Olusegun Obasanjo

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Olusegun Obasanjo
Olusegun Obasanjo
Term of office May 29, 1999 – Present
Preceded by Abdulsalami Abubakar
Succeeded by Incumbent
Date of birth March 5, 1937
Place of birth Abeokuta,
Spouse Many(Polygamist)
Political party People's Democratic Party

Olusegun Mathew Okikiola Aremu Obasanjo (born March 5, 1937) has been the President of Nigeria since 1999. A born-again Christian of Yoruba extraction, Obasanjo was a career soldier before serving twice as his nation's head of state, once as a military ruler, between 13 February 1976 and 1 October 1979 and again, since 1999, as elected president.

Obasanjo was born in Abeokuta, Ogun State, and he enlisted into the army at the age of 18. He trained at Aldershot and was commissioned as an officer. Although he did not directly participate in the military coup of July 29, 1975, led by Murtala Ramat Mohammed, he was named Murtala's deputy in the new government. When Mohammed was assassinated in an attempted coup in February 13, 1976, Obasanjo replaced him as head of state. He served until October 1, 1979, when he handed power to Shehu Shagari, a democratically elected civilian president, becoming the first leader in Nigerian history to surrender power willingly. In late 1983, however, the military seized power again. Obasanjo, being in retirement, did not participate in that coup, and did not approve of it.

During the dictatorship of Sani Abacha (19931998), Obasanjo spoke out against the human rights abuses of the regime, and was imprisoned. He was released only after Abacha's sudden death on 8 June 1998. It was after his release from prison that Obasanjo announced that he was now a born-again Christian. Some commentators have seen this as a crucial factor that in cementing his popularity in Nigeria's southern states where Christianity is the predominant faith.

In the 1999 elections, the first for sixteen years, he decided to run for the presidency as the candidate of the People's Democratic Party. Obasanjo won with 62.6 percent of the vote, sweeping the strongly Christian South-East and the predominantly Muslim north, but decisively lost his home region, the south-west, to his fellow-Yoruba and fellow-Christian, Olu Falae, the only other candidate. It is thought that lingering resentment among his fellow-Yorubas about his previous administration of 1976 to 1979, after which he handed power over to a government dominated by northerners rather than by Yorubas, contributed to his poor showing among his own people.

Olusegun Obasanjo with Donald Rumsfeld
Olusegun Obasanjo with Donald Rumsfeld

Obasanjo was reelected in 2003 in a tumultuous election that had ethnic and religious overtones, his main opponent (fellow former military ruler General Muhammadu Buhari) being a Muslim who drew his support mainly from the north. Capturing 61.8 percent of the vote, Obasanjo defeated Buhari by more than million votes. Buhari and other defeated candidates (including Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, the former Biafran leader of the 1960s), claimed that the election was fraudulent. International observers from the Commonwealth of Nations were more nuanced in their judgement. They concluded that while there had been incidents of fraud on both sides, Obasanjo's margin of victory was so huge that electoral malpractice would not have changed the result. Much more worrying was the increasing polarization of Nigeria along geographic and religious lines. Obasanjo made a spectacular sweep of the South, including the south-west where he had lost four years earlier, but lost considerable ground in the North. For a nation in which ethnicity and religion ties in strongly to geography, such a trend was seen by many as particularly disturbing. Other commentators might simply note that in 2003, unlike 1999, Obasanjo was running against a Northerner and could therefore expect his support to erode in the North.

Since leading a charge against corruption and economic reforms in his country, he is seen widely as an African statesman championing debt relief, free trade, market reforms and democratic institutions (thrice rejecting government change by coup in the continent of Africa as the chairperson of the African Union). However, the levels of corruption in the Nigerian state seems to be at its highest ever level. Obasanjo, has built an empire of wealth for himself and his cronies while prosecuting anyone who disagrees with his views. It is speculated that Obasanjo is preparing to run for a third term and is prepared to make changes to the constitution to allow him run.

Like most African leaders, Obasanjo lacks accountability and has used his 'absolute' power to destroy political opposition, enrich his cronies and further emprovish the Nigerian state.

On October 23, 2005 (just hours after the crash of Bellview Airlines Flight 210), the President lost his favorite wife, Stella Obasanjo, First Lady of Nigeria. Obasanjo has also has many other children, some out of wedlock, and who live throughout Nigeria and the United States. One of his sons, Dare Obasanjo (aka "Carnage4Life") is a well-known XML proponent; he works at Microsoft and is the author of a popular weblog. Another one of his daughters until recently was a commissioner in one of the south-western states, and yet another daughter is married to a British clergyman.

Preceded by:
Joaquim Chissano
Chairman of the African Union
Preceded by:
Abdulsalami Abubakar
President of Nigeria
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