Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, on Saturday congratulated former President Olusegun Obasanjo on attaining the age of 80 and described him as a “beacon of national unity, peace and progress.”
Saraki in a tribute to mark Obasanjo’s 80th birthday anniversary on Sunday, March 5, 2017, said he is delighted, on behalf of the 8th Senate, to join family, friends and numerous well wishers of Chief Obasanjo, in celebrating his entry into the elite club of octogenarians.
He said that apart from having served the country “diligently, passionately and conscientiously” for many decades, Chief Obasanjo has remained one of the dominant figures in national discourse.
“Baba, for several decades, you have been one of the dominant figures in our national discourse,” Saraki said. “On several fronts, you have served the nation diligently, conscientiously and passionately. In fact, you remain a beacon of our national unity, peace and progress.”
He added: “It is for these reasons and many more that we pray to Almighty God to continue to give you good health, great wisdom and the unflinching grace to serve your country, Africa and humanity in general for many more years.”
Obasanjo in 1958, at the age of 21, enlisted in the Nigerian Army. He attended the 6-month Short Service Commission training at Mons Officer Cadet School in Aldershot in England, and was thereafter commissioned as an officer in the Nigerian Army.
He was also trained in India at the Defence Services Staff College, Wellington and at the Indian Army School of Engineering. He served at 1 Area Command in Kaduna.
Promoted to Chief Army Engineer, he was made commander of 2 Area Command from July 1967, which was redesignated 2 Division Rear, and then the Ibadan Garrison Organisation.
During the Nigerian Civil War, he commanded the Army’s 3 Marine Commando Division that took Owerri, effectively bringing an end to the civil war.
During the dictatorship of Sani Abacha (1993–1998), Obasanjo spoke out against the human rights abuses of the regime, and was imprisoned for alleged participation in an aborted coup based on testimony obtained via torture. He was released only after Abacha’s sudden death on 8 June 1998.
On 13 February 1976, coup plotters, led by Army Col. Dimka, killed then Head of State, Murtala in a failed attempted coup because the missed Obasanjo and other senior military personnel marked for for assassination. Obasanjo was appointed as head of state by the Supreme Military Council.
In the 1999 elections, the first in sixteen years, Obasanjo decided to run for the presidency as the candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). Obasanjo won with 62.6% of the vote, defeating Olu Falae, the only other candidate.
29 May 1999, the day Obasanjo took office as the first elected and civilian head of state in Nigeria after 16 years of military rule, is now commemorated as Democracy Day.