Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, the Balogun and Prime-Minister of Owu Kingdom, a retired army General, a one time Military Head of State, and past Executive President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria typifies the Owu man in every respect; a no nonsense breed of people that are propelled by an unquenching passion for excellence that usually renders them badly misunderstood.
Owulakoda features this iconic character on this page…
He was bequeathed to Nigeria through a humble peasant family of lean resources but the story of Africa’s leading state cannot be completely told without several chapters devoted to the remarkable landmarks of Olusegun Okikiola Aremu Obasanjo. In the languid village of Ibogun, located in the present day Ifo Local Government Area of Ogun State, southwest Nigeria, where he was born on March 5, 1937, not even the seers could have predicted how great the child would be several decades later. But even before he quit office on May 29, 2007, President Obasanjo has already secured an imperishable place in Nigeria’s history ruling for 11 years, a quarter of the country’s chequred history as a nation. For the African continent and indeed the global community, his various roles have justifiably earned him the respect and admiration and transformed the image of Nigeria and Africa well beyond anyone’s highest expectations.
Olusegun Obasanjo’s beginning was rugged and that toughened him for future challenges. He soon learned what it was to work and pay for one’s education. At Baptist Boy’s High School (BBHS), Abeokuta (1952-56), he did quite well academically. Although unable to go to university because of his family’s low financial circumstances, he found in the Nigerian Army a great institution for self- fulfillment.
He kick started what turned out to be his glorious military career by enlisting in the Nigerian Army in March 1958, after working briefly as a teacher following the end of his schooling at BBHS. His first formal training was at the Regular Officers’ Special Training School, Teshi, Ghana and later at Mons Officers’ Cadet School, Aldershot, England (1958-59).
President Obasanjo used the platform of the Army to actualize his burning desire for intellectual activities. This is made evident by the many academic friends, which he has kept over the years right from the beginning of his life as a soldier. It is generally thought that if President Obasanjo did not join the Army, he probably would have been a successful academic.
He further trained at the Royal College of Military Engineering, Chatham, England; School of Survey, Newbury, England; Indian Defence College; Indian Army School of Engineering, Poona; and Royal Defense Studies, London, among other military institutions.
As a soldier, President Obasanjo held several command positions including service with the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in the then Congo. But his outstanding military moment came in 1969 when he took over command of the 3rd Marine Command from the then Colonel Benjamin Adekunle. He conceived and immediately launched “Operation Tail Wind” which helped to bring the debilitating civil war to a quick end.
On his return from a Senior Officers’ Course at Britain’s College of Defense Studies in 1974, the then Brigadier Obasanjo was appointed Federal Commissioner for Works and Housing. After the coup of July 29, 1975, he became the second-in-command to Brigadier Murtala Muhammed as the Chief of Staff, Supreme Headquarters. During his tenure, he began an ambitious nationwide barracks construction projects. Several years before, he made friends with Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu about whom he wrote the book, Nzeogwu, among many other works.
3. First Coming: 1976-79
Following the assassination of General Murtala Muhammed in a military coup on February 13, 1976, General Obasanjo reluctantly stepped into Muhammed’s shoes and did not go back on the administration’s goal and objective, which he successfully achieved. In 1977, he formed the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), organized the second World Black and African ‘Festival of Arts and Culture (FESTAC ’77), established the Egbin, Ughelli and Afam thermal power stations; set up the Corrupt Practice Bureau; and through his government’s efforts, independence was achieved for Angola and later Zimbabwe.
He introduced the National Pledge to stoke up Nigerian nationalism and indigenized the lyrics of the national anthem. He set up the Constitution Drafting Committee and the Constituent Assembly; introduced the N20 currency in honour of his friend and predecessor, the Late General Murtala Muhammed and introduced the controversial Land Use Decree on March 29, 1978. Generall Obasanjo also confirmed the movement of the Federal Capital from Lagos to Abuja in accordance with the Murtala-Obasanjo policy program.
To crown it all up, the single-mindedness and determination with which General Obasanjo kept to the Muhammed-Obasanjo administration’s word of handing over the reins of office to a democratically elected government and the zeal he deployed into executing the political program that terminated on October 1, 1979 impressed Nigerians and the international community at a time many military rulers elsewhere in Africa were unenthusiastic about relinquishing power to elected governments. It was a dark era when African leaders found it fashionable to hang on to power even in the face of popular opposition.
4. Life after Dodan Barraks
On leaving office as military Head of State in 1979, several international and local challenges faced General Obasanjo The international community realized his vast skills and talent and decided to exploit them. Thus Obasanjo was appointed or nominated into one international service after the other. A shortlist of these international assignments included:
1983-89 Member, Independent Commission on Disarmament and Security (the Olaf Palme Commission)
1983, Member WHO Committee of experts on the Effects of Nuclear Weapons 1983, Member Inter Action Council of former Heads of State and Government
1985, Chairperson, High-level Expert Group on Military Expenditures by Developing Countries
1986, Co-Chairman, Commonwealth Eminent Persons Group on South Africa. 1986, Member, United Nations Panel on Eminent Persons on the relationship between Disarmament and Development.
1987-93, Director, Better World Society, Washington D.C.
1988-89, Founder and Chairman, African Leadership Forum and Chairman, Board of Directors, African Leadership Foundation Inc., New York
1988 (May), Chairman, Hearing on Namibia, the World Council of Churches, Washington D.C.
1988-99, Special Adviser to the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, Ibadan.
1989, Honorary Member, Committee on the United Nations Population Award. 1989, Member, Independent Group on Financial Development for Developing Countries (the Schmidt Commission)
1989, Member, Advisory Council, Parliamentarian Global Action. 1989-99, Chairman, Advisory Council, Transparency International (TI) 1990, Member, Advisory Council, the Institute for Global Ethics. 1991-93, Publisher, African Forum Quarterly
1991, Member, Eminent Persons Council, International Negotiations Network, the Carter Centre of Emory University, Atlanta.
1991, Member, Council of Advisers, The World Food Price, Des Monies Iowa. 1992, Member, Advisory Group on United Nations Financing (Ford Foundation). 1993-95, Member, United Nations Secretary General’s Advisory Panel on Africa. 1994-0fficial Observer of the Elections in Mozambique at the invitation of the Government of Mozambique ..
1994-99 Member, Advisory Council, Carnegie Commission on Preventing Deadly Conflicts
1995-99, UNDP Human Development Ambassador
These and many others have helped to raise the stature of President Obasanjo above that of any other living Nigerian. In 1992 he was even in the race for the position of Secretary General of the United Nations.
5. Down the Valley: Prisoner of Hope (1995-98)
In 1995, this former Head of State became a very important prisoner when the military dictator, General Sani Abacha clamped a phony coup plot charge on him. It is believed that General Obasanjo who was abroad at the time when the alleged coup plot was uncovered and was warned by friends that he had been fingered by the regime as an accomplice, boldly returned home to face the dragon. As was widely expected, he was found guilty and banished to a regional local prison in Yola where it was intended that he would die.
It is now generally believed among his friends that that prison experience made him a new creature. First, he saw first-hand what the phrase: man’s inhumanity to man truly means. Second, he was drawn closer to God, he became truly convinced of the need for a true democracy and saw the tragedy of military rule. Out of jail in June 1998, he quickly published Guide to Effective Prayer, The Animal Called Man (1999) and Women of Virtue (1999). later in 2002, he also published his memoirs titled Sermons from Prison.
His prison experience though short-lived because of the death of his jailer has sometimes been likened to that of South Africa’s most famous prisoner, Nelson Mandela. Obasanjo and Mandela stand out today as two distinguished African democrats who were jailed for unjust causes, rescued by divine providence and still actively involved in chasing a past greatness for Africa.
6. Second Time Around (1999-2003; 2003-2007)
President Obasanjo’s civilian presidency is an example of a true second coming. He received the people’s mandate first for a four-year tenure and renewed during the 2003 Presidential Election 20 years after he handed over power to a democratically elected government.
The circumstances of his Second Coming were as controversial as the man himself.
Coming at the time it did after Chief M K 0 Abiola lost his mandate and having been accused by a section of his Yoruba people for having supported the annulment of the 1993 presidential election, he was considered an unlikely successor to that mandate. That was partly why the South West made him look like an orphan in the 1999 election giving him the least regional vote. But Obasanjo seemed like one destined to rewrite the rulebooks. Quite against the run of critical thinking, he emerged as the first civilian president since 1983. And his achievements became quite clear that his kith and kin rallied behind him to give him a truly pan-Nigerian mandate in 2003.
Certainly there were numerous expectations from different quarters especially from those who gave him the mandate. There were clearly some policies, which bore the hallmarks of great thinking and a desire to improve the socio-economic health of the nation. Unfortunately, some of the loudest criticisms have been targeted at hanging state officials tasked with their implementation.
The Obasanjo administration initiated and executed projects that positively impacted on the lives of Nigerians, irrespective of the status. They included the Poverty Eradication Program, the establishment of the Niger Delta Development Commission to facilitate the provision of more infrastructure and social services in the oil producing communities of the Niger Delta, Universal Basic Education and the general improvement of infrastructure. These were aimed at changing the economic, educational and political development of deprived Nigerians.
His administration’s notable achievements cut across several spheres of national life, including Agriculture, Communications, Health, Education and Finance, among others.
• Implementation of package policies, programs and incentives that has resulted in a remarkable 7 per cent annual growth in agricultural production
• Provision of fertilizers, tractors, seedlings and other inputs for farmers at highly subsidized prices.
• Introduction of policy that make the government the buyer of last resort for agricultural produce in the country
• Revitalization of the National Strategic Grains Reserve Program
• Establishment of the Nigeria Agricultural Cooperative and Rural Development Bank (NACRD) to provide loans for farmers at more affordable rate and interest.
• A Cocoa Rehabilitation Program to boost cocoa production.
• Implementation of action plan to boost domestic production of cassava, rice and other
• Enhancement of safety oversight
• Improvement of airport and aviation security management
• Increased deregulation of Air Transportation
• National Civil Aviation policy reviewed to bring the industry to international standard
• New infrastructural developments in the airports
• Eradication of corruption, touting and other vices
• Introduction of National Health Insurance Scheme, to make all Nigerians have access
to good health
• Revitalization of National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), which has launched out war on fake and adulterated drugs in the country.
• Level of immunization now over 80% in the country, high enough to break the backbone of communicable diseases
• Eight Teaching Hospitals are being upgraded, re-equipped and refurbished to give five
star treatment to Nigerians.
• Vaccine storage facility capable of taking care of the whole of West Africa built in
• HIV / AIDS awareness program stepped up
• Distribution of Anti-Retroviral Drugs at highly subsidized rate.
• Work in progress on the establishment of at least one primary health care centre In each of about 8,000 wards in the country.
• Establishment of the Natior.al Blood Transfusion Services.
• National economy received a boost of over $4b from the introduction of GSM •. Fixed line operations increased from nine to 16
•. Licensed four GSM operators
•. Licensed second national carrier
•. Over 50,000 technical and support services jobs created in communications sector •. Over 548 local government headquarters now have access to telecommunication
facilities under Rural Telephony Project.
•. Re-engineered NIPOST to deliver mail to any part of the country within 72 hours through the National Mail Route Network System.
•. Successfully launched observing Micro Satellite Code named Nigeria SAT 1 making
Nigeria the first black African country to successfully launch a satellite into space.
•. National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) constructed 6 Mobile
Internet Units (MIU) to carry out information Technology education and Internet awareness to the rural communities.
• Launched the Universal Basic Education (UBE) program
• Procurement and distribution of modern computers and computers accessories to
Unity/technical schools across the country.
• Implementation of National Virtual Library Project
• National Open University was engineered to increase access higher education.
• Salaries of academic staff in higher institutions increased by over 1 00 percent.
• Presentation of an executive- University Autonomy Bill to the National Assembly.
approval of Private Universities to boost access to education
• Establishment of national Education Council
• Introduction of feeding program for school children
• Increase in Foreign reserve to about $35 billion
• The Paris Club debt relief
.’ The Debt Management Office (DMO) has made significant progress in loan portfolio auditing,
• Engineering a remarkable improvement in Nigeria’s revenue profile with growth in the no-oil sector keeping pace with growth in oil revenues
• Increment of revenue allocations to states and local governments to levels never
achieved under previous administrations,
• Enhancement of the performance of the Nigerian Customs Service
• Central Bank of Nigeria was given autonomy, which leads to Universal banking
• Recapitilisation of Banking sector was successful
• Recapitilisation of insurance companies is in progress
.’ Increased industrial capacity utilization from about 30% before the inception of the Administration to 100% in some sectors
.’ Introduction of measures to give local manufacturers more protection against foreign competition
.’ Downward review of import duties on imported machinery and raw materials for local manufacturers,
.’ Promotion and development of Small and Medium Scale Industries
.’ Establishment of small and Medium Industries Equity Investment Scheme (SMIEIS), funded with 10% of the pre-tax profit of commercial banks,
.’ Establishment of Bank of Industry (BOI) to aid the resuscitation of ailing industries and promote new ones
• Award of contracts valued over N250 billion for the provision of water to various
rural and urban communities
.’ Construction and rehabilitation of dams for irrigations and power generation.
• Over 12 River Basin Authorities has been resuscitated to boost irrigated agriculture
• Water supply coverage in the country now over 50% as against 30% in 1999
• Nation’s crude oil/condensates reserves increased to over 30 billion barrels
• Cash call arrears of over $1 billion liquidated.
• More joint operations agreements on exploration and production signed by NNPC
with multi-national companies
• The Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas project took off
• NNPC mega filling stations established in major cities across the country
•. Over N300 billion committed to road projects •. Over 60 road projects completed
•. Establishment of FERMA for the maintenance of our roads •. Launching of Operation 500 roads.
• More investors have been attracted to Nigeria’s oil and gas industry through the Progressive policies,
• Collaboration with international Cocoa Organisation and Common Fund for Commodities on a pilot project to improve Cocoa Marketing
• Launching of several commodity associations to encourage non-oil production and export
• Trade and Investment Framework Agreement signed in USA
• To reduce incidences of Trade Malpractices also known as 1/419,1/ Economic and Financial Crimes Commision was established
• To boost trade, funds were released for construction of International Trade Fair complexes.
•. Establishment, restructuring and development of Free Trade Zone in the country •. Establishment of Consumers Protection Council and putting in place Consumer Protection committees in each state and Abuja
POWER AND STEEL
• Power generation raised to over 4000megawwatts through comprehensive
rehabilitation of power stations
• Completion of 138 MW Afam Power Plants
• Completion of six 25MW power plants in Delta
• Joint Venture Agreement signed for the rehabilitation and operation of Delta Steel Company.
SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
• Over N360 million disbursed to Nigerian Scientists as research grants
• More funds disbursed to Nigerians for inventive works
• Increased research and application of biotechnology for agricultural production.
• Development and approval of national policy for information technology
• Establishment of indigenous technology centres nationwide
• Establishment of joint commission and bilateral agreements with other countries to
maintain internal security as it pertains to border control
• Nationwide Registration for National Identify Card undertaken
• Successful conduct of National population and housing census
• Processing of passports now takes between 24 and 72 hours
• Human Trafficking/Child Labour Unit established to combat human trafficking for prostitution and child labour
Played a key role in the establishment of the Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD)
Played a leading role in the return of the President of Sao Tome and Principe to Power
after a military take over
Set up machinery to resolve the recent crisis in Liberia and further assist in restoring democracy to the country
Efforts to secure the cooperation of Western countries in the repatriation of funds stolen from Nigeria are yielding positive results
Played a leading role in the resolution of the crisis in Cote D’Ivoire, Sierra Leone and Sudan among others
Successfully hosted Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Abuja
As a result of the efforts of this administration, Nigeria has fully resumed its rightful place in the comity of nations after years of being considered a pariah state. Establishment of Nigerians in Diaspora Organization to contribute to national Development.
WAR AGAINST CORRUPTION
Establishment of Budget Monitoring & Price Intelligence Unit who has saved over N150 billion.
Establishment of Independent Corrupt Practice And Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) and (EFCC)
War against corruption received domestic and international accolades.
OOPL as an Enduring Legacy
In 1988, nine years after he relinquished power as military Head of State, Chief Obasanjo thought of an enduring legacy that would capture his years as Nigeria’s leader. But the idea of what is today known as Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library did not begin to crystallize until about a decade later; about which time fortune launched him once again into the nation’s No.1 seat.
Conceived in the mould of American Presidential Libraries, OOPL remains the first of its kind in Nigeria and arguably in the whole of the African continent. The massive project, located in President Obasanjo’s hometown of Abeokuta, southwest Nigeria, will provide an accommodation for the life’s work and memorabilia on the Obasanjo Presidential years as well as an ambience to carry out research work on him and other matters of interest.
Indeed, Olusegun Okikiola Aremu Obansanjo will forever live in the minds of present and future generations of Nigerians and indeed other world citizens.
(culled from ‘Bio-Data of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’ published in the brochure of the HOMECOMING celebration)
ORIKI OJE – THE ORIKI (ANCESTORAL POETRY) OF OBASANJO
Aro ge, Omo alaa mese, omo opejoye, oge npetu, Omo aroti we bi ojo.
Omo eye mumi sasa loje ile
Omo elekiti mope timo otun oloia to lo oje
Omo elewu dudu to muti ku faare nigbo yemetu.
Omo aridi ogo logun omo aroyin ogun baara fagbe
Omo bim bim a fee bu wonti wonti
Omo obinrin jowu orere obi se re je
Omo sakiti wonyin wonyin lIasa o gbaro
Oje kii jeye ego, beeni kii ie eye orofo ojo to ba binu
won a fi itan re mejeji binu
Omo agbon odo soro Ion pe tu.
Oje ‘niti oun baku, ki e pon oun ni ki soro.
Oni awe ajo pelu ni oropekun aso. Ojo ti oje ba pon ki ni oro baje,
Ojo ti Oje ba gori odo nse lose lanpose
Ema je ki oje gori odo, oio ti oje ba gori odo abuse buse .
Omo opojo si bi ina
Omo opoluwo so tete kan Omo aja nkon nimu’ na Omo oluwo njowere paka
Emi oni jaja Oluwo, toje’ kere lenu. Oje omo aroti we bi Ojo.
Omo ilekun ojowu ti igbase gbo
Omoopojo fun won ran awe
Oti da loje, baba won o gbo ti nu
Ko da loie baba won gboti mu
Omo oti gbele aluni okon
Omo oti igbaje, apoyi ranyin
‘Looro loti fomo odo fodo
Ooro ni won f’ omo odo fodo
Ooro ni won ri to odo lonpetu
Omo aja abaso kole