Olusegun Obasanjo: Military and Civilian Life

Olusegun Obasanjo

Olusegun Obasanjo’s Biography, Military and Civilian Life

Chief Olusegun Matthew Okikiola Ogunboye Aremu Obasanjo, GCFR, born March 5, 1937, is a former Nigerian military officer and politician who served as Nigeria’s Head of State from 1976 to 1979 and then President from 1999 to 2007. As an ideologically Nigerian nationalist, he was a member of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) from 1998 until 2015 and from 2018.

Olusegun Obasanjo was born in the village of Ibogun-Olaogun, into a peasant family of the Owu branch of the Yoruba tribe, and was raised primarily in Abeokuta, Ogun State. He enlisted in the Nigerian Army, where he majored in engineering, and spent time in the Congo, Britain, and India, where he was promoted to Major. In the late 1960s, he played a leading role in fighting the Biafran separatists during the Nigerian civil war, accepting their surrender in 1970. In 1975, a military coup established a military government with Obasanjo as part of his ruling triumvirate. The following year, after the assassination of the triumvirate leader Murtala Muhammad, the Supreme Military Council appointed Olusegun Obasanjo as head of state. Obasanjo took over Murtala’s policies, overseeing budget cuts and increasing access to free schooling. He increasingly aligned Nigeria with the United States and also emphasized his support for groups opposing white minority rule in southern Africa. Obasanjo, who was instrumental in restoring democracy, oversaw the 1979 elections, after which he handed over control of Nigeria to the newly elected civilian president, Shehu Shagari. He then retired to Ota, Ogun, where he farmed, published four books, and participated in international efforts to end various conflicts in Africa.

In 1993, Sani Abacha seized power in a military coup. Olusegun Obasanjo, an outspoken critic of the Abacha government, was arrested in 1995 and convicted of involvement in a planned coup, although he pleaded not guilty. During his confinement, he became a born-again Christian and his providence greatly influenced his later worldview. He was released after Abacha’s death in 1998. Olusegun Obasanjo entered electoral politics, becoming the PDP candidate in the 1999 presidential election and easily winning. As president, he depoliticized the military, expanded the police force and mobilized the military to combat widespread ethnic, religious and separatist violence. He withdrew the Nigerian army from Sierra Leone and privatized various public enterprises to limit the country’s growing debt. He was re-elected in the 2003 general election. Influenced by pan-African ideas, he was an ardent supporter of the creation of the African Union, of which he served as president from 2004 until 2006. Obasanjo’s attempt to amend the constitution to abolish presidential term limits failed and drew criticism. After his retirement, he received his doctorate in theology from the Nigerian National Open University.

Obasanjo is said to be one of the greats of the second generation of post-colonial African leaders. He has been credited both for overseeing Nigeria’s transition to representative democracy in the 1970s and for his pan-African efforts to foster cooperation across the African continent. Critics were too concerned with his corruption charges, his government’s oversight of human rights violations, and his consolidation and maintenance of personal power as president.

Early childhood (1937–1958)

Matthew Olusegun Aremu Obasanjo was born in Ibogun-Olaogun, a village in southwestern Nigeria. His later passports put his date of birth as March 5, 1937, but this was a later assumption and there are no records from that time. His father was Amos Adigun Obaluayesanjo “Obasanjo” Bankole and his mother was Bernice Ashabi Bankole. The first of nine children, only he and his one sister (Adunni Oluwole Obasanjo) survived childhood. He was born in the Owu branch of the Yoruba River. The village church was part of the Church of the United States. Southern Baptist Church and Obasanjo were raised Baptists. A Muslim also lived in his village, and his sister later converted to Islam in order to marry a Muslim man.

Obasanjo’s father was a farmer and the boy worked on the farm until he was 11 years old. At the age of eleven he entered the village primary school and three years later in 1951 he transferred to the Baptiste Heday School in the Owu district of Abeokuta. In 1952, he transferred to Baptist Boys’ High School, also in the city. His school fees were partially funded by government grants. Obasanjo excelled academically and became an avid boy scout at school. Although there is no evidence that he was involved in any political party at the time, Obasanjo rejected his name “Matthew” in secondary school as an anti-colonial act, while Obasanjo’s father left his wife and two children. Obasanjo’s mother, who fell into poverty, had to go into business for her survival. To pay his school fees, Obasanjo worked on cocoa and kola farms, fished, collected firewood, and sold sand to construction workers. During school holidays, he worked at the school, also doing lawn mowing and other manual work.

In 1956, Olusegun Obasanjo graduated from high school after borrowing money for the entrance fee. In the same year, he began courting Ollemi Akinrawong, the daughter of an Owu station master. They were engaged to get married in 1958. After leaving school, he moved to Ibadan, where he got a job as a teacher. There he took the entrance exam for University College Ibadan, but although he passed, he found that he could not afford the tuition. Obasanjo then decided to pursue a career as a civil engineer and accepted a bid for cadet training in the Nigerian Army in 1958 to pursue this profession.

Early military career

Military exercises: 1958-1959

In March 1958 Olusegun Obasanjo enlisted in the Nigerian Army. He saw it as an opportunity to educate himself while earning his salary. He did not inform his family immediately, fearing that his parents would object. At the time, the Nigerian army had been moved under the control of the Nigerian colonial government, preparing for the expected full independence of Nigeria, and attempts were being made to place more indigenous Nigerian peoples higher up in the army. He was then sent to a regular officer academy in Teshie, Ghana. While stationed abroad, he sent letters and gifts to his fiancée in Nigeria.In September 1958, he was sent to the Mons Officer in Aldershot, in the South of England, at his Cadet School of His Sixth. Selected for monthly graduate course. Obasanjo believed it to be a neoclassical and racist institution, and disliked it, finding it difficult to adapt to the cold and wet British climate. This further reinforced his negative opinion of the British Empire and right to rule over colonized subjects. At Mons he received a contract and certificate as an engineer. His mother died while Obasanjo was in England. His father then died a year later.

In 1959 Obasanjo returned to Nigeria. There he was assigned to Kaduna as an infantry corporal in the 5th Battalion. His time in Kaduna was Obasanjo’s first time living in a Muslim-majority area. While he was there, Nigeria became an independent country in October 1960.

Congo Crisis: 1960-1961

Shortly thereafter, the 5th Battalion was deployed to Congo as part of the United Nations peacekeeping force. The battalion was then stationed in Kivu, with headquarters in Bukavu. In the Congo, Obasanjo and others were charged with protecting civilians, including Belgian settlers, from soldiers who rebelled against Patrice Lumumba’s government. In February 1961, Obasanjo was captured by rebels while evacuating his Catholic missionaries to Rome from a train station near Bukavu. The rebels considered executing him, but he was ordered to be released. In May 1961, the 5th Battalion left Congo and returned to Nigeria. During the conflict he had been appointed temporary captain. He later found that the time spent in Congo strengthened his battalion’s “pan-African passion”.

Returning from Congo: 1961-1966

After his return, Olusegun Obasanjo bought his first car and was hospitalized for a time with a stomach ulcer. After his recovery, he was assigned to the Army Corps of Engineers. In 1962 he was stationed at the Royal Military Engineering College in England. There he excelled and was called “the best federal student ever.” That year he paid for Akinrawon to travel to London so that she could attend course of training. The couple married in the Camberwell Green registry office in June 1963 and informed her family only after the event. Obasanjo was recalled to Nigeria that year, but his wife stayed in London for another three years to complete her course. Upon arriving in Nigeria, Obasanjo took command of his squadron engineering field at Kaduna. Obasanjo steadily rose through the military, becoming a major in 1965. He used his earnings to purchase land and acquired properties in Ibadan, Kaduna and Lagos in the early 1960s. In 1965 Obasanjo was sent to India. On the way he visited his wife in London. In India, he was a Defense Service Staff in Wellington. Obasanjo was horrified by the famine he witnessed in India, but became interested in Indian culture and began reading books on comparative religion.

Nigerian civil war

Pre-Civil War Career: 1966-1967

Obasanjo returned to Nigeria in January 1966, finding the country in the midst of a military coup led by Major Emmanuel Ifajuna. Nearly everyone involved in organizing the coup was from the Igbo tribe of southern Nigeria. Obasanjo was among those who warned that the situation could escalate into civil war. He offered to act as an intermediary between them. When the coup failed, Olusegun met Aguiyi Ironsi in Lagos. Ironsi quickly ended Nigeria’s federation with the May 1966 Order of Unity, igniting ethnic tensions. A second coup occurred at the end of July. In Ibadan, forces from northern Nigeria revolted, killed Ayiansi and massacred about 200 Igbo fighters. General Yakubu Gowon seizes power.

Olusegun Obasanjo was in Maiduguri during this coup. Hearing this, he immediately returned to Kaduna. There he found Union troops from the 3rd Battalion rounding up, torturing, and killing Igbo soldiers. Northern Nigeria’s governor Hassan Katsina admitted that Olusegun was not Igbo, but as a southerner he was threatened by rebels. To protect them, Katsina sent Olusegun and his wife  back to Maiduguri for ten days, during which time the violence subsided. Obasanjo then sent his wife to Lagos and himself returned to Kaduna, where he remained until January 1967. By this time he was a senior Yoruba officer in the north.

In January 1967, Obasanjo was posted to Lagos as Chief of the Army Corps of Engineers. Tensions between the Igbo and ethnic groups in the north continued to escalate, and in May Igbo military officer  C. Odumegwu Ojukwu  declared the independence of Igbo-majority areas in the southeast, forming the Republic of Biafra.. On July 3, the Nigerian government sent Obasanjo to Ibadan as commander of the Western Province. On 6 July fighting broke out between the Nigerian army and the Biafra separatists. On 9 July Ojukwu sent a column of Biafran forces across the Niger Bridge to conquer the Midwest from a position from which they could attack Lagos. Obasanjo tried to block the road leading to the town. The Yoruba commander Victor Banjo, who led the Biafra attack force, tried to persuade Obasanjo to let them through, but he refused.

Civil War Command: 1967-1970

Olusegun Obasanjo was then appointed Rear Commander of Murtala Muhammad’s 2nd Division operating in the Midwest. Based in Ibadan, Obasanjo was responsible for ensuring the 2nd Division’s supplies were maintained. In the city, Obasanjo taught a course in military sciences at the University of Ibadan and developed contacts with the Yoruba elite. Civil strife broke out in the Western States during the war, and to avoid responsibility for these troubles, Obasanjo resigned from the Western State Executive Council. In November 1968, while Obasanjo was away from Ibadan, armed villagers mobilized by the Agbekoya Farmers Union stormed the Ibadan City Hall. Troops counterattacked, killing 10 rioters. When Obasanjo returned, he ordered a judicial inquiry into the incident. Gowon, who led the attack on Biafra, will replace Colonel Benjamin Adekunle, but needed another senior Yoruba. He chose Obasanjo despite his lack of combat experience. Obasanjo arrived at Port Harcourt on 16 May 1969 and accepted his new position. He was now in charge of 35,000 to 40,000 soldiers. He fought off a Biafra attack on Abba in his first six weeks. He traveled all parts of the front line and was wounded along the way. These actions earned him a reputation for courage among his men. In December, Obasanjo commenced Operation Finishing Touch and ordered his forces to advance on Umuahia, capturing it on Christmas Day. This caused the Biafra to be cut in half. On 7 January 1970, he launched Operation Tailwind and captured the Uri Airstrip on 12 January. Biafra’s leaders then agreed to surrender. On 13 January Obasanjo met with Biafra’s military commander Philippe Efion. Obasanjo insisted that the Biafran army surrender its weapons and the choice of the breakaway state’s leader to go to Lagos and formally surrender to Gowon. Obasanjo urged the defeated citizens to stay at home without any panic as he assures them of their safety.

Many Biafrans and foreign media feared that the Nigerian army would commit widespread atrocities against the defeated population, but Obasanjo was keen to stop this. He ordered troops in the area to remain in the barracks, arguing that the local police should be held responsible for law and order. The more isolated 3rd Division carried out retaliatory attacks against the local population. Obasanjo cracked down on perpetrators, flogged looters, and shot rapists. The Gowon government gave Obasanjo the responsibility of reintegrating Biafra into Nigeria, and in that position he earned respect by emphasizing his generosity. As an engineer, he focused on restoring water supplies. By May 1970, all major towns in the area were connected to water again. Obasanjo’s role in ending the war made him a war hero and a national figure in Nigeria.

Post-Civil War Career: 1970-1975

In June 1970, Olusegun Obasanjo returned to Abeokuta and the crowd hailed him as a resurgent hero. He was then posted to Lagos as a brigadier general in command of the Corps of Engineers. Gowon announced in October that the military government would transfer powers to civilian government in 1976. Meanwhile, the ban on political parties remained in effect. Plateau made little progress in forming a civilian government. Under the military government, Obasanjo joined the abolition committee that recommended a drastic reduction in the troop level of the Nigerian Armed Forces in the 1970s. In 1974, Obasanjo went to England for courses at the Royal Defense College. After returning home, Gowon appointed him commissioner of construction and housing in January 1975, a position he held for seven months, mainly responsible for the construction of military barracks.

In 1970 Olusegun Obasanjo bought a former Lebanese company in Ibadan and hired an agent to manage it. He registered a company called Temperance Enterprises Limited in 1973 and was able to start his commercial venture after retiring from the military. He also continued to invest in real estate. In 1974 he owned two of his homes in Lagos and one each in Ibadan and Abeokuta. Rumors circulated that Obasanjo was involved in widespread corruption in Nigeria, but there was no conclusive evidence of this. In the mid-1970s, their marriage dissolved. In 1976, he married Stella Abebe in a traditional Yoruba ceremony.

Under the Murtala government

1975 coup and after

Gowon was deposed in a coup in July 1975, and he fled to Britain. The coup was headed by Shehu Musa Yar’Adua and Joseph Garba. Due to his reputation for opposing coups as a tool for regime change, they had not told Olusegun Obasanjo of their intentions. In lieu of Gowon’s autocratic rule, the coup plotters envisioned a triumvirate of three brigadiers, whose decisions would be subject to the Supreme Military Council’s veto. They persuaded General Murtala Mohammed to assume the role of chief of state, with Obasanjo serving as his deputy and Danjuma as his third. Obasanjo, according to Iliffe, was “the workhorse and the brains” of the triumvirate and was the most eager for a return to civilian government. In addition to establishing a Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau and replacing all military governors with new officers who answered directly to Obasanjo as Chief of Staff, the triumvirate also launched “Operation Deadwood,” which resulted in the firing of 11,000 civil servants. These measures were all taken in an effort to reduce inflation.

Chief of Staff, Supreme Command: 1975-76

In October 1975, the government announced plans for elections in which Nigeria would become a civilian government in October 1979. It also described plans to create a committee to draft a new constitution, with Obasanjo responsible for selecting 49 members. On the recommendation of the Irifeke Commission, the government also announced the creation of her seven new provinces. At Obasanjo’s urging, Abeokuta was to become the capital of one of these new states, Ogun. Also on the commission’s recommendation, they announced plans to gradually move the Nigerian capital from Lagos to the more central Abuja. In January 1976, both Obasanjo and Danjuma were promoted to lieutenant general. Both Murtala and Obasanjo are committed to ending the ongoing European colonialism and white minority domination in southern Africa, and that concern is reflected in their foreign policy decisions. This issue became more and more concerning for Obasanjo. After Angola gained independence from Portugal, civil war broke out in the country. Nigeria recognized the legitimacy of the government declared by the MPLA, a Soviet-backed Marxist group, because rivals FNLA and UNITA were backed by South Africa’s white minority government. In addition to providing material support to the MPLA, Nigeria began lobbying other African countries for recognition of MPLA government, and by early 1976 most of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) country did. In February 1976 Obasanjo led a Nigerian delegation to the MPLA anniversary celebrations in Luanda and said:

“This is a symbolic date that marks the beginning of the final struggle against colonialism, imperialism and racism in Africa.”

Assassination of Murtala: February 13, 1976

In February 1976 Colonel Buka Suka Dimka launched a coup against the Nigerian government and General Murtala Muhammad was assassinated. Obasanjo’s life was also targeted, but the wrong person was killed. Dimka lacked extensive military support, his coup failed, and he was forced to flee. Olusegun Obasanjo did not attend Murtala’s funeral in Kano but said the government would provide funds to build a mosque on the burial site.

After the assassination, Obasanjo attended a meeting of the Supreme Military Council. Although he expressed a desire to resign from the government, the council succeeded in persuading him to replace Murtala as head of state. Therefore, he became the chairman of the council. Fearing further assassinations, Obasanjo moved to the Dodan barracks, where 39 of those accused of complicity in Dimka’s coup were executed, provoking accusations that Obasanjo’s reaction was excessive. As head of state, Obasanjo vowed to continue Murtala’s policies.

Military Head of State (1976–1979)

Military triumvirate

In order to avoid alienating northern Nigerians, Obasanjo appointed General Shehu Yar’Adua as his successor and second-in-command as Chief of Staff. Supreme Headquarters completed the military triumvirate, with General Theophilus Danjuma serving as Chief of Army Staff and Obasanjo as head of state. The three went on to re-establish control over the military regime. Obasanjo promoted discussion and agreement within the Supreme Military Council. Many people questioned why Obasanjo, a Yoruba and a Christian, chose Yar’Adua, a leader of the northern u, as his deputy instead of another Yoruba Christian.

Obasanjo emphasized national concerns over regional ones and urged people of all ages to sing the national anthem and say the new pledge to the country. He hosted an open seminar on a current problem every Saturday, inviting guests besides politicians and government employees out of an interest in hearing from a wider range of viewpoints. He also sought the counsel of traditional leaders and scholars of Islam.

Economic Policy

In the mid-1970s, Nigeria’s economy was overheating, with inflation hitting 34%. To address Nigeria’s economic woes, Olusegun Obasanjo pursued austerity measures to cut public spending. In the 1976 budget, Obasanjo proposed cutting government spending to one-sixth, and drastically cutting prestige projects, while increasing spending on education, health, housing, and agriculture. He also launched an anti-inflation task force, and within a year of Obasanjo’s inauguration, inflation fell to 30%. Obasanjo generally refuses to take loans, but with the backing of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, Nigeria borrowed $1 billion from a banking syndicate. Left-wing critics argued that this had made the country a target for Western capitalism. In the next two years of Obasanjo’s government, Nigeria borrowed an additional $4.983 billion.

Nigeria experienced an annual population growth of nearly 3% in 1970s, which would double the country’s population in just over 25 years. Obasanjo later said he was unaware of this at the time because his government did not have population control policies. Nigeria’s population growth has caused rapid urbanization of the cities and a housing shortage. To combat this, Obasanjo’s 1976 budget outlined plans to build 200,000 new homes by 1980, but only 28,500 were eventually built. In 1976, Obasanjo’s government also announced rent and price controls. To discourage the disruption of labor strikes, the Obasanjo government in 1976 defined most major industries as essential services, banned strikes in those industries, and allowed the imprisonment of destructive union leaders. In 1978 it consolidated 42 unions into one Nigerian Labor Congress.

Obasanjo advanced his three major irrigation programs in northern Nigeria, originally announced under Murtala.

Kano River Project, Baccaroli Scheme, South Chad Irrigation Project. His government also continued agricultural development projects initiated in Huntua, Gusau and Gombe. Several reforestation projects have also been initiated to stem the expansion north of the Sahara Desert. To meet the country’s growing electricity needs, Obasanjo oversaw the launch of two new hydropower projects and one thermal power plant. The oil industry remains an important part of the Nigerian economy, and under Obasanjo the Ministry of Petroleum Resources merged with the Nigerian National Oil Company to form the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC). Obasanjo also helped create a liquefaction plant in Bonny, funded 62% by NNPC. The project was abandoned by his successor in the face of rising costs. Obasanjo also continued plans for the Ajaokuta integrated steelworks. This is a legacy project that many public sector critics have deemed unviable.

By the mid-1970s, Nigeria was also facing a decline in agricultural production. This was because the government decided that it would be cheaper to import food than grow it domestically. In May 1976, Obasanjo started Operation Feed the Nation, a project to revitalize smallholder farming by having students farm during their vacations. The project also included eliminating tariffs on feed and farm equipment, subsidizing fertilizer use, and facilitating agricultural financing. In March 1978, Obasanjo issued a land use decree giving the state ownership of all land. This was intended to stop land hoarding and land speculation, and was admired by the Nigerian left but hated by many landlord families. Obasanjo regarded it as one of his greatest achievements.

Domestic policy

Obasanjo continued to promote universal primary education in Nigeria, a policy inherited from Gowon. He introduced the Primary Education Act in 1976. Between 1975 and 1976 and 1979 and 1979, enrollment in free but voluntary primary schools, despite a shortage of teachers and teaching materials to meet demand increased from 6 million to 12.5 million. From 1977 to the 1978 school year, Obasanjo introduced free secondary education in technical subjects and from 1979 to 1980, he expanded it to all secondary schools.

Nigeria reduced financing for universities concurrently, stopped issuing student loans in 1978, and tripled the cost of food and lodging for students. Numerous towns experienced student protests, which led to shooting deaths in Lagos and Zaria. Obasanjo shut down several universities in reaction to the unrest, outlawed political speech on college campuses, and banned the National Union of Nigerian Students. The severity of these measures may have been a result of rumors linking the student disturbance to a military coup plot that was discovered in February 1978. The behavior of the protesting student infuriated Obasanjo, who claimed that it demonstrated a departure from traditional values like reverence for elders.

As a result of Nigeria’s state-led development, the country has experienced rapid public sector growth. Evidence is emerging that corruption is rampant within the government, and although Obasanjo himself has often been accused, no hard evidence has been presented. To curb the government’s image of corruption, the Obasanjo government has banned the use of Mercedes cars as government transport and introduced the more modest Peugeot 504 instead. The importation of champagne was also prohibited. The Obasanjo government pushed for reductions in the army, and from 1976 to 1977 he demobilized 12,000 soldiers. These units passed through a new rehabilitation center to help them adjust to civilian life.

Obasanjo was also accused of being responsible for political repression. In one high-profile case, Nigerian musician and political activist Fela Kuti’s home in the Republic of Kalakuta was raided and burned down after members of his entourage were involved in an altercation with military officials.. Fela and his family were beaten and raped, and their elderly mother, political activist and founding mother Chief Funmilayo Ransome Kuti, was thrown out the window. She was seriously injured by this and eventually died. Fela then carried the coffin to the then-presidential residence at Dodan Barracks in Lagos in protest against the government’s political repression.

Foreign Policy

Obasanjo was eager to make Nigeria a leading nation in Africa, and during his administration, the country’s impact grew there. He revived Gowon’s idea for Nigeria to host the Lagos edition of the second World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture in February 1977, despite domestic detractors complaining that it was too expensive. After insisting that Nigeria should house the organization’s headquarters in Lagos because it was the biggest financial contributor to ECOWAS, Obasanjo gave the group low priority and enraged many of its Francophone members. Relations with neighboring Ghana deteriorated as well; in 1979, Nigeria cut off oil shipments to the nation in protest at Jerry Rawlings’ new military junta’s execution of political rivals.

Nigeria severed its long-standing links with the United Kingdom and grew closer to the United States under Obasanjo. Jimmy Carter’s 1976 election as president of the United States earned the support of Obasanjo because of Carter’s dedication to ensuring majority control throughout southern Africa. While Carter was in Nigeria in 1978, Andrew Young, the country’s ambassador, became good friends with Obasanjo. The UK had changed from being a customer of Nigerian oil to a competitor after the discovery of oil in the North Sea, so the decision to change allegiances was taken for pragmatic rather than ideological reasons. The UK’s refusal to extradite Gowon also incensed the Obasanjo administration, which believed that the British government might have been engaged in the coup against Murtala. Due to these factors, it briefly contemplated suspending diplomatic ties with the UK in 1976 but decided against it. Nevertheless, Obasanjo declined to travel to the UK and forbade his employees from doing so. When Margaret Thatcher became British Prime Minister in 1979 and started a friendlier British stance toward the white minority governments of Rhodesia and South Africa, relations were further harmed. Nigeria responded by seizing a British tanker that was allegedly carrying oil from Nigeria to South Africa, prohibiting British companies from bidding for contracts with Nigeria, and nationalizing British Petroleum’s activities.

Obasanjo also sought to hasten the end of minority rule in southern Africa. According to Ilif, this became “the heart of his foreign policy.” Nigeria provides subsidies to those fighting minority white domination in the region, allows these groups to open offices in Lagos, and provides sanctuary to various refugees fleeing Southern African governments. Obasanjo, who had a tough stance against the apartheid government in South Africa, declared that Nigeria would not compete in the 1976 Summer Olympics because New Zealand, which was taking part, had sporting ties to South Africa, a nation that was barred from participating due to apartheid. In 1977, Obasanjo banned all South African-linked contractors from operating in Nigeria. The main companies affected were British Petroleum and Barclays Bank. In addition to hosting the United Nations Conference for Action Against Apartheid in Lagos that year, Nigeria also sent Obasanjo to the United States in October, where he implored the nation to stop arming South Africa. While visiting, he gave a speech to the UN General Assembly, and two weeks later, Nigeria was given a place on the UN Security Council. The Rhodesian Bush War had been started by opposition to white minority rule in Rhodesia, and Obasanjo’s administration insisted that the only way to topple Rhodesia’s government was through armed conflict. He pushed for cooperation among the different anti-government groups there and urged Robert Mugabe, the leader of ZANU, to accept Joshua Nkomo of ZAPU as his successor. The United Kingdom and the United States came up with plans in 1977 for Rhodesia’s transition to majority rule during a time when UN troops would be in charge of the nation. In order to convince other governments to support the proposal, Obasanjo traveled to Tanzania, Zambia, Mozambique, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Nigeria, however, distanced itself from British efforts to end the Rhodesian Bush War after Thatcher was elected UK Prime Minister and was left out of any major roles in the UK-brokered procedure that resulted in multiracial democratic elections in Rhodesia.

As head of state, Obasanjo attended the OAU summit. At a conference held in July 1977, he proposed the establishment of a standing commission to settle disputes among his OAU member states. At a conference in 1978, he warned against meddling in the Cold War on either side. At the next conference, he called for the formation of a pan-African force that could participate in peacekeeping operations on the continent. To promote Nigeria’s role internationally, Obasanjo has been involved in various mediation activities across Africa. In 1977, he persuaded Benin and Togo to end their border disputes and reopen their borders. He also tried, unsuccessfully, to settle disputes between East African countries and prevent the collapse of the East African Community. As chairman of the OAU Mediation Commission, he attempted to mediate the Ogaden conflict between Ethiopia and Somalia, but failed again. He also failed to mend the rift between Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

On behalf of the OAU, Obasanjo held a conference in Kano to mediate the Chadian civil war. Several factions agreed to a ceasefire, form a national unity government, and allow the Nigerian military to act as peacekeepers. But the war continued and Nigeria responded by cutting off oil supplies to Chad. His second conference on the conflict was held in Lagos in August 1979, forming another short-lived interim government. In the last years of the military regime, he led his OAU mission to resolve the conflict in Western Sahara.

Transfer of Power

The military government assembled a constitutional drafting committee to draft a new constitution that could be used in the transition to civilian government. The Commission said Nigeria should change its system of government, which was based on the British parliamentary system, to one based on the US presidential system, in which a single elected president is both head of state and head of government. It promoted a federal structure with separate elected institutions existing at the federal, state, and municipal levels in order to prevent this president from turning into a despot, as had happened elsewhere in Africa. The proposed constitution was made available for discussion the following year after it was published in October 1976. In October 1977, a constituent council got together to talk about the draft. The legislature couldn’t agree on what place sharia law should have in the constitution. Obasanjo gathered the group together and urged them to adopt a more amenable stance by warning them of the societal repercussions of their choice. The Supreme Military Council revealed the new constitution in September 1978 after making a number of changes to the draft presented by the constituent assembly.

Obasanjo removed the restrictions on political organizations along with the new constitution. The Nigerian People’s Party, the National Party of Nigeria, and several other organizations subsequently emerged to contend in the following election. The fact that so many politicians were making promises they couldn’t fulfill infuriated Obasanjo. The 1979 elections were held over the months of July and August. Between 30 and 40% of those who were eligible to vote showed up, and although it was calm, there was rigging on both sides. There was a dispute over who won the presidential election, and Obasanjo insisted that the Electoral Commission settle it instead of him. They proclaimed Shehu Shagari the victor, which the second-place finisher, Obafemi Awolowo, unsuccessfully appealed to the Supreme Court. At his swearing-in event, Obasanjo gave Shagari a copy of the new constitution. Shagari assumed office in October 1979. The Second Republic of Nigeria officially began at this point.

Obasanjo’s role in the restoration of civilian rule in Nigeria would form the basis of the excellent reputation he maintained over the next two decades. However, various figures at home and abroad, including Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda and Togo’s President Nyasingbe Eyadema, urged him to stay in power. His refusal to endorse fellow Yoruba Awolowo earned him the enmity of many of the Yoruba elite. Awolowo accused Obasanjo of orchestrating Shagari’s victory, which Obasanjo vehemently denied.

Presidency (1979–1999)

In April 1979, Obasanjo was promoted to General before his resignation. As a four-star general, he continued to receive a salary from the state. After retiring in October, he returned to Abeokuta. After taking a six-week course at an agricultural college, Obasanjo started his own business as a farmer, hoping to set an example in promoting agricultural self-reliance. He acquired at least 230 hectares of land in Ota to build a farm and moved into a brick farmhouse. His acquisition of so much property was met with local hostility, and as a result, he was the target of numerous lawsuits. Through his Temperance Enterprises Limited, subsequently known as Obasanjo’s Farms Limited, he organized his agricultural activities. He focused especially on raising chickens; by the middle of the 1980s, his farm was producing 140,000 chicks each week. In other parts of Yorubaland, he established farms, and by 1987, he had eight sites with over 400 employees. Obasanjo sponsored underprivileged students who visited his former school in Abeokuta, as did other senior Yoruba figures.

Obasanjo became critical of Shagari’s civilian government, believing the president to be weak and unprepared. Nigeria plunged into economic depression due to volatility in global oil prices. In May 1983, military officials asked Obasanjo to regain control of the country, but Obasanjo refused. In December they overthrew Shagari without Obasanjo’s involvement in a coup that saw little violence. Muhammad Buhari became the new head of state. Obasanjo initially supported the Buhari government, saying Nigeria’s representative democracy had failed. He praised Buhari’s war against indiscipline, halving imports and restoring the budget balance. In August 1985, Buhari was also overthrown and Army Chief of Staff Ibrahim Babangida took power. Obasanjo criticized some of the economic reforms introduced by Babangida, including the devaluation of the naira. By 1992, he was opposing Babangida’s rule and calling for a new democracy in Nigeria. He also began to oppose the economic indigenization policies of the 1970s, arguing that the constitution should prohibit the confiscation of foreign investment. He became increasingly concerned about rapid population growth, which he ignored during his tenure, and urged Nigerians to have smaller families “for economic and national socioeconomic gains.”

In eleven years since Obasanjo retired, he has published four of his books. In 1980, as a fellow at the University of Ibadan, Obasanjo wrote My Command, a compilation of his experiences during the civil war. It was released in November of that year. Some readers criticized Obasanjo’s disloyalty to Murtala Muhammad, and senior Yoruba politician Robert Adeyinka Adebayo urged the book to be retracted to prevent it from sowing the seeds of division. A more positive assessment came from his friend Ken Saro-Wiwa. In 1987, he published Nzeogwu, a memoir of his friend Chukwuma Nzeogwu, who served with him in the Congo. In 1989, Obasanjo’s next book, A Constitution for National Integration and Development, was published, in which he cautioned against Babangida’s insistence on introducing a two-party system in Nigeria. In 1990 his third book Not My Will was published. It provided an account of when he ruled the country.

International activities: 1979-1993

To maintain his influence on the world stage, Obasanjo launched his Leadership Forum in Africa from his Ota farm. In 1981-1982 he also participated in the Palme Commission. The Palme Commission, chaired by former Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme, dealt with disarmament and international security. Obasanjo has since become a member of similar bodies such as the United Nations, the World Health Organization, and the Interaction Council of Former Heads of Government. When United Nations Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar fell ill, Obasanjo was considered a possible successor to him. After Perez de Cuellar’s retirement was announced, Obasanjo started the campaign as his replacement. He finished third in the United Nations Security Council ballot, with Egypt’s Boutros Boutros Ghali filling the role. He left home on a few visits. In 1986 he visited Japan and in 1987 he visited the United States.

The formation of the Group of Eminent Persons (EPG) to engage in dialogue with the South African government in hopes of encouraging the dismantling of apartheid amid a federal dispute over the UK’s softening of its stance on South Africa was agreed. On the recommendation of Nigerian Deputy Secretary General Emeka Anyaoku, Obasanjo was appointed co-chair of the group along with former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser. Obasanjo reluctantly agreed. He and Fraser traveled to Cape Town in February 1986 and requested a meeting with Nelson Mandela, an incarcerated anti-apartheid campaigner and well-known figure in the outlawed African National Congress. (ANC). Obasanjo was the only person allowed to meet with Mandela, and he subsequently said that he was very impressed with him. Obasanjo next convened in Lusaka with top ANC officials who were living in exile.

In March 1986, the entire EPG visited South Africa at a time of increasing unrest and violence in the country. There they met with government officials, including Prime Minister P.W. Botha, who Obasanjo later described as the most intolerant man he had ever met. According to the EPG report, the majority of South Africans wanted a peaceful, negotiated resolution between the government and anti-apartheid organizations, but the former was reluctant to consider this and had made little progress in putting an end to apartheid. Thus, the EPG advocated for the need for increased international pressure. The UK disagreed with the findings of the study, which caused a Commonwealth committee to accept them; Obasanjo became even more angry with Thatcher as a result. The Commonwealth then appointed him to lead a group that was charged with figuring out what the Frontline States’ defenses against South African incursions should be.

After Botha is replaced by F. W. de Clark, the latter released Mandela from prison. One of Mandela’s first trips abroad was to Nigeria, where he visited Obasanjo’s home. Two months later, Obasanjo led a Nigerian delegation to South Africa to meet with prominent politicians. He revisited them in September 1991 and asked Zulu leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi to negotiate with other factions to end apartheid and hold fully representative elections.

Obasanjo also worked on developments elsewhere in Africa. He made two visits to Angola in 1988, helping to end the civil war. He visited Sudan three times between 1987 and 1989 years and failed to facilitate negotiations to end the Second Sudanese Civil War. He then served as an observer in the 1994 Mozambican general elections, and in 1994 and 1995 he visited Burundi and worked to ease tensions between the Hutu and Tutsis. He has begun calling for closer integration across Africa and has proposed achieving this through the formation of six regional federations. In June 1987, he outlined plans for his Leadership Forum in Africa to help provide skills and training to politicians across the continent. About six times a year, meetings called farmer dialogues are held from Obasanjo’s home. From 1991 to 1993 he held quarterly international conferences and published the quarterly African Forum.

Against Abacha: 1992-1995

Obasanjo expressed his concern that Babangida has no intention of stepping down as head of state in the military, despite his claims that he supports a return to democracy. After the 1992 presidential primaries were canceled, Obasanjo and Anthony Enahoro founded the Association for Democracy and Good Governance in Nigeria. In May 1993, the group’s inaugural meeting brought together 31 local politicians in Ota Ward. Elections were held in June 1993, but turnout was low. Moshood Abiola of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) claimed victory, but this was challenged in court. Babangida then annulled the election results and promised his second election shortly thereafter. The SDP rejected all second elections, claiming their candidate won the first. Babangida then agreed to resign in favor of the civilian interim government led by Ernest Shonekan, who came to power in August 1993 and presented plans for new elections in February 1994.

Sani Abacha, meanwhile, tightened control over the military and, in November 1993, pressured Shonekan to resign, allowing himself to assume power. Obasanjo had called Abacha before the coup urging him not to take such actions. After taking power, Abacha asked to see Obasanjo. The latter did so, but refused to support the Abacha government until it announced its own departure date. Following this, Abacha abolished the democratic institutions and political parties that were already in place and invited politicians from different backgrounds to join his Federal Executive Council; Obasanjo refused to suggest anyone for this council.

In May 1994, Obasanjo and Yar’Adua founded the National Unity Promoters, an organization devoted to averting another civil war in Nigeria along ethnic lines. Obasanjo had been warning that Nigeria was on the verge of another civil war along ethnic lines. Abiola abruptly proclaimed himself the leader of Nigeria in June and was taken into custody for treason. Obasanjo did counsel Abacha not to arrest Abiola despite his refusal to support the allegation. He then took the helm of a gathering of traditional figures where they made an effort to open a line of communication between Abacha and Abiola. His decision not to back Abiola infuriated many Yoruba, who assaulted Obasanjo’s property in Yorubaland. What Obasanjo perceived as retribution for not supporting Yoruba sectarian interests infuriated him.

In March 1995 Obasanjo traveled to Denmark for the United Nations Social Development Summit in Copenhagen. There he heard that Yar’Adua had been arrested and that he would likely suffer the same fate once he returned to Nigeria. Nevertheless, he insisted that he had done nothing wrong and therefore agreed to return. Upon arrival at Lagos airport, his passport was confiscated and the police picked him up at his home in Ota the next day.

Police accused Obasanjo of involvement in a coup against Abacha planned by Brigadier General Lawan Guadabe. Obasanjo was being transferred between different detention centers while former U.S. President Carter personally contacted Abacha and asked for his release. Obasanjo was then returned to Ota, where he was placed under house arrest for two months. During this time, he was denied access to the media, phone calls, or visitors.

Colonel Bello-Fadile, a military lawyer who was also charged with being a part of the plot, was tortured before he signed a statement claiming that he had traveled to Ota to tell Obasanjo about the coup as it was being planned. This was used as proof to accuse Obasanjo of concealing treason, a crime punishable by death under Nigerian law. He was then driven to the Ikoyi-based State Security Interrogation Center. Obasanjo was prosecuted in a military court on June 19, 1995, as a result of Abacha’s demand. Obasanjo asserted during the trial that he had never encountered Bello-Fadile. Bello-Fadile also claimed that he had been coerced into signing the document accusing Obasanjo, but the judge rejected this denial. Obasanjo was given a 25-year prison term on July 14; Yar’Adua and 14 other people who had also been charged in connection with the conspiracy received death sentences. Later, Obasanjo described it as his “saddest day.” Abacha commuted their sentences to imprisonment and reduced Obasanjo’s punishment to 15 years after US President Bill Clinton threatened to embargo Nigerian crude if these executions went forward. Olusegun Obasanjo was given a 25-year prison term on July 14; Yar’Adua and 14 other people who had also been charged in connection with the conspiracy received death sentences. Later, Obasanjo described it as his “saddest day.” Abacha commuted their sentences to imprisonment and reduced Olusegun Obasanjo’s punishment to 15 years after US President Bill Clinton threatened to embargo Nigerian crude if these executions went forward.

Detention: 1995-1998

Olusegun Obasanjo originally was chained in solitary confinement at the Ikoyi Center, where he spent the following four months. He was then moved to Lagos’ primary prison, Kirikiri, where he spent time receiving treatment for his diabetes and hypertension in the prison infirmary. Olusegun Obasanjo expressed his disapproval of the overcrowding and unhygienic conditions in Kirikiri, saying that he “would not wish it on my worst enemy.” There, Bello-Fadile apologized to Obasanjo for accusing him, and Obasanjo accepted his apology. After being smuggled out of jail and published, a note penned by Bello-Fadile outlining the circumstances helped to prove Obasanjo’s innocence.

Peter Obi – Everything You Need to Know About Him

Obasanjo and the other accused conspirators were transferred to Jos prison in Plateau State’s central plateau after a number of weeks, where they were detained for several months. Olusegun Obasanjo was initially only permitted to read the Bible and the Quran, but over time he was granted access to a broader range of literature. Additionally, he was given writing supplies so he could correspond with different individuals and organizations. Eventually, Stella was also allowed to pay him a monthly visit. Pope John Paul II and Mandela both demanded his freedom, and he received honorary degrees from German and Indian foundations. Two volumes of letters and essays written in his honor were published by the Africa Leadership Forum, which was compelled to relocate to Accra, Ghana, to escape persecution by Abacha’s regime.

In early 1996, Obasanjo was transferred from Jos to a more remote prison in Yola, Adamawa State. There he was allowed to plant a garden. Olusegun Obasanjo said that in prison he deepened his Christian faith, drew closer to God, and became a born-again Christian. From this point on, Christianity played a much larger role in his personal worldview. In Yola, he preached 28 sermons each week after a temporary ban on clergy visits. He wrote these sermons down and had them published after his release. Olusegun Obasanjo also tried to convert some of the young prisoners and tracked their progress as he became a free man. Obasanjo was worried that he would be poisoned, especially in light of the widespread belief that Yar’adua’s demise was the result of intentional poisoning.Lieutenant General Abdulsalami Abubakar was chosen by the military leaders to succeed Abacha after his sudden death in June 1998. A week later, Abubakar issued a release order for Olusegun Obasanjo and dispatched an aircraft to take him back to Ota. Abubakar disbanded the nation’s existing parties and institutions in order to put Nigeria back under civilian control. He also unveiled a plan that would result in the election of a civilian president in May 1999.

Presidential Campaign: 1998-1999

A free man, Olusegun Obasanjo traveled and underwent treatment in South Africa, England and America. Nigeria saw the emergence of numerous new political parties, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) being one of the biggest. The PDP was an umbrella organization that aimed to be adequately inclusive if elected to prevent further coup attempts. Olusegun Obasanjo was suggested as the ideal presidential contender by prominent PDP members. They believed he could demand respect on a global scale and, as a military leader, could keep the nation united in the face of upcoming coup attempts and secessionist movements. They also argued that Olusegun Obasanjo had established himself as a southerner without partisan animus toward the north and that Nigeria required a president from the south to balance out its previous northern leadership.

Friends and family urged him not to run, saying it would tarnish his reputation or get him killed. A week later, he announced that he would be running as the party’s presidential candidate. When he resigned in 1979, his campaign emphasized his desire to revive the legacy of good governance he had seen. At a fundraising dinner, he won N356 million, Of that, N120 million was donated by businessman Aliko Dangote. Most of these donations came from the military and the new business class. He traveled the nation delivering speeches and pursuing audiences with powerful people; courting state governors was a key component of his strategy. His campaign took center stage over that of his primary opponent, Alex Ekwueme, who was largely despised by the military and residents of the north.

The PDP gained support in Nigeria and was the most successful party in the December 1998 local elections, the January 1999 state elections, and the February 1999 Senate and House elections. On February 14, 1999, a PDP meeting was held to select presidential candidates. Obasanjo got 1,658 votes, Ekwueme 521 votes and his five other candidates 260 votes. Obasanjo, who was looking for a Northerner as the PDP’s vice-presidential candidate, chose Atiku Abubakar. The presidential election took place on February 27th. Olu Falae of the APP was Obasanjo’s lone rival. Only about 25% of qualified voters cast ballots, and there was some rigging but no violence. Obasanjo received 63 percent of the vote according to the official results; he lost in all six of his home Yorubaland’s states.

Presidency (1999–2007)

First term

After being exorcised, Olusegun Obasanjo moved into the presidential palace in Aso Rock in May. On May 29, he took the presidential oath at Eagle square in Abuja. In appointing his new government, he chose an even number of ministers from both northern and southern Nigeria, but the fact that the majority were Christians angered some Muslim northerners. Critics generally said Obasanjo’s cabinet was too old and conservative and lacked experience, especially in economic affairs. Press freedom allowed considerable criticism of the president.

In his first months in office, President Olusegun Obasanjo dismissed nearly 200 military officers, including all 93 who held public office, making a coup d’état by experienced officers less likely. He also moved the Ministry of Defense from Lagos to Abuja to ensure it was under more direct government control.

Second term

Olusegun Obasanjo was re-elected in a tumultuous 2003 election with violent ethnic and religious overtones. His main opponent, former military ruler General Muhammad Buhari, was Muslim and had support mainly from the north. With 61.8% of the vote, Olusegun Obasanjo defeated Buhari by over 11 million votes. In November 2003, Obasanjo was criticized for granting asylum to exiled Liberian President Charles Taylor. On June 12, 2006, he signed the Green Tree Agreement with Cameroon’s President Paul Biya, formally ending the border dispute over the Bakasi Peninsula. The Nigerian Senate passed a resolution declaring the withdrawal of Nigerian troops from the Bakasi Peninsula illegal, but Olusegun Obasanjo ordered it to proceed as planned.

In his second term, Olusegun Obasanjo continued to expand the country’s police force, and in 2007 he increased it to 325,000. Ongoing rural violence among Muslims and Christians in Plateau State prompted Obasanjo to declare a state of emergency in the state in May 2004, suspending the state government and enacting a six-month military term imposed governance. On August 22, 2005, then-Abia Governor Orji Uzor Kalu submitted a petition to the EFCC alleging corruption against Olusegun Obasanjo.

3rd term agenda

Olusegun Obasanjo has been embroiled in controversy over a “third term agenda,” a plan to amend the constitution to allow him to serve his third, fourth term as president. This caused an uproar in the Nigerian political media and the law was not ratified by the parliament. As a result, Olusegun Obasanjo resigned after his April 2007 parliamentary elections. In an exclusive interview granted to Channels Television, Obasanjo denied his involvement in what has been defined as a “third term agenda.” He said it was the National Assembly (Nigeria) that included the term extension among other articles in the Nigerian Constitution to be amended. “I never toyed with the idea of ​​a third season,” Obasanjo said.

Major political figures criticized Olusegun Obasanjo during the Third Term Agenda controversy. Former Nigerian Senate President Senator Ken Nnamani alleged that soon after taking office, President Olusegun Obasanjo told him about the agenda. “As soon as I was elected Senate President, he informed me of his plans and explained how he planned to carry them out. I didn’t originally take him seriously until things started to happen. Additionally, he implied that eight billion naira had been used to bribe lawmakers in order to advance the agenda. He questioned how someone could claim to be unaware of something while at the same time exchanging money in both local and international currencies. Nnamani’s account was confirmed by Femi Gbajabiamila, who stated the amount differently: “The money reached over N10 billion. When you were the President in office and the initiative was not your idea, how could N10 billion be taken from the national treasury? Where did the funds originate? Nnamani quoted President George W. Bush as telling Obasanjo, “If you want to be convinced that the man is only telling a lie, pick up a copy of the book written by Condoleezza Rice, the former Secretary to the Government of the United States of America,” to abandon his plans to run for re-election as president a third time. Actually, Rice’s book is what it is. She discussed Obasanjo’s encounter with Bush on pages 628 or 638, describing how he informed the former American President that he wanted to investigate ways to amend the Constitution so that he could run for a third term. He was shocked when Bush advised against trying it. Bush advised him to depart by May 29, 2007, as a nationalist.

Innocent Chukwuma

Economy, Society, Foreign Policy

Economic policy

With oil revenues, Olusegun Obasanjo founded the Niger Delta Development Commission and implemented a universal basic education program to improve literacy in Nigeria. He founded both the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission. Revitalization of state-owned fertilizer companies in Kaduna and (Onne) Port Harcourt. Olusegun Obasanjo has increased the share of oil taxes and lease payments to the home country from 3% to 13%.

Prior to the Olusegun Obasanjo regime, Nigeria’s GDP growth was very slow since 1987, reaching just 3% between 1999 and 2000. But under Olusegun Obasanjo, rising oil prices also played a role, and by the time he stepped down, growth doubled to 6%. Nigeria’s foreign exchange reserves increased from $2 billion in 1999 to $43 billion when the president stepped down in 2007. He was able to secure around $18 billion in debt forgiveness from clubs in Paris and London, and pay another $18 billion to release the debt. Most of these credits were accumulated from short-term transaction delinquencies during exchange control periods. Most of these loans were not accumulated due to corruption, but was between 1982 and 1985 when Nigeria adopted an exchange control system that delegated all foreign exchange transactions to the Central Bank of Nigeria. .

When Olusegun Obasanjo took office, Nigeria’s economy was in a slump. Inflation averaged about 30% annually in the 1990s, and in 2001 about 20% of Nigerian adults were unemployed. Poverty was so prevalent that the Olusegun Obasanjo state government tried to alleviate poverty by paying about 200,000 people N3,500 a month to perform routine tasks such as cleaning and repairing roads. The project has since been superseded by a nationwide anti-poverty program focused on youth employment, rural infrastructure and conservation. In 2000, the Obasanjo Cabinet doubled the legal minimum wage.

He asked the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to review Nigeria’s economy and provide advice on how to improve it. They warned the government would spend a lot of money. He said he saw it firsthand. But while expressing its commitment to the Washington Consensus on free markets, privatization, and limiting government spending, government spending as a percentage of GDP rose from 29% in 1997 to 50% in 2001. Through loans that allow the government to negotiate debt restructuring with creditors, Olusegun Obasanjo’s government benefited from high international oil prices during his first term as president. He planned to both increase Nigeria’s oil production and increase production of liquefied natural gas, the country’s first export in 1999.

Olusegun Obasanjo decided to abolish gasoline subsidies and raise prices to commercial levels. The Nigerian Labor Congress called for a general strike in June 2000 in protest, and Olusegun Obasanjo eventually compromised by reducing the subsidies rather than abolishing them. To further cut spending, Obasanjo turned to privatization and formed the National Council on Privatization in July 1999.

When he took office, Nigeria’s federal government owned 588 public companies, which accounted for more than 55% of its external debt. Privatization was unpopular with the Nigerian public, where he received only 35% support according to a 2000 poll. Olusegun Obasanjo was also keen to negotiate debt relief. He argued that Nigeria’s debt is irredeemable and threatens its economy and democracy. Nigeria’s debts were forgiven by Canada, Italy, and the U.S., but these were relatively minor debts, and the country’s biggest creditor, the UK, refused.

Olusegun Obasanjo blamed endemic corruption for many of Nigeria’s economic problems. In 2000, Transparency International ranked the country as the most corrupt country in the world. A few days after taking office, he submitted an anti-corruption bill to Parliament, but it met with strong opposition from critics that it gave the government too much power. There was no evidence that corruption in Nigeria had declined during Olusegun Obasanjo’s first term in office, and his government, which had been rampant at the state and local levels, had reached a compromise that would allow Nigerian governments to sign new legislation did nothing to stem the low level of corruption in Public health was also a key issue in Nigeria.

By the 1990s, Nigeria spent about 0.2% of her GDP on public health services, the lowest percentage in the world. The Olusegun Obasanjo administration raised this to above 0.4%. The HIV/AIDS epidemic was Nigeria’s most pressing health crisis, and soon after assuming office, Olusegun Obasanjo ordered a situation report on the issue. In order to prepare a campaign for 2000–2003 that would concentrate on publicity, training, counseling, and testing to fight the virus, he then established a Presidential Committee on AIDS, which he served as chair of. He also established a National Action Plan Committee. He started a new primary care program to improve public health more widely, using money from the local government to attempt to establish a clinic in each of Nigeria’s 774 local government areas.

Foreign Policy

One of Olusegun Obasanjo’s main tasks in which he succeeded was to improve Nigeria’s bruised international standing under Abacha. Having spent over 10 years abroad, by October 2002 he had visited 92 countries. In October 1999, Obasanjo established a bilateral commission between South Africa and Nigeria to discuss cooperation between the two largest forces in sub-Saharan Africa. Obasanjo maintained close ties between Nigeria and the United States and brought in U.S. advisers to help train the Nigerian military. He had a close relationship with US President Bill Clinton and was on good terms with Clinton’s successor, George W. Bush. Bush visited Abuja in 2000 and Obasanjo visited Washington DC in 2006. In order to maintain better relations with Britain than in the 1970s, he attended his first Commonwealth Congress in November 1999 and hosted it in December 2003. He was awarded an honorary knighthood.

Olusegun Obasanjo had promised to remove Nigerian troops from Sierra Leone upon assuming office. He set a timeline for their departure in August 1999, but it was put on hold while a UN security force was put together, with Nigeria contributing 4000 soldiers. In 2005, this force departed. In August 2003, Olusegun Obasanjo sent Nigerian soldiers into Liberia in response to unrest there; two months later, they were placed under UN command. Charles Taylor, the ousted leader of Liberia, was given asylum in Nigeria by Olusegun Obasanjo, who later returned him to Liberia at the behest of the country’s new president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, so that he could stand trial for war crimes. He declined requests for the Nigerian military to take part in an ECOMOG intervention in the Guinea-Bissau civil war and the 2002 peacekeeping mission to the Côte d’Ivoire in order to keep Nigeria out of locally unpopular conflicts. He helped mediate a dispute with Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwean government over the latter’s encouragement of the violent takeover of white-owned farmland at the UK’s request. He was a member of a group that the Commonwealth assigned to deal with Zimbabwe, along with the presidents of South Africa and Australia. Thabo Mbeki and John Howard were also on the group. In an attempt to use quiet diplomacy, Olusegun Obasanjo and Mbeki went to Zimbabwe three times. They unsuccessfully urged Mugabe to step down or establish a power-sharing government with the opposition Movement for Democratic Change.

Dealing with racial and religious conflicts

The role of Islamic sharia law in Nigerian politics quickly became a hot topic following Olusegun Obasanjo’s victory. Since the nation’s freedom, sharia law had only applied to civil disputes involving Muslims in the northern states, which offended some Muslims. Criminal cases were not subject to sharia law. Ahmed Sani, the governor of Zamfara State, declared the complete adoption of sharia as the foundation for its penal code in September 1999. He made it clear, however, that it would only apply to Muslim residents and not the non-Islamic minority. Christian minorities in northern Nigeria were alarmed by this, and demonstrations and counterprotests led to violence, particularly in Kaduna. Christian sentiment in Nigeria was overwhelmingly opposed to using sharia as the foundation for state criminal justice systems.

The National Assembly asked Olusegun Obasanjo to appeal the case to the Supreme Court in both houses. He didn’t want the application of sharia to become a constitutional problem, so he was eager to avoid it. He made an effort to publicly differentiate between “genuine sharia” and “political sharia,” praising the former and maintaining that the latter was a passing fad that would fade away. Many people in the south criticized Olusegun Obasanjo for his lack of bravery for not intervening, and fundamentalist Muslims in the north made fun of him. Four more northern states adopted sharia penal law in 2000, and seven more did so in 2001 in response to widespread demand from Muslim populations. The problem, according to Olusegun Obasanjo, was the most difficult thing he had ever had to deal with as president.

When Olusegun Obasanjo came to power, he was appalled that Nigeria was experiencing widespread unrest and violence, resulting in thousands of deaths. This violence was exacerbated by a rapidly growing population, accelerating urbanization and sparking competition for scarce land in rural areas. To combat this, Obasanjo doubled the country’s police force from 120,000 to 240,000 between 1999 and 2003 years. Due to widespread torture of suspects under the Olusegun Obasanjo regime, little action was taken against police brutality. The violence was also fueled by ethnic tensions, as various ethnic and regional groups demanded greater autonomy, leading various commentators to predict the collapse of Nigeria. For Olusegun Obasanjo, the unity of the country became a top priority. He relied on the military to quell the riots only when he preferred not to have to mobilize them unless requested by the governor. In his words, “We can only use military force when all else fails. That is my own principle and philosophy.” He placed greater value on forgiveness, amnesty and reconciliation to achieve harmony than on the judicial system. Under President Obasanjo, the level of violence and disorder in Nigeria has declined. A major link in separatist sentiment was in the Niger Delta region, where indigenous groups wanted to hold a much larger share of the revenues from the region’s lucrative oil reserves. Olusegun Obasanjo introduced legislation to the National Assembly and established the Niger Delta Development Commission to develop and implement plans to address the region. After much discussion, the committee was finally set up by him in December 2000. In November 1999, two battalions were dispatched to the delta region of Niger to arrest the Asawana Boys, a group of Ijaws who captured and killed police officers in Odi, Bayelsa state. The army destroyed most of the city. The government claimed 43 deaths, but local NGOs estimated the civilian death toll at 2,483. Olusegun Obasanjo visited Odi in March 2001, describing the destruction as “avoidable” and “disappointing”. While the Niger Delta Development Commission rebuilt the town, he refused to blame the army, apologize for the damage, or give compensation.

In 2000, Olusegun Obasanjo banned the Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC), a Yoruba nationalist group involved in anti-ethnic violence, and ordered the arrest of its leaders. In September 2001, violence between indigenous Christians and northern Muslim traders in Plateau State killed nearly 500 people before the army moved to regain control. Olusegun Obasanjo then visited and urged reconciliation. In October 2001, Muslim protesters in Kano killed about 200 Igbo in response to Nigeria’s support for the US bombing of Afghanistan. Obasanjo later visited them and urged them to reconcile, but was booed by residents. A Tiv militia later seized and killed the troops in Zaki-Biam, where they had been sent to ease tensions between the Jukun and Tiv communities along the borders between the states of Benue and Taraba. Obasanjo sent the troops in, and they apprehended and executed up to 250–300 local men. In 2002, Obasanjo made a trip there and issued an apology for the inappropriate use of force.Obasanjo ordered the mobile police to disband the Bakossi Boys in January 2002. This vigilante group, active mainly in the states of Abia and Anambra, was thought to have killed 2,000 people. He had previously been hesitant to do so because of the public support the organization had gained by taking on criminal gangs, but after their support began to dwindle, he felt free to act. In the same month, an explosion at a munitions storage facility near Lagos, Ijeka barracks, may have killed up to 1,000 people. Olusegun Obasanjo arrived right away. Additionally, violent unrest persisted in Lagos, and in order to reestablish order, troops were dispatched there in February 2002. Olusegun Obasanjo offered legislation in April 2002 that would have allowed the banning of ethnic-based organizations if they were found to incite violence, but the National Executive rejected it as an abuse of the executive branch.

While the President fought numerous efforts from both houses to impeach him, some public figures, such as the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President of the Senate, got into disagreements with him. Olusegun Obasanjo was renominated after escaping censure.

After taking office (2007-present)


He became the chairman of PDP board and managed the nominations for government posts and even policies and strategies. “He’s going to be in the passenger seat, offering advice and ready to get behind the wheel if Nigeria goes off course,” said one Western diplomat in April 2012. Voluntarily resigned as chairman of PDP’s board of trustees. He subsequently withdrew from his political activities with the PDP. In March 2008, Olusegun Obasanjo was indicted by a Nigerian parliamentary committee for signing $2.2 billion in energy contracts without due process during his eight-year tenure. Due to the leadership of the power inquiry committee’s manipulation of the entire process, the report of this investigation was never accepted by the entire Nigerian parliament. No official evidence exists that Chief Olusegun Obasanjo was charged.

In a letter to President Goodluck Jonathan in May 2014, Olusegun Obasanjo asked him to act as a mediator on behalf of the Nigerian government to secure the freedom of the Chibok girls being held by Boko Haram militants.

On February 16, 2015, he resigned from the ruling party and ordered PDP community leader to tear up his membership card during a press conference. He later became known as the navigator of the newly formed opposition party APC.

On 24 January 2018, he wrote to incumbent president, Muhammadu Buhari, highlighting his own weaknesses and advising him not to run for the 2019 elections. To this day, all of his letters to sitting presidents predate their downfall.

On January 31, 2018, his political movement called the Union of Nigerian Movements (CNM) was launched in Abuja. On May 10, 2018, the movement took over the political party, the African Congress of Democracy (ADC), to realize the dream of a new Nigeria. On November 20, 2018, former President Goodluck Jonathan formally announced his return to the main opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) at the launch of his book My Transition Hours.

On 22 January 2022, he announced his retirement from his political party after receiving national delegates from the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) at his home in Ota, Ogun State, Nigeria.


Olusegun Obasanjo was appointed by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as a special envoy for the war-torn Democratic Republic of the Congo. He met separately with Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila and rebel leader Laurent Nkunda.

During the July 2013 elections in Zimbabwe, Olusegun Obasanjo led a delegation of the African Union election observers.

Continuing Education

In December 2017, Olusegun Obasanjo defended his PhD. Doctoral dissertation at the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN). He is currently completing his Ph.D. in theology. That was about two years after he completed his master’s degree in the same course.

Political Ideology

Ideologically, Olusegun Obasanjo was a Nigerian nationalist. He was committed to a form of Nigerian patriotism and the belief that Nigeria should be maintained as a single nation-state rather than divided along ethnic lines. In 2001, he said his long-term goal was to “deactivate all forms of identity except for Nigerian citizenship.” Ilife argued that Olusegun Obasanjo’s Nigerian nationalism was a result of his separation from the Yoruba elite and of his time in the army, where he worked alongside soldiers of a wide range of ethnic backgrounds. He claimed to have been influenced by both. Iliffe observed that throughout Olusegun Obasanjo’s career, a focus on consensus politics served as “a guiding principle.” Obasanjo criticized “institutionalized opposition” to the government while in control in the 1970s. This was, in his opinion, “profoundly at odds with the majority of African political culture and practice.” He thought that opposition parties should offer constructive criticism rather than continuous opposition to the government, and that politicians should seek consensus rather than engage in constant rivalry. He believed that political rivalry had a destabilizing impact that was especially risky for a developing nation like Nigeria and that stability should be protected.

Olusegun Obasanjo, frustrated by the failure of representative democracy in the early 1980s, began to voice his support for Nigeria’s one-party state. However, he argued that this one-party dictatorship must promote public participation in governance, respect human rights, and protect freedom of expression. Warning to the two-party state, Babangida envisioned a rivalry between centre-left and centre-right parties that would inevitably evolve into a party representing Southern Christians. The other one represents the Muslim North. He instead argued that there should be no limit to the number of political parties that can be formed, but suggested that if that was not possible, Nigeria should become a one-party state. Amid the collapse and subsequent shift to multiparty politics across Africa, Olusegun Obasanjo once again supported multiparty politics.

Iliffe observed that Olusegun Obasanjo demonstrated “open-minded pragmatism” in his role as a lawmaker. Obasanjo occasionally used the intentional polarization of a topic as a strategy to gain support for his viewpoint.Iliffe believed that despite Olusegun Obasanjo’s inexperience in the anti-colonialist fight for Nigerian independence from British rule, the “optimism and dedication” of the movement had “marked for ever” his life.

Olusegun Obasanjo’s work in the office was to ensure that Nigeria functioned politically and economically. During his political career, Obasanjo moved from his belief in the benefits of state involvement in heavy industry in the 1970s to a commitment to market liberalism that prevailed by the 1990s. Iliffe felt that throughout his career, Obasanjo had always displayed “ambivalence” about the level of government involvement in the economy. His general attitude was that poverty is caused by laziness. During the 1999 presidential election, Olusegun Obasanjo called himself a “market-oriented social democrat” but was vague about his proposed economic strategy. During his presidency, his government attracted supporters of free markets, more protectionist economic strategies, and socialism. Olusegun Obasanjo despised ideological debates about capitalism and socialism.

The decisions he made were usually based on political considerations rather than on legal or constitutional principles, which worried some of his critics. Erfler viewed Olusegun Obasanjo as a “cautious reformer” during his first term.

Private Life

Olusegun Obasanjo maintained multiple relationships. In London in 1963, Olusegun Obasanjo wed Oluremi Akinlawon; she gave birth to their first child, Iyabo, in 1967. Iyabo and her father shared a strong bond. Oluremi claimed that Obasanjo assaulted her because she disapproved of the fact that he had relationships with other women. Early in the 1970s, they got separated. Olusegun Obasanjo started living as a common-law couple with NTA correspondent Gold Oruh during that decade, and she gave birth to his two children. In 1976, after meeting Stella Abebe during a trip to London, he wed her. In 1976, he wed Stella, and together they had three kids. Businesswoman Lynda Soares, who was murdered by vehicle thieves in 1986, was one of Olusegun Obasanjo’s other partners.[39] Stella Obasanjo, the First Lady of Nigeria, passed away on October 23, 2005, one day after receiving an abdominoplasty in Spain. The doctor, known only as “AM,” was given a year in prison in Spain in 2009 for negligence and was also told to make restitution of about $176,000 to her son.[40] He kept most of his interactions with these ladies a secret. Some of his kids were angry with him because he treated their mothers badly and didn’t give them any special benefits. One of his sons, Adeboye Obasanjo, is a brigadier general in the Nigerian Army. Ethnically, Obasanjo is Yoruba, a cultural identity reflected in his choice of language and dress. I am not a Yoruba who happens to be a Yoruba,” he reiterated. He consistently stated that he preferred a rural lifestyle to a metropolitan one. He has never consumed alcohol. He was described as possessing a sense of discipline and responsibility and emphasizing the value of leadership. Iliffe described him as a “instinctively cautious man” and noted his meticulous planning. Olusegun Obasanjo always emphasized the value he had acquired as a child—deferring to seniority. A man with “great physical and intellectual energy,” according to Iliffe, Obasanjo “executed power with skill and ruthlessness, sometimes unscrupulously but rarely cruelly.” In a similar vein, Erfler claimed that despite his sometimes “boorish and dull” appearance, Olusegun Obasanjo had a “sharply perceptive mind” and the ability to be “tough and ruthless.” Iliffe said he had a “remarkable capacity for work.” He was frugal with his money, led a simple life, and sought financial stability by making real estate investments. He speaks gently.

Olusegun Obasanjo regularly put in 18 to 20 hours a day in his sixties while receiving very little sleep. Every day he would begin with prayers. Obasanjo has elevated blood pressure and diabetes. He liked to play squash.

Olusegun Obasanjo’s writings after his imprisonment reflected his commitment to the literal doctrine of the Bible. He called Darwin’s theory of evolution ” debasing, devaluing and dehumanising ” ideas. After his release from prison, his writings placed less emphasis on traditional culture as a guide to morality and encouraged Nigerians to reject many of their pre-Christian “ways of life.” He noted that Christianity was “apparently orthodox” and consistent with Baptist doctrine. He rejected the prosperity gospel taught by some Pentecostals in Nigeria. Providence remained a central part of his worldview after his imprisonment.

Among various other chief titles, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo holds the title of Olori Omo Iru of Ibogun-Oraogun. Many other members of his family were also clothed chieftains.

Reception and Legacy

“The outstanding member of the second generation of independent African leaders who dedicated themselves to the consolidation of their postcolonial states,” according to John Iliffe, described Olusegun Obasanjo. He believed that Obasanjo’s presidency had four main accomplishments: he helped to establish the African Union; he maintained control of the military; he partially contained the domestic unrest roiling Nigeria; and he paid off the nation’s foreign debt. His approval percentage was 84% in December 1999, 72% in 2001, and 39% in September 2003, respectively.

Throughout his tenure, Olusegun Obasanjo was charged with corruption on numerous occasions, despite his insistence that his dealings were honest.After his imprisonment in the 1990s, Obasanjo’s detractors asserted, he lost his humility and grew more convinced that it was his divinely mandated destiny to govern Nigeria. As a result, they said, he began to see himself as a messianic figure. According to Obasanjo’s detractors, he had become corrupted by power and, especially during his second term in office, became motivated by the idea of holding onto power forever. He attracted some animosity from Yoruba people during his first tenure as head of state because they felt he should have done more to advance their ethnic group’s interests in politics.

He partially quelled the domestic turmoil that had swept Nigeria, maintained military control, helped found the African Union, and settled the country’s external debt. As of December 1999, his approval rating was 84%. In 2001 he was 72%. And by September 2003 he had dropped to 39%. Although Olusegun Obasanjo claims to be honest in his dealings, he has been repeatedly accused of corruption throughout his career and became increasingly committed to the belief that it was his destiny ordained by God to rule Nigeria, and to recognize himself as a savior. Critics of Obasanjo believe that Obasanjo was corrupted by power and, especially during his second term, he was driven by the idea of ​​remaining in power indefinitely and was forced to serve the interests of his own ethnic group in government. I believed I should have done more to serve.

Olusegun Obasanjo asserted that critique only served to affirm “the rightness of my cause” and showed his detractors’ “depravity in a fallen and perverted world” after his imprisonment.

Books by Olusegun Obasanjo

  • My Watch Volume 1: Early Life and Military
  • My Watch Volume 2: Political and Public Affairs
  • My Watch Volume 3: Now and Then
  • My Command
  • Nzeogwu
  • The Animal Called Man
  • A New Dawn
  • The Thabo Mbeki I know
  • Africa Through the Eyes of A Patriot
  • Making Africa Work: A handbook
  • Forging a Compact in U.S. African Relations: The Fifth David M. Abshire Endowed Lecture, 15 December 1987.
  • Africa in Perspective
  • Letters to Change the World: From Pankhurst to Orwell.
  • Not my Will
  • Democracy Works: Re-Wiring Politics to Africa’s Advantage
  • My Watch
  • Challenges of Leadership in Africa
  • War Wounds: Development Costs of Conflict in Southern Sudan
  • Guides to Effective Prayer
  • The Challenges of Agricultural Production and Food Security in Africa
  • Addressing Africa’s Youth Employment and food security Crisis: The Role of African Agriculture in Job Creation.
  • Dust Suspended: A memoir of Colonial, Overseas and Diplomatic Service Life 1953 to 1986
  • L’Afrique en Marche: un manuel pour la reussite économique
  • Africa’s Critical Choices: A Call for a Pan-African Roadmap
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