Olusegun Mathew Okikiola Aremu Obasanjo, GCFR (/oʊˈbɑːsəndʒoʊ/; Yoruba: Olúṣẹ́gun Ọbásanjọ́ [olúʃɛ̙́ɡũ ɒ̙básandʒɒ̙́]; born c. 5 March 1937) is a former Nigerian Army general who was President of Nigeria from 1999 to 2007. A Nigerian of Yoruba descent, Obasanjo was a career soldier before serving twice as his nation's head of state. 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 is a member of the Africa Progress Panel (APP), a group of ten distinguished individuals who advocate at the highest levels for equitable and sustainable development in Africa. As a Panel Member he facilitates coalition building to leverage and broker knowledge, and convenes decision-makers to influence policy for lasting change in Africa.
His current home is Abeokuta, the capital city of Ogun State, where he is a nobleman as the holder of the chieftaincy titles of the Balogun of the Owu lingeage and the Ekerin Balogun of the Egba clan of Yorubaland.
Family and early life
Ọbasanjọ was born in Ogun State; and grew up in Owu (Abeokuta). His first name, Olusegun, means "The Lord is victorious".
In 1987, his second wife/ex-wife, Lynda, was ordered out of her car by armed men, and was fatally shot for failing to move quickly.
On 23 October 2005, the President lost his wife, Stella Obasanjo, First Lady of Nigeria the day after she had an abdominoplasty in Spain. In 2009, the doctor only known as 'AM' was sentenced to one year in jail for negligence in Spain and ordered to pay restitution to her son of about $176,000. Obasanjo has many children who live throughout Nigeria, the United Kingdom and the United States.
His son, Dare Obasanjo, is a Principal Program Manager for Microsoft.
In 1958, 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 in England, and was thereafter commissioned as an officer in the Nigerian Army. He was also trained in India at the Defence Services Staff College, Wellington and at the Indian Army School of Engineering. He served at 1 Area Command in Kaduna. Promoted to Chief Army Engineer, he was made commander of 2 Area Command from July 1967, which was redesignated 2 Division Rear, and then the Ibadan Garrison Organisation. During the Nigerian Civil War, he commanded the Army's 3 Marine Commando Division that took Owerri, effectively bringing an end to the civil war.
Although Brig. Ọbasanjọ did not participate in the military coup of 29 July 1975, led by Murtala Mohammed, he supported it and was named Murtala's deputy in the new government. As chief of staff of Supreme Headquarters, Obasanjo sought advice from Rogerlay of Akobi and gained support of the military. On 13 February 1976, coup plotters, led by Army Col. Dimka, marked him, Murtala and other senior military personnel for assassination. Murtala was killed during the attempted coup, but Obasanjo escaped death. The low profile security policy adopted by Murtala had allowed the plotters easy access to their targets. The coup was foiled because the plotters missed Obasanjo and General Theophilus Danjuma, chief of army staff and de facto number three man in the country. The plotters failed to monopolize communications, although they were able to take over the radio station to announce the coup attempt.
Obasanjo and Danjuma established a chain of command and re-established security in Lagos, thereby regaining control. Obasanjo was appointed as head of state by the Supreme Military Council. Keeping the chain of command established by Murtala, Obasanjo pledged to continue the programme for the restoration of civilian government in 1979 and to carry forward the reform programme to improve the quality of public service.
The second republican constitution, which was adopted in 1979, was modeled on the Constitution of the United States, with provision for a President, Senate, and House of Representatives. The country was prepared for local elections to be followed by national elections, in the hopes of returning Nigeria to civilian rule.
The military regimes of Murtala and Obasanjo benefited from oil revenues that increased 350 percent between 1973 and 1974, when oil prices skyrocketed, to 1979, when the military stepped down from power. Increased revenues permitted government spending for infrastructure and improvements on a large scale; critics thought it was poorly planned and concentrated too much in urban areas. The oil boom was marred by a minor recession in 1978-79, but revenues rebounded until mid-1981.
The government planned to relocate the federal capital from Lagos to Abuja, a more central location in the interior of the country. It intended to encourage industrial development inland and relieve the congestion in the Lagos area. Abuja was chosen because it was not identified with any particular ethnic group.
Olusegun Obasanjo during his tenure from 1999 to 2007 was Minister of Petroleum.
Industrialisation, which had grown slowly after World War II through the civil war, boomed in the 1970s, despite many infrastructure constraints. Growth was particularly pronounced in the production and assembly of consumer goods, including vehicle assembly, and the manufacture of soap and detergents, soft drinks, pharmaceuticals, beer, paint, and building materials. The government invested strongly in infrastructure from 1975 to 1980, and the number of "parastatals" — jointly government- and privately owned companies — proliferated. The Nigerian Enterprises Promotion decrees of 1972 and 1977 further encouraged the growth of an indigenous middle class.
Heavy investment was planned in steel production. With Soviet assistance, a steel mill was developed at Ajaokuta in Kogi State, not far from Abuja. Agriculture and associated projects generally declined, although the government undertook large-scale irrigation projects in the states of Borno, Kano, Sokoto, and Bauchi with World Bank support.
The oil boom revenues led to a rise in per capita income, especially for the newly emerging urban middle class. Inflation, particularly in the price of food, promoted both industrialisation and the expansion of agricultural production. With the government encouraging food crops, the traditional export earners — peanuts, cotton, cocoa, and palm products — declined in significance and then ceased to be important at all. Nigeria's exports became dominated by oil.
The government embarked on a "Green Revolution", distributing seed and fertilliser to farmers to increase nationwide productivity in farming.
Education also expanded rapidly. At the start of the civil war, there were only five universities, but by 1975 the number had increased to thirteen, with seven more to be established over the next several years. In 1975 there were 53,000 university students. Similar advances were made in the expansion in primary and secondary school education, particularly in those northern states that had lagged behind others. During Obasanjo's regime, universal primary school education was introduced nationwide.
Obasanjo was also accused of being responsible for political repression. In one particular instance, the compound of Nigerian musician and political activist Fela Kuti was raided and burned to the ground after a member of his commune was involved in an altercation with military personnel. Fela and his family were beaten and raped and his mother, political activist Funmilayo Ransome Kuti, was killed by being thrown from a window. Her coffin was carried to Obasanjo's barracks as a protest against political repression.
Transition to democracy
On 1 October 1979, Obasanjo handed power to Shehu Shagari, a democratically elected civilian president, hence becoming the first military head of state to transfer power peacefully to a civilian regime in Nigeria. In late 1983, the military seized power again, Gen. Buhari and Gen. Idiagbon took over and Gen. Babangida seized power from them in 1985. Buhari is now the current Nigerian president, after being democratically elected.
Later career and second presidency
During the dictatorship of Sani Abacha (1993–1998), Obasanjo spoke out against the human rights abuses of the regime, and was imprisoned for alleged participation in an aborted coup based on testimony obtained via torture. He was released only after Abacha's sudden death on 8 June 1998. While in prison, Obasanjo became a born-again Christian.
In the 1999 elections, the first in sixteen years, Obasanjo decided to run for the presidency as the candidate of the People's Democratic Party (PDP). Obasanjo won with 62.6% of the vote, sweeping the strongly Christian Southeast and the predominantly Muslim north, but decisively lost his home region, the Southwest, to his fellow-Yoruba and Christian, Olu Falae, the only other candidate. 29 May 1999, the day Obasanjo took office as the first elected and civilian head of state in Nigeria after 16 years of military rule, is now commemorated as Democracy Day, a public holiday in Nigeria. 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 abuses committed in Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe at a time when many other African nations (including South Africa) were taking a softer stance. Obasanjo also won international praise for Nigeria's role in crucial regional peacekeeping missions in Sierra Leone and Liberia. The international community was guided in its approach to Obasanjo in part by Nigeria's status as one of the world's 10 biggest oil exporters as well as by fears that, as the continent's most populous nation, Nigerian internal divisions risked negatively affecting the entire continent.
Some public officials like the National Assembly speaker and Senate president were involved in conflicts with the president, who had to battle many impeachment moves from both houses. Obasanjo managed to survive impeachment and was renominated.
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.
In November 2003, Obasanjo was criticized for his decision to grant asylum to the deposed Liberian president, Charles Taylor.
On June 12, 2006 he signed the Greentree Agreement with Cameroonian President Paul Biya which formally put an end to the Bakassi peninsula border dispute. Even though the Nigerian Senate passed a resolution declaring that the withdrawal of Nigerian troops from the Bakassi Peninsula was illegal, Obasanjo gave the order for it to continue as planned.
Economic growth and debt payment
Before Obasanjo's administration, Nigeria's GDP growth had been painfully slow since 1987, and only managed 3 per cent between 1999/2000. However, under Obasanjo the growth rate doubled to 6 per cent until he left office, helped in part by higher oil prices. Nigeria's foreign reserves rose from $2 billion in 1999 to $43 billion on leaving office in 2007. He was able to secure debt pardons from the Paris and London club amounting to some $18 billion and paid another $18 billion to be debt free. Most of these loans were accumulated from short term trade arrears during the exchange control period. (Point of correction). Most of these loans were accumulated not out of corruption but during a period 1982-1985 when Nigeria operated exchange control regime that vested all foreign exchange transactions on the central bank of Nigeria. The naira exchange rate to the US dollar and other major currencies during this period was highly regulated and artificially high. Nigerian importers paid local currency equivalent to the central bank through their local commercial banks but during the oil glut period of 1982-86 when foreign exchange was scarce the central bank did not have enough foreign exchange to pay for current imports. This resulted in short term foreign trade payment arrears. Short term trade arrears averaged about US$3.0 billion each year between 1983 and 1986 when the new military government of General Babangida floated the naira and imports were thereafter paid for on a current basis.
Nigeria stopped accumulating short term foreign trade payment arrears beginning from 1986. Before then, yearly accumulation of around US$3.0 billion created the foreign debt for Nigeria. Subsequent growth of Nigeria's debt was due to interest on the previous year's stock of short term trade debt owed to export credit agencies and non-insured creditors (Source:CBN Annual Reports 1983-1986. This information to refute the claim that corruption was the source of Nigeria's past foreign debt is supplied by Osarenren F. Asemota Former CBN Balance of Payment Staff).
Cabinet (Federal Executive Council)
Obasanjo made frequent changes to his cabinet of Federal Ministers and Ministers of State during his two terms of office, and periodically split or combined ministries. He made a major cabinet reshuffle in June 2000. In January 2001 he dissolved his cabinet, appointing Mr Mike Umelo his speech writer, who turned down the offer in favour of accepting a place at Leeds University to pursue a Post Graduate study in Philosophy. In December 2004 he named 12 new ministers. In June 2005 he reshuffled his cabinet again. In January 2007 a few months before leaving office, he made yet another drastic overhaul.
|Chief of Staff||Major-General Abdullahi Mohammed (Rtd.)||1999–2007|
|National Security Adviser||Lt. General Aliyu Mohammed (Rtd.)||1999–2006|
|Special Adviser on Communications||Onyema Ugochukwu||1999–2006|
|Chief Economic Adviser and National Coordinator of NAPEP||Dr. Magnus L. Kpakol||2001–2007|
|Press Secretary||Doyin Okupe||1999–2002|
|Chairman, Niger Delta Development Commission||Onyema Ugochukwu||2000–2004|
|Chairman, National Planning Commission||Abdullahi M. Wali||2003–2007|
|Chairman, National Sports Commission||Bala Bawa Ka'oje||2003–2007|
Third term agenda
Obasanjo was embroiled in controversy regarding his "Third Term Agenda," a plan to modify the constitution so he could serve a third, four-year term as President. This led to a political media uproar in Nigeria and the bill was not ratified by the National Assembly. Consequently, Obasanjo stepped down after the April 2007 general election. In an exclusive interview granted to Channels Television, Obasanjo denied involvement in what has been defined as "Third Term Agenda." He said that it was the National Assembly (Nigeria) that included tenure elongation amongst the other clauses of the Constitution of Nigeria that were to be amended. "I never toyed with the idea of a third term," Obasanjo said.
Obasanjo was condemned by major political players during the Third Term Agenda saga. Senator Ken Nnamani, former President of the Nigerian Senate claimed Obasanjo informed him about the agenda shortly after he became President of the Nigerian Senate. “Immediately, I became Senate President, he told me of his intentions and told me how he wanted to achieve it. I initially did not take him seriously until the events began to unfold”. He also insinuated that Eight Billion Naira was spent to corrupt legislators to support the agenda. “How can someone talk like this that he didn’t know about it, yet money, both in local and foreign currencies, exchanged hands,” he asked. Femi Gbajabiamila corroborated Nnamani's account but put the figure differently, “The money totalled over N 10 billion. How could N10bn be taken out of the national treasury for a project when you were the sitting President, yet that project was not your idea? Where did the money come from?” In the following quotes, Nnamani said President George W. Bush warned Obasanjo to desist from his plan to contest presidential election for the third term: “If you want to be convinced that the man is only telling a lie, pick up a copy of the book written by Condoleza Rice, the former Secretary to the Government of the United States of America. It is actually an autobiography by Rice. On page 628 or page 638, she discussed Obasanjo’s meeting with Bush, how he told the former American President that he wanted to see how he could amend the Constitution, so that he could go for a third term. To his surprise, Bush told him not to try it. Bush told him to be patriotic and leave by May 29, 2007.”
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.
Obasanjo is 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.
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 is a member of the Africa Progress Panel (APP), a group of ten distinguished individuals who advocate at the highest levels for equitable and sustainable development in Africa. Every year, the Panel releases a report, the Africa Progress Report, that outlines an issue of immediate importance to the continent and suggests a set of associated policies. In 2012, the Africa Progress Report highlighted issues of Jobs, Justice, and Equity. The 2013 report will outline issues relating to oil, gas, and mining in Africa.
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.
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.