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Chronicling Obasano’s role in Nigeria’s history

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Olusegun Obasanjo


Since independence, Nigeria has faced many difficult times as results of tribal loyalty, regional differences, unacceptable election results and low level of economic development among others. But these challenges have not been able to conquer or break the nation. Rather, they have made it stronger.

A book written by Adebayo Adeolu, a freelance writer and businessman titled “Olusegun Obasanjo: Nigeria’s Most Successful Ruler” and published by Safari Books Ltd, attempted an explanation of the country’s resilience. The 290-page book showed that Nigeria has always been on a brink of disintegration especially when a particular ethnic group grows tired of another or feel cheated.

This was attested to by Moshood Abiola’s response to former Military President Ibrahim Babangida when he offered him the position of Prime Minister which he rejected saying “I wont play second fiddle to anybody. Why does the North feel a southerner cannot be president in Nigeria? Are their heads better than ours in the South?”

In Chapter 18, the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) and Alliance for Democracy (AD) demanded for a National Conference when Chief Abraham Adesanya canvassed for a southern president and an immediate confab to divide Nigeria into six zones declaring they were tired of the north dominating the presidency at all times which made Obasanjo to call for national unity. He was however rejected by Yoruba leaders in Afenifere.

Another account suffices in Chapter 19 when Christians reacted with suspicion that the North wanted to Islamize Nigeria. Obsanjo played a prominent role in restoring peace and tranquility to the country, which could have informed the title of the book.Other aspects of the book chronicled the information about the childhood days of Matthew Fajinmi Aremu Olusegun, as he was fondly called then in the obscure Yoruba village of Ibogun Olaogun near Ota, north of Ifo town in Ogun State. He never had reasons to go to school until age 11 as he was completely engaged with farming by his father, Obasanjo Bankole.

From St. David Ebenezer School to Baptist Day School in Owu and his days at Baptist Boys High School where he met Abiola, and his (Obasanjo’s) wife, Oluremi Akinlawon, the author gives a vivid report that captures the ingenuity of Obasanjo from childhood.

In March 1958, Obasanjo became a cadet in the Army and was sent to Ghana for a six-month intensive preparatory training and with him was Benjamin Adekunle, Henry Igboba, Sam Adegoke among others.

The first major calamity that befell Obasanjo was how his parents died almost the same time. Just after he completed his training in Ghana in 1958, he lost his mother. He has not recovered from the loss before his father also gave up the ghost in 1959. He became an orphan. According to certain reports, perhaps this was one of the things that toughened him as a soldier.

In his lifetime, Obasanjo has escaped death severally. One of such experiences was the 1966 coup that was spearheaded mostly by Igbo officers in the army but the author uses the book to reveal how he narrowly escaped.

Though he may have his flaws and limitations, it seems that from all indications, even right from when he joined the army till he rose to become the Head of State in 1976, Obasanjo was adjudged to be a detribalised leader.

Chief Olusegun Obasanjo as Muhammed’s successor was unwilling to become the Head of State after Muhammed, especially given the terrible circumstances in which he was assassinated.

What heightened the apprehension for him, according to Adeolu, was the fact that members of his family were so scared about the situation that they did not want him to step into Muhammed’s shoes.

Among the family, Iyabo Obasanjo, a former commissioner and senator, particularly dreaded his taking up the mantle of leadership. In Chapter 21 of the book, titled Iyabo Obasanjo and Her Letter, Adeolu notes that Iyabo, of whom Obasanjo was fond, displayed unusual wisdom as she grew up. As a result, the family accorded her a lot of respect.

In the heat of the Army’s deliberations over who would succeed Muhammed, she, according to the author, shocked the family when she told her father, “Daddy, do not become the Head of State.”

Adeolu wrote, “This startled the whole house and silence fell on the room like a graveyard. The drop of a pin could be heard. This was Africa and Nigeria, where superstitious beliefs are rife. Some family members did believe it could be a warning from God that he should be careful and watchful or probably that he should not take the job.”

According to Adeolu many of Obasanjo’s enemies became bitter when he came in for a second term that they launched an attack on Iyabo. He noted that her convoy was shot at, killing two children of her friend who she was sitting with in her car. “The children had innocently wanted to see what a tinted car would look like riding inside it. The enemies, not satisfied planned another attack that would hit Obasanjo badly and they neatly hatched their plan two years later.”

The author reported that Stella Obasanjo, was turning sixty years when they plotted again. It started with close friends asking her to do cosmetic surgery so she could look forty years old on which she did their wish.

“Then they encouraged her to do her stomach to crown her looks so she can be slim like a young girl which she agreed not knowing that danger awaited her. The was already hatched as her friends who had houses and apartments abroad where the surgery was to take place had recommended the cosmetic plastic surgeon. It was only a simple procedure, almost 100 percent safe but sinister motives had been planned for the Doctor to do a bad job that would bring death.”

The book is very interesting as it detailed almost everything that needs to be known of the former president and the Nigerian nation about military and civilian rule. The book also gives hope of a one Nigeria as most of the crisis experienced now had happened in time past, it can even be said to be bloodier then than now.

However there are a number of errors in the book, which might have resulted from printer and editorial lapses that the revised edition needs to address. However, the book has an excellent narrative, comprehensive research, assorted coloured photographs from rare archive and lucid prose.


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Olusegun Obasanjo

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