General Olusegun Obasanjo (GCFR) Elder Statesman & Africa’s Iconic Leader

Just six days to his 80th
birthday celebration, elder statesman and African iconic leader, Chief Mathew Aremu Okikiolakan Olusegun
Obasanjo
(GCFR) has for the first time in history revealed the mystery
surrounding the date of his birth. For a long time, there have been wide
speculations on the actual date of the birth of the former Nigerian leader who
ruled between 1976-1979 and 1999-2007. While some believed he was born in 1934,
others believed it was 1937. His son, Gbenga
Obasanjo once publicly declared that
his father had no acurate knowledge of his date of birth. Since that public
outburst by Gbenga Obasanjo, there
have been series of twists and questions as to ‘when was Obasanjo truly born?’.
In this exclusive expose by your Africa’s Number 1 Celebrity Encounter blog, Asabeafrika, the answer was finally
delivered from the horse’s mouth. Hear what General Olusegun Obasanjo who will be 80 this coming Sunday, March
5th said about his birth date. Enjoy the excerpts.

  Born on Ifo Market Day (Ijo Oja Ifo)

General Olusegun Aremu Okikiolakan Obasanjo….The General that was born on Ifo Market Day..


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“You were born on Ifo market day. I
had put my wares together for the market when I suddenly went into labor. It
meant that I could not go to the market for that day. But before those who went
to the market returned to the village, you were already born”.
That was how my mother described my
date of birth. Ifo market day is every fifth day. Your guess is as good as mine to
which Ifo market day I was born on, and in what month and in what
year.
Normally, in
the illiterate communities of those days, significant general or special events
were used to date personal or family events. 
It could be just before or after the coronation of an Oba, or the year of a particular war or
uprising, or the year of a disaster or natural calamity like flood, famine,
drought, locust infestation or an epidemic. It could even be an unusual event
in the community such as when a white man was first sighted in the village: or
the year the first church, mosque or school was built; or the year the village
or community market was established. Marriages, births, deaths  and other family events were normally dates
or situated with these more familiar events. So, being born on Ifo Market day as my mother told me was
a normal way of describing my birth date.
Knowing this
event-related way of dating, I embarked on some research to determine an
approximate period of my birth. We had only one church, in our village. Was my mother
married into the village before the church was built? That question unearthed a
lot more information.
How my mum married my father…

Chief Obasanjo being hosted by Iyalode of Owu, Chief (Mrs.) Adesida. He is the Balogun of Owu land

Olaogun, the founder of our village was a
brother of my great grand-mother, Dada (Iya Oloti), who lived at Adenrenle village, near Ifo. My great grandmother sent her
grand-daughter (My mother) to visit her brother, Olaogun, who was indisposed at his village. There were two major
families in the village—Olaogun and
his family and Adebayo, who was Olaogun’s very close friend, and his
family. They virtually founded the village together. Adebayo was my paternal uncle. He was the first born of Bankole, my paternal grand father, while
my father, Obasanjo was the last
born. The gap between Adebayo and Obasanjo was so wide that Adebayo had stopped producing children
when his father, Bankole produced my
father.

Dr. Gbenga Obasanjo….Challenged his Dad over real age couple of years before Dad admitted in his book that he does not have facts of his real age

My mother
who was of marriageable age when she was sent by her grandmother to visit Olaogun, was noticed as a good enough
girl by Adebayo, and as suitable for his kid brother, Obasanjo, as a wife. Adebayo
spoke to his friend, Olaogun, and it
was signed, sealed and delivered. That could not have been a problem between
two ordinary friends, let alone two very close ones. My mother was married into
the village before the church was built. That was a fact that was not in
dispute. My research indicated that the church was built in 1934. I was born around the time of the
building of the church. I was made to understand that I was actually taken to
the church building for thanksgiving and blessing after three months of my
birth.
The twists of my birth year…

Chief Aremu Olusegun Obasanjo….A lover of children

There were
two other twists to the story of my birth. My mother said to me repeatedly that
although my father was the first man and the only man in her life, she did not
get pregnant immediately after her marriage. How long the wait lasted, I could
not ascertain. The second twist was another story from my mother that I
overstayed in her womb. She was categorical that I stayed for eleven months. My
father did not corroborate that story, but my mother could swear that she was
right. Could it be correct or could it be a case of miscalculation? (Being her
first pregnancy, perhaps she did not get the dates right)?. To me, it is a
myth, a mystery or a miscalculation. To my mother, it was a serious issue. But
whatever it was, I was hapilly born on Ifo
Market day
, not before 1934 and not later than 1937. I gave such a wide gap
to take accounts of twists, errors or miscalculation. Since I do not know my
exact date of birth, and mindful of the foregoing account, I have arbitrarily
chosen 5 March 1937 as my official
birthday. How close it is to my school age will always be open to unending
speculation.

His Doctor Son, Gbenga Obasanjo (R) with the GDA and scion of late General Sani Abacha’s dynasty, Alhaji Mohammed Abacha at a public event in Kano. Gbenga was the first to tell the world that Dad does not know his real age

Why my school certificate was back
dated…

Chief Okikiolakan Aremu Olusegun Obasanjo….Reduced his age to get BBHS endorsement in 1951

The
revelation by my mother that I overstayed in her womb was not the last twist to
my date of birth. In 1951 when I was going to take the entrance examination for
admission to Baptist Boys’ High School
(BBHS), Abeokuta, I was tipped off by
my cousin, Oluwole Adebayo, that if I
was more than twelve years of age, I would be regarded as too old and
would  thus be denied admission. That was
not the only tip. The second tip was that those considered too tall might be
asked to stand against a line made on the wall above which the head of a
student seeking admission must not go. There were solutions for these two
possible obstacles. For age, the answer was a new declaration of age of twelve
years in 1951, so my declared age on admission to Baptist Boy’s High School was twelve, that is according to the
school’s records, I was born on March 5
in 1939
, the same date as my official birthday, but in a different year.
(This is colloquially known as school age!). By that, the hurdle of age for
admission to BBHS was scaled.
Next the
hurdle of height had to be addressed. I was made to practice bending my knees
slightly, not forward but sideways, to “develop slight bow legs”. I was also
advised to wear a pair of trousers rather than shorts. I practiced the slight
bow leg exercise and mastered it well, and I scaled through for admission. As a
matter of fact, on entry into the school and seeing those much taller than I as
my classmate, I thought that my bow leg ordeal must have been unnecessary.
What Indian astrologers told me about
my date of birth…

Chief Olusegun Obasanjo blessing the home of one of his daughters, Chief Mrs. Adunni Bankole of blessed memory

 

Ifo market day was the beginning of my birthday
saga but it was not the end. It is interesting that I enjoy throughout my life
three birthdays: (Which I celebrate), and the school birthday (Which may be
found in my school records and other records immediately after school, but
which I later dropped)
I did not
give up on trying to learn my real age. I kept searching for clues that could
give me ideas as to my real age. Pa
Adebayo’s
first son, Oshunrinde,
who was my father’s nephew, though much older than my father, had a pile of
papers in his room in the village where he made all sort of marks to indicate events
and issues. I ransacked all the papers and clinically looked through them, but
nothing gave any idea or indication of my date of birth. I inquired from every
elder in the village and nobody seemed to be able to help. When I was in India on a military training course in
1965, I thought that the Indian
astrologers and palmists could solve the riddle of my unknown real birthday. I
visited them with the sole purpose of knowing my real age. Rather than give me
any idea of my age, they told me about longevity and minor accidents in my
later life. That was not what I wanted to hear. But since that was the best
they could do, I had to give up in the hope that sometime before I die,
biomedical science technology would develop to the extent that age dating would
be possible, as DNA is breaking new
ground on everything about humanity’s past and structure. Weather that happens
or not, I will not be the only one in the dilemma of not knowing his real
birthday.
Another
factor that could have helped in my search for my date of birth was the visit
of a white Baptist missionary to our village from Lagos when, according to my
mother, she was newly married and the visit was part of  the process of nurturing the growth of the
new church in my village. The Church was under Lagos Baptist Association
when I made inquiry. Here again, I drew a blank.

His Son, Dr. Gbenga Obasanjo & Best Friend Alhaji Mohammed Abacha

I would
guess that, except for a few, all people of my age group born in our rural
areas to illiterate parents would have no recorded birthdays. They would resort
to dating by associated events or through age mates or peers as I have done.
Maybe with advances in science and technology in future, they too can go for ascertaining their birthdays scientifically. I will not consider it a necessity,
even if it is accurate. It would probably be just approximate enough which may
not be much better than dating by associated events. It is also nice to revel
in a bit of ignorance. It is fun when my children and friends joke about my
age. One thing is not in doubt: I was born on an Ifo Market day.  That is as
authentic, sure, and clear as who my mother was. There is no dispute about
that. I have finally resorted to making up for what I lose in not knowing my
exact date of birth with what I do with my life in the service of humanity and
God.
What Ifa Oracle said about my birth…

Chief Aremu Okikiolakan Olusegun Obasanjo….’Even Ifa said ‘O ma lokiki’

I must not
forget to mention here that the Ifa oracle was consulted at my birth to foresee
the type of child I would be. It was said that I would grow up to be a man of
high and wide reputation and fame (Omo
Olokiki
). My mother was also warned to scold me mildly if I should offend
her because if I felt strongly offended my spirit was capable of preventing the
blessings that would have been hers. Were these superstitions, true predictions
or prophecies? I do not know.  All I know
is that, except for the early death of my mother in her mid-forties, she was
reasonably blessed among her peers. And why should my spirit block blessings
that would have acrued to a woman who carried me in her womb for nine months or
eleven months (If that were possible)?
The Baptist Church Prayer that
affected my destiny!

Chief Olusegun Obasanjo….’The Covenant Child of Nigeria’

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I must
mentioned also that when the church in our village was being expanded and
re-roofed, my father worked hard to raise funds for the early completion of the
expansion and re-roofing programme. I was practically given out for indentured
labor to raise the fund for the programme. After the completion of  the programme, a special prayer was said for
my father and for me for his commitment to build the house of God. Some people
believed that my success in life has something to do with these two points—the Ifa oracle’s divination and the special
prayer of the Baptist Church in our
village. Anybody may believe what he or she wants to believe; my personal
belief is that the hand of God has been upon me since my conception in my
mother’s womb until this day and it will remain so until I die. And when I die,
I look forward to the salvation of God through Jesus Christ, not by my
work but by the grace of God Almighty.

The GDA….’OBJ is an enigma in everything he has done in life’

As we have
no input into how, where, and when we are born, our circumstances of birth
should have very little effect on our altitude in life. What have greater
effect are our personal efforts, attitude, character and our ability to set
attainable goals and have the focus, tenacity and discipline to pursue and
accomplish them no matter the obstacles or set backs. As a general rule in the
climb of life, we owe less to what we are born with and more to what we make of
ourselves. You need to give life a bash to get something out of it. And never
leave God out in your plans and endeavors. It is imperative. A space devoid of
God in one’s life may be filled by ungodliness. 
(Excerpts from the book “My Watch” by General Olusegun Obasanjo—GCFR, Nigeria’s  Military President, 1976-1979 and Civilian
President, 1999-2007)

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