Obasanjo And The Curse Of Former Presidents By Tayo Oke, Ph.D

By Tayo Oke, Ph.D

Former President, Olusegun Obasanjo, has had the rare and unique privilege of running Nigeria not once, not twice, but three times within the last forty years and he still remains physically and mentally fit enough to engage with public life almost on a daily basis as he is wont to do.  He was the military head of state between February 1976 and September 1979 following the assassination of the then Head of State, General Murtala Mohammed, in a botched coup d’état. 

He handed over power to an elected civilian administration on October first 1979, and retired from the Nigerian army to become a “farmer” in his home state of Ogun. Over the subsequent years though, his business acumen appeared to have failed him as life in the private sector did not bring him the monetary rewards that his status as a former Head of State had propelled him to expect.  On the contrary, he was, by all accounts, ‘down to his last kobo’ by the end the 1980s, and had started creeping up at the corridors of power, trying to draw attention unto himself.  Other Heads of State and civilian Presidents came and went. They saw him as an irritant, but largely tolerated him without availing him of any worthwhile resource. The only one who pointedly refused to tolerate his grumblings was Abacha, who promptly put him in jail for making “too much noise” in an attempt to “destabilise” his regime. It was during his time in jail that he vowed to himself to become stupendously rich if he were ever to regain the reins of power in the country again.  

Lo and behold, Obasanjo became a civilian President in 1999, riding on the wave of the emotions generated for the murdered Moshood Abiola, the winner of the annulled Presidential election of 1992. Obasanjo’s rise to power this time was thought to be a ‘gift’ from the North to assuage the feelings of the South West geo-political zone for having deprived one of their own from assuming the Presidency through the annulled election decreed by a northern head of state, General Ibrahim Banbangida. Through the PDP rigging machine, Obasanjo ‘won’ re-election and served another term as a civilian President from 2003 to 2007. It was during these two periods as a civilian President that Obasanjo threw all caution to the winds in terms of his naked acquisition of personal wealth.  Details of his many shady deals and contract manipulations are common knowledge to merit an in-depth discussion here.   Suffice it to say that Obasanjo is a very wealthy man indeed today, not because of his business acumen or artistic endeavours, but for the sheer fact of having been President of Nigeria for two consecutive terms.  If he had left office the same way he did when he was military head of state, he would have gone hungry again in no time. So, he took no chances this time around. He not only made certain of his own massive personal financial security, he made certain of same for members of his family, his cronies and acolytes as well.  It is often the case that money power and political power are two of the world’s most potent aphrodisiacs. Possession of one often tempts one to seek the other.  Now, then, given that Obasanjo has tasted power, and has accumulated immense wealth, but he is still lurking and sniffing around the political alley ways like a dog.  Why?

The simple answer to the above puzzle is wrapped in one word: legacy. In Obasanjo's case the absence of it. He has had three attempts at wielding power as head of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and has left no significant impact; nothing of substance with which to remember him. By contrast, Awolowo served only one term as Premiere of the old Western region and left the indelible mark of modest mass welfarism, which every self-respecting governor in the country today is still trying to emulate. Murtala Mohamed was head of state for just six months before he was assassinated, but left a mark of distinction on Nigeria/Africa diplomacy and the can-do attitude he engendered in domestic affairs. Tunde Idiagbon, the de facto Nigerian leader during the Buhari military administration was only in office for two years, but his time is still fondly remembered for injecting discipline into our public life. Well, Obasanjo has built a Presidential library, created a gargantuan farming business that employs a large number of people hopefully turning in sizable profits for the Obasanjo clan, and set up a private university for those rich enough to afford it. These are great personal accomplishments, but to be a great influence on society, and create a lasting legacy, a person needs to set his sights on something far greater than himself; something that makes other people think and feel different about their personal lives; something that gives people a different appreciation for life in the society they live in. It is a remarkable feat only achieved by truly remarkable individuals and statesmen.

Obasanjo, I am afraid, is none of the above and he is conscious of that himself. This is what both haunts him, and propels his continuing agitation for relevance at the lower rungs of politics today. He is a man with a huge void in his underbelly. He is on a quest for something neither raw power nor raw cash can buy; a dignified legacy. He is like a man lost in a desert with no map and no sense of direction. For a man who accepted the surrender of the Briafran army, and who presided over the affairs of the largest country in Africa three times to still remain a hustler within the dirty, murky world of partisan poli (tricks) is mind-boggling. How hath the mighty fallen!

At this junction, the reader could be forgiven for thinking, well; Obasanjo is not the only one in Nigeria fitting or resembling this description. There are, in our midst, former heads of state who are desperate for a return to power to re-write the history of their own negative influence on the country.  Is it not right to highlight their stories as well? The answer is, of course, yes, but our focus this week is on the ubiquitous Obasanjo; the grandfather of all political merry-go-rounds.


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ME I know no book ooo, I know se North no make mistake when they pick OBJ to seetle DIMKA whala in them country oo sorry region. The man OBJ handed over. Second Time they beg OBJ make he come settle matter again when North region uunnnn sorry coutry leader emnnn sorry Babangida, aaa late abasha killed Abiola, the man weh de dashi dashi money to all the people of Nigeria weh hin election still remain the best in the globu. This OBJ try for South Africa so teee UN still de call ham. Any one weh go stain this Man na caurse go kill the person. Tell me the person in Nijeria weh go do without Babangida ooo sorry OBASANJO in the politics of TODAY. Check the things weh he do when he was Militry Head of State, When he returned as civilian wetin remain, Airways, etc, me I SALUTE HAM OOOOOO.

Obasanjo and the curse of former presidents.

I wonder who dash this Oke of a person PHD. Well in Nigeria there is nothing you can't get from Oluwole in Lagos. One would expect an academician to research and bring out facts and not market women rumors, innuendos and outright character assassination like has been portrayed here. We know who is hiring you to write rubbish against one of the greatest Nigerians that have ever lived. Let us know details of how he has amassed his wealth and the EFCC which is one of his achievements could equally be used against him particularly now that Obasanjo is not enjoying the best of relationship with the presidency. Gone are the days when some one will flaunt academic certificates and people will just believe them.

You are off the Mark, just.

Dr, you said every reason why OBJ is still in politics except the true reason. He idreads exposure and that's why he will do everything within his powers to control whoever is at the helm of the affairs in the country! That is why even at his age he still swims in the murky waters that is Nigerian politics!
But watch out, we may outwit man, but not God. No amount of trick can confuse God! He does not allow any evil to go unpunished. Watch out for His vengeance on OBJ and his likes.

Jack Dung, don't sound like

Jack Dung, don't sound like dung now. My brother Jonathan was handpicked by his master Ogagun Obasanjo. Don't blame him for the cumulative failures of the Hausa Foolani looters who ruined Nigeria. Where does he start to correct the clumsy mistakes of the North? The only good solution to 9ja is the Sudan solution. Myopic Sudanese believed that they would hold the South under their smelly armpit forever since they were stronger militarily. But when the inevitable happened the North is now at the mercy of the South begging for oil blocks to survive. This will happen to Nigeria too, Insh Allah.

Leave Obasanjo alone

I hate lazy bones like you who complain of Obasanjo this, Obasanjo that. Among all our leaders, who has the audacity to silence the dreaded Arewa Consultative Forum? Who is both Goodluck and Yaradua without Obasanjo? I'm not Yoruba, but I hate sentiment, I will appreciate it if the blames can be shared among all the people that have ruled this country since 1960, from Federal to Local level. Oga PhD, teach us something educative joor.

provide facts

Efficacy demands that you give flesh to this bone. You have made statement's of interest but have not substantiated these with the body of facts. This maker assume your write-up to what is a possible case of vendetta and opportunistic attempt to scar this huge character in our nations history.

South - South Leadership


The big question is WHO

The big question is WHO KILLED TUNDE IDIAGBON? The answer to this lies with the type of obasanjo and babangida himself. The darkness covering light will be exposed someday. That is why babangida runs to mosque and obasanjo builing a church to appease God. Hhmmmmm!

@ jack White

Jack you are a star, you have summed it all up. OBJ left a legacy but a very bad one. Who in his right mind will disagree with that

Thanks! Aremu Obasanjo is a

Thanks! Aremu Obasanjo is a joke, the father of all jokes! I pray that God grants him long life to be sanctioned for his numerous misdeeds. He was a big disappointment.


Nigeria was a piece of rotten meat stewed with maggots when OBJ came to power between 1999 and 2007. His years as President was to seasoned the rotten meat so as to drive away the maggots.
To me despite all the bashing he is getting from all and sundry, he has done is bit.
I can attribute the following to him:
1. Restoring the dignity of Nigeria among the comity of nations
2. Renovation of the airport and removing bottlenecks when traveling outside the country.
3. Seeking and getting waivers form our creditors with respect to Nigeria loans
4. Revolutionizing the telecommunication sector by licensing the GSM operators thereby providing millions of jobs in the process.
5. Kick starting the process of making electricity available to Nigerians
6. Safe guarding and holding the unity of Nigeria.

Let the current leadership do their bits too. The problem of Nigeria or any nation can never be solved in the life time of an administration.



Former Preidents

Mr Oke, you could have been kind enough to acknowledge the contribution of Buhari for the war againts corruption and indispline rather than granstanding. Your Phd i guess is on political prostitution.


We curse him for appointing a patient as our leader and backing the enthronement of a rascal dummy as our president.

Unfortunately the only

Unfortunately the only President Nigeria has had since 1967 is President Shehu Shagari. The second coming of Obasanjo was the evil work of hand-picking by the Hausa Fulani oligarchy. Another president we missed to have was Abiola who was poisoned by the evil hands of the Hausa Fulani oligarchy. Yar'Adua and my brother Jonathan cannot be seen as our true presidents. Both of them were hand-picked by the evil hand of Obasanjo. Nigeria may never get the opportunity of electing a genuine president before disintegration. The present rulers who might present themselves as presidents are corrupt to the teeth and cannot represent Nigeria but their selfish ends.

Not so true Dr. Oke

I disagree with you Dr. Obasanjo left a legacy and it is well known to all and sundry. It is a legacy of destruction, of morals, ethos of democracy, and of brigandage. He installed nimcompoops as his successors. Rather than being a revered figure like Mandela, he is now a laughing stock!
The saddest part of it all his mentored child and successor has now turned on him and his kinsmen. Jonathan has rubbished Yoruba and gave Obasanjo a red bleeding nose. None of his Obasanjo kinsmen is in the top echeleon of his administration. Talk of stabbing a benefactor in the back! Jonathan's lack of tact, intelligence, and lack of administrative acumen says a lot about Obasanjo himself. That is a legacy he has left behind.



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