AUGUST 2020 PERSONALITY OF THE MONTH: OLUSEGUN OBASANJO

Since every individual will be remembered for his or her actions, there are always some deliberate actions that determine history’s reflection. In the words of John Quincy Adam, ‘if your actions inspire others to do more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.’ The development of every country balls down to the actions and inactions of her leaders. Africa is deemed to be underdeveloped and this is as a result of her leaders. Though Nigeria also has her leadership crises, actions of one of her past leaders have shaped the country as a whole. Blessed with over 190 million citizens, many wonders why Nigeria keeps getting the type of leaders they get. Of all leaders, both during the military era and democratic rule, one stands out even with his evident flaws. 

Born on the 15th March 1937 to Pa Amos Adigun and Ashabi Obasanjo in Abeokuta, Olusegun Aremu Mathew Obasanjo was a child determined for greatness. For his primary education, he attended Ebenezer school in 1948 and then continued his education at Baptist Boy’s High School in Abeokuta. Due to the death of his mother and father in 1958 and 1959 respectively, he joined the Nigerian army in 1958. Married to several women at different times, he is father to numerous children as well. As an astute man, he rose through the ranks in the military speedily. In 1965, after becoming a major, he attended the defence service staff college in India where he gained recognition as the best Nigerian officer sent to Wellington, India. 

Obasanjo’s reputation increased steadily as a result of his dedication to work. As the officer commanding the marine commando division, southern eastern Nigeria, he accepted the surrender of the Biafran soldiers which brought a stop to the civil war in 1970. In 1975, he was made the federal commissioner for works and housing by the then Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon. He escaped a coup on February 13, 1976, though his principal, Muritala Muhammed was assassinated. Following the death of Muritala, Obasanjo became the Head of State and promised to hand over power to the civilian which he did on October 1, 1979.

During his three-year rule as Head of State, he embarked on numerous much-appreciated reforms. He increased the number of federal universities in Nigeria from five to fourteen. He also established the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB) which is the body still responsible for student’s admission into universities. He constructed Muritala Muhammed airport in Lagos which is now the busiest airport in Nigeria and a source of income for the country. He reformed the Agricultural sector and constructed more refineries which improved the total quantity of crude oil produced translating into more foreign revenues for the country. Years after handing over, there were coups and counter-coups which he vehemently opposed. In 1995, he was sentenced to death but later changed to life in imprisonment by Sani Abacha all because he opposed his regime.

Obasanjo regained his freedom after Abacha’s death in 1998 and then contested for 1999 democratic presidential election which he won. His victory brought an end to a sixteen-year military rule. As president, he established the Economic and Financial Crime Commission and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) with the sole purpose of fighting corruption. As part of his aim to develop the country, he introduced the Global System of Mobile (GSM) which enhanced communication in the country. He also secured debt pardons from the Paris and London clubs. 

President Olusegun Obasanjo is also known for his writing prowess. he has written numerous books such as; I See Hope (2002), Years of Reconstruction (2007), Hope for Africa (1993), Standing Tall (2005), My Watch (2014), My Watch Volume 1: Early Life and Military, (2015), My Watch Volume 2: Now and Then (2015), Making Africa Work: A Handbook (2017) and many more. He also constantly writes open letters which address salient issues ranging from governmental inadequacies, need for infrastructural development amongst others.

As a renowned elder state man and widely recognised personality, former president Olusegun Obasanjo is a recipient of numerous awards. some of these notable awards include; National Achievement Award, Africa America Institute (1999), Lifetime Achievement Award, African Telecom Hall of Fame Award (2010), Father of the Nation, National Youth Council of Nigeria (2019) and so on. According to Henry Kissinger, ‘the task of the leader is to get their people from where they are to where they have not been.’ Though President Olusegun was embroiled in various controversies, his impact in the development of Nigeria is very much evident and appreciated by Nigerians.

This article was written for Fatherland Gazette by SOLA ALOGBA

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