Olusegun Obasanjo

Nigerian Politician and Diplomat

General Olusegun Obasanjo, Nigerian general, politician, and diplomat, was the first military leader in Africa to hand over power to civilian rule. He served as ruler of Nigeria (1976–79) and as president (1999–2007).

During the three years he headed the government, Obasanjo emerged as an influential statesman. He strengthened Nigeria’s ties with the United States, and in 1978 U.S. President Jimmy Carter visited the country. After Abacha’s death in 1998, Obasanjo was released and joined the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). When the interim leader, General Abdusalam Abubakar, pledged to hold democratic elections, Obasanjo announced his candidacy for president and in 1999 was declared the winner with some 63 percent of the vote. Nigeria’s first civilian leader in 15 years, Obasanjo sought to alleviate poverty, reduce state corruption, and establish a democratic system. Obasanjo was elected to a second term in April 2003, winning more than 60 percent of the votes cast.