Olusegun Obasanjo is a former Nigerian Army general who has twice served as Nigeria’s head of state as a military ruler from February 1976 to October 1979 and as a democratically elected President from May 1999 to May 2007.
Olusegun Mathew Okikiola Aremu Obasanjo was born circa 5th of March 1938, in Ogun State and grew up in Owu, Abeokuta. His first name, Olusegun, means “The Lord is victorious”.
Olusegun attended Baptist Boy’s High School, Abeokuta from 1952 – 1956. He did quite well academically but was unable to go to university due to his family’s low financial circumstances.
At the age of 21, he enlisted in the Nigerian Army. He attended the 6-month Short Service Commission training at Mons Officer Cadet School in Aldershot, England.
He further trained at the Royal College of Military Engineering in Chatham and School of Survey in Newbury, Royal Defense Studies, London in England, Indian Defence College, Indian Army School of Engineering, Poona and the Defence Services Staff College, Wellington. He was thereafter commissioned as an officer in the Nigerian Army.
As a soldier, President Olusegun Obasanjo served at 1 Area Command in Kaduna. After being 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 has also served with the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in the then Congo.
During the Nigerian Civil War, he commanded the Army’s 3rd Marine Commando Division that took Owerri, effectively bringing an end to the civil war.
In 1974, Brigadier Olusegun Obasanjo was appointed Federal Commissioner for Works and Housing. After the coup of July 29, 1975, he became the second-in-command to Brigadier Murtala Muhammed as the Chief of Staff, Supreme Headquarters.
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.
He was later 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.
On 1st 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.
Later Career and Presidency
In 1995, Obasanjo was imprisoned on fabricated charges of plotting a coup to depose General Sani Abacha. He was released only after Abacha’s sudden death on 8 June 1998. While in prison, Obasanjo became a born-again Christian.
In 1999, Olusegun Obasanjo became President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The 29th of May, 1999, the day Obasanjo took the oath of office as the first elected civilian head of state in Nigeria after 16 years of military rule, is now commemorated as Democracy Day. A public holiday in Nigeria.
The Olusegun Obasanjo administration initiated and executed projects that positively impacted the lives of Nigerians irrespective of their status. They included the Poverty Eradication Program, the establishment of the Niger Delta Development Commission to facilitate the provision of more infrastructure and social services in the oil producing communities of the Niger Delta, Universal Basic Education and the general improvement of infrastructure. These were aimed at changing the economic, educational and political development of deprived Nigerians.
Obasanjo was re-elected in 2003 in a landslide victory defeating General Buhari and Chukwuemeka Odimegwu Ojukwu.
In 2008, Obasanjo was appointed by the United Nations as a special envoy for Africa and has since overseen democratic elections on behalf of the African Union and Ecowas in countries across the continent.
Obasanjo is a member of the Africa Progress Panel (APP), an independent authority on Africa launched in April 2007 to focus world leaders’ attention on delivering their commitments to the continent. The Panel launched a major report in London on Monday, June 16, 2008, entitled Africa’s Development: Promises and Prospects.
He is also a member of Club de Madrid, an independent non-profit organization created to promote democracy and change in the international community. Its members are over 100 former democratically elected Presidents and Prime Ministers from more than 60 countries.
Olusegun Obasanjo’s Personal Life: Wives And Children
Obasanjo was married three times. First to Mrs. Oluremi Obasanjo, who is the mother of his oldest children, the most well-known of them being Dr. Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello, a former Senator of Ogun State.
His second marriage was to Lynda Obasanjo, who was fatally shot when armed men ordered her out of her car in 1987.