at the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN). He now holds a Ph.D in Theology. That was about two years after he completed his master’s degree in the same course.
Chief Olusegun Obasanjo has received several awards and medals. In alphabetical order they include:
- Defence Service Medal (DSM) Defence Service Medal (Nigeria)
- Forces Service Star (FSS) Forces Service Star (Nigeria)
- General Service Medal (GSM) General Service Medal (Nigeria)
- Grand Commander of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (GCFR) Order of the Federal Republic (military) – Nigeria
- Meritorious Service Star (MSS)
- National Service Medal (NSM) National Service Medal (Nigeria)
- Republic Medal (RM)
- Silver Jubilee Medal (SJM)
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