The first Presidential Library in Africa, the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library, has been inaugurated, although the man himself presided over the massacre of thousands of Nigerians in 1999 and has often been described by his countrymen as extremely corrupt and dictatorial.
Chief Obasanjo, who clocked 80 years old on March 5, was president of Nigeria between 1999 and 2007. He was military dictator between 1976 and 1979.
He left power in 2007 after he failed to extend his third term in office through an act of parliament.
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The Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders, CACOL, submitted a petion to the Economic and Financial Crimes in 2007, accusing Obasanjo of massive corruption.
But the petition later disappeared and the EFCC never investigated the former President. Mr. Obasanjo owns many assets, including a University and a big farm.
CACOL had said that Obasanjo should explain how he went from having N20, 000 in his bank account after he was released from prison in 1998 to owning Bells University of Technology in Ogun state.
The presidential library on Saturday was inaugurated in the western Nigerian city of Abeokuta, Ogun state, by the ECOWAS Chairperson, and Liberian President, Helen Sirleaf Johnson.
Mrs. Sirleaf called on other African countries to emulate the idea of preserving the past to help generations to come, and Nigeria’s acting President, Yemi Osinbajo, described Obasanjo as the authentic African icon.
Mr. Osinbajo said the project will help in preserving the past and shaping the future.
Notable personalities across the world, including a representative of the Queen of England, former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, and many Nigerian governors graced the event.
The library, it was learnt, contains some personal belongings of Obasanjo, his speeches, gifts received from other parts of the world, his prison diary among others.
But, even as they were all praising the former Nigerian leader, one dark part of his presidency that may not feature prominently in his library was the massacre of thousands of people in Bayelsa state in 1999.
The Odi massacre was carried out on November 20, 1999, by the Nigerian military on the predominantly Ijaw town of Odi in Bayelsa State under Mr. Obasanjo’s administration and orders.
As it is today, oil communities in the Niger Delta region were agitating for resource control, human rights, development and protection of the environment.
It is believed that the massacre was ordered by the regime of former president Olusegun Obasanjo although the military has often claimed it was ambushed on its way to Odi.
However, prior to the massacre, twelve members of the Nigerian police were murdered by a gang near Odi, seven on November 4 and the remainder in the following days.
In revenge, the military decided to invade the village.
Every building in the town except the bank, the Anglican church and the health center was burned to the ground. All of this happened in president Olusegun Obasanjo’s reign.
A wide range of estimates have been given for the numbers of civilians killed. Human Rights Watch concluded that “the soldiers must certainly have killed tens of unarmed civilians and that figures of several hundred dead are entirely plausible.”
Nnimmo Bassey, Executive Director of Environmental Rights Action, claims that nearly 2500 civilians were killed. The government initially put the death toll at 43, including eight soldiers.
In February 2013, the Federal High Court ordered the Federal Government to pay N37.6 billion compensation to the people of Odi. In his judgment, Justice Lambi Akanbi condemned the government for a “brazen violation of the fundamental human rights of the victims to movement, life and to own property and live peacefully in their ancestral home.”
The case led to the payment of N15 billion from the Goodluck Jonathan led administration as out of court settlement.