Faces of Africa 01/08/2017 Chief Obasanjo at your service

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Olusegun Obasanjo was born in 1938 in Abeokuta, Ogun State Nigeria. His parents

could not afford to pay for his tuition fee hence in 1958 at the age of 21 he joined the

Nigerian army.

He acquired vast training on military and was commissioned as an officer in the

Nigerian Army. He was also trained in India at the Defense Services Staff College,

Wellington and at the Indian Army School of Engineering. He served at 1 Area

Command in Kaduna. He was later promoted to Chief Army Engineer and in 1967 he

was made commander of 2 Area.

Olusegun Obasanjo, former president of Nigeria addressing a crowd during the Biafra War which took place between 6th July 1967 and 15th January 1970.
Olusegun Obasanjo, former president of Nigeria addressing a crowd during the Biafra War which took place between 6th July 1967 and 15th January 1970.

During the Biafra war, popularly known as the Nigerian Civil War, he commanded

the Army’s 3 Marine Commando Division that took Owerri, effectively bringing an

end to the civil war. Owerri is the capital of Imo State in Nigeria set in the middle of

Igbo land. Before the city was captured in the Biafra war, Owerri was the capital of

the Republic of Biafra in 1969.

But though Obasanjo led towards the victory of the Biafra War, he tells how that did

not come easy. “Having to use Nigerians to fight Nigerians was not a pleasant task to

me. Especially when the officers are people with whom you have grown up with. It

was a harrowing experience,” he told.

In 1976 Obasanjo left the military and headed to Abeokuta where he started poultry

farming, ‘Obasanjo’s poultry farm’, which exists till today. Late in the year he took

over power when General Gowon was deposed by General Murtala Muhammad

because of poor governance and indiscipline in office.

Obasanjo embarked on a policy of boosting the economy by reviving Agriculture and

by improving the oil sector. He founded the Nigerian National Petroleum

Corporation, a joint venture between the Nigerian government and foreign oil

companies.

The gigantic Obasanjo Library that is under construction in Nigeria.
The gigantic Obasanjo Library that is under construction in Nigeria.

After two terms in power, he handed over power to Shehu Shagari. Shagari became

the first civilian president after thirteen years of military rule. Obasanjo remained a

politically astute leader remembered for the strict ending of coup regimes that had

become a musical chair in the country. But he also encountered a fair share of

negative remarks from the Nigerian populace.

In 2008, it was recorded that sixteen billion dollars was spent during Obasanjo’s

administration for electricity projects without significantly improving power supply.

Obasanjo’s possible involvement of embezzling funds was not proved but not

investigated either. “There is no honest government that has the authorization to bring

past leaders to court. Because Nigeria is corrupt,” told Femi Kuti – musician.

This is a general problem seemingly inevitable to any African leader.

Now that he is retired, Obasanjo is dedicating his efforts towards the building of his

gigantic library honored in his name, his poultry farms and at times remain vocal

towards the current political issues faced by his country, one recent issue being

insecurity which has become rampant in Nigeria.

Obasanjo at an official gathering. He never dropped his culture which is evident in his traditional dressing.
Obasanjo at an official gathering. He never dropped his culture which is evident in his traditional dressing.

But one thing has remained evident about Obasanjo. He never left his culture, the

Igbo culture. This is apparent with his dressing. He has never won a suit. “No, he

doesn’t have one (suit) He may have gone round the whole world but the essential

Obasanjo never left Igbo his village,” told Ayo Aderinwale – businessman.

“I believe that your culture is also part of your identity and that is something you

should never allow to be taken away from you,” told Obasanjo.

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