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Sani Abacha (1943—1998)

South Africa

Yakubu Gowon (b. 1934) Nigerian general and statesman, head of state 1966–75


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Olusegun Obasanjo

(b. 1935)

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(b. Abeokuta, Nigeria, 5 Mar. 1937)

Nigerian; Military ruler 1976–9, President 1999–2007 Obasanjo, a Christian from the Yoruba-speaking south-west of Nigeria, joined the Nigerian army in 1958, undergoing officer training in England. In 1970 he accepted the surrender of Biafran rebel troops at the end of the country's civil war. Although Obasanjo did not take part in the 1975 military coup in which Murtala Mohammed seized power from Yakubu Gowon, he supported it and became Mohammed's deputy. When Mohammed was assassinated in 1976 Obasanjo took over as military ruler, forming strong links with the USA. Obasanjo planned for elections in 1979 and a civilian government duly took charge, making Obasanjo the first Nigerian leader to hand over power willingly. However, Obasanjo came into conflict with the Nigerian leadership after Sani Abacha seized power in 1993, and in 1995 Obasanjo was imprisoned on suspicion of plotting a coup. Following Abacha's death in 1995, Obasanjo was released, and he was elected President in 1999, winning a second term in 2003. This period of office was marred by divisions between the Muslim north of Nigeria and the largely Christian south. Obasanjo was criticized in 2006 for an unsuccessful attempt to amend Nigeria's constitution to allow him to stand for a third term, and he retired in 2007.

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