President of Nigeria (1976-1979; 1999-2007)
Date and Place of Birth:
5 March 1937, Abeokuta (Ogun, Nigeria).
Mr. Obasanjo enlisted in the army in 1958 which enabled him to visit various training schools both in his home country and abroad.
Professional Experience and Political Career:
Mr. Obasanjo became the Nigerian head of state for the first time in February 1976 following the assassination of General Murtala Ramat Mohammed – Mr. Obasanjo was until then Federal Commissioner for Work and Housing in Murtala’s military government.
Keeping the chain of command established by Murtala Muhammad in place, Mr. Obasanjo pledged to continue the programme for the restoration of civilian government and to carry forward the reform programme to improve the quality of public service. In October 1977, a Constitutive Assembly was convened in order to draw a new Carta Magna, which was later approved in September 1978. This led to the abolition of the military government, the end of the state of siege which had come about with the arrival of the military regime in 1966, and the legalization of political parties.
Mr. Obasanjo 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. Mr. Obasanjo, being in retirement, did not participate in that coup, nor did he support it.
During the dictatorship of Sani Abacha (1993–1998), Mr. Obasanjo spoke out against the human rights abuses of the regime, and was imprisoned with the claim of planning a coup. He was released only after Abacha's sudden death on 8 June 1998.
In the 1999 elections – the first democratic elections in sixteen years – he decided to run for the presidency as the candidate of the People's Democratic Party. Mr. Obasanjo won the elections and was later also re-elected in 2003.
While leading a public campaign against corruption and implementing economic reforms in his country, he has been widely seen abroad as an African statesman championing debt relief and democratic institutions.
Olusegun Obasanjo stepped down after the April 2007 elections – won by Umaru Yar’Adua. He has recently been appointed Special Envoy by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon to the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo.
Mr. Obasanjo is a member of the Africa Progress Panel, an independent authority on Africa launched in April 2007 to focus world leaders' attention on delivering their commitments to the continent.