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Olusegun Obasanjo
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World Leader
    (March 5, 1937- )
    Born in Ibogun-Olaogun, Nigeria
    Birth name was Matthew Olusegun Aremu Obasanjo
    Military engineer
    Served as military head of state (1976-79) and president (1999-20007) of Nigeria
    Chair of the African Union (2004-06)
    When he joined the army, he kept it secret from his parents, fearing they would object.
    His first wife claimed he beat her.
    He first came to power via a military coup.
    When cuts in university funding resulted in student protests, he closed several universities and banned political activity on campus (1978).
    Shortly before leaving power, he gave himself a promotion to four-star general (April, 1979).
    Although he did not participate in the next coup that restored the military to power (December, 1983), he publicly supported it, declaring that democracy had failed.
    He campaigned for the post of UN Secretary General when Javier Perez de Cuellar resigned, but lost out to Boutros Boutros-Ghali (1991).
    After his election, he refused to move into the presidential residence until it had been exorcised.
    He made little headway in fighting the widespread corruption in the country.
    He unsuccessfully tried to amend the constitution so he could run for a third term as president.
    After his father abandoned the family, he paid his school fees by working on a cocoa farm, fishing, collecting firewood, and performing manual jobs at the school, such as mowing the lawns.
    While training at the Royal College of Military Engineering in England, he was called ‘the best Commonwealth student ever.’
    He earned a reputation for courage when he was wounded while touring the front during the Biafra War (1969).
    At the end of the war (1970), he tried to prevent soldiers from attacking the local civilians; he ordered the flogging of soldiers guilty of looting, and had soldiers shot for committing rape.
    He survived an assassination attempt during an unsuccessful coup (February 13, 1976).
    He arranged the peaceful transfer of power to an elected civilian government (October, 1979).
    Sani Abacha had him sentenced to life in prison (later reduced to 15 years) on trumped-up charges (1995).
    He was elected president (February 27, 1999) when democracy was restored after Abacha’s death.
    He typically worked 18 to 20 hours a day.
    After leaving office, he earned a PhD in theology (2017).

Credit: C. Fishel

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