The Civil Soldier The Political Legacy of Olusegun Obasanjo

Obasanjo’s legacy as a civil soldier is difficult to summarize. Though he made several advances as Nigeria’s longest-serving civilian leader, he missed several opportunities to build institutions that would have helped entrench true civility and democracy within Nigeria.

Many will agree that no leader has been more influential to Nigeria’s socio-political trajectory than Olusegun Obasanjo. In 1979, he became the first African military head of state to hand power over to a democratically elected government, ushering in Nigeria’s second republic under President Shehu Shagari. Decades later, in 1999, with the country in political and economic turmoil following the sudden end of General Sani Abacha’s heavy-handed regime, Obasanjo became a civilian president. By the time he left office in 2007, Nigeria had been under Obasanjo’s leadership for more than one-quarter of its 47 years of independence.

Obasanjo is arguably the most prominent of Nigeria’s ‘civil soldiers’—ex-military men who, by virtue of the wealth, influence, and power they gained over decades of military rule, went on to occupy important political positions within democratic Nigeria. As Nigeria’s longest-serving leader, Obasanjo’s actions and policy decisions while in office had far-reaching consequences on Nigeria’s national psyche.



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