How I cheat death, living with diabetes for 35 years -Obasanjo

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has revealed that he has diabetes; he has lived with the disease for 35 years.

Obasanjo, Nigeria’s longest-serving leader, said the disease had killed many of his friends, but he had constantly cheated because he managed the condition well.

He made the revelation on Wednesday in Ogun State at the closing ceremony of the state Diabetes Youth Development Camp, which took place in Abeokuta, the state capital.

Diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs either when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or when the body cannot effectively use the insulin it produces.

Insulin is a hormone that regulates blood sugar. Hyperglycaemia, or raised blood sugar, is a common effect of uncontrolled diabetes and, over time leads to severe damage to many of the body’s systems, especially the nerves and blood vessels.

The World Health Organization notes that in 2014, 8.5 per cent of adults aged 18 years and older had diabetes, while in 2019, the disease killed 1.5 million people worldwide. 

Diabetes is among the leading causes of kidney failure, and adults like Obasanjo who have diabetes have a two to three-fold increased risk of heart attacks and strokes. There are type 1 and type 2 diabetes, gestational diabetes, impaired glucose tolerance, and impaired fasting glycaemia.

Type 1 diabetes is characterized by low insulin production and requires daily administration of insulin. Neither the cause of Type 1 diabetes nor the means to prevent it are known.

Type 2 diabetes results from the body’s ineffective use of insulin. The majority of people with diabetes have type 2 diabetes. This type of diabetes is primarily the result of excess body weight and physical inactivity, WHO says.

Gestational diabetes is hyperglycaemia with blood glucose values above normal but below those diagnostic of diabetes. Gestational diabetes occurs during pregnancy, and women with gestational diabetes are at an increased risk of complications during pregnancy and delivery.

Impaired glucose tolerance (IGT) and impaired fasting glycaemia (IFG) are intermediate conditions in the transition between normality and diabetes.

Diabetic retinopathy is an important cause of blindness and occurs due to long-term accumulated damage to the small blood vessels in the retina. 

Diabetes is the cause of 2.6 per cent of global blindness.

WHO data shows that people with diabetes globally increased from 108 million in 1980 to 422 million in 2014. 

Obasanjo advised the children trained on the disease at the meeting to manage the condition well by maintaining a good healthy lifestyle.

He cautioned against the consumption of sugar and urged them against taking too excessive carbohydrates.

Obasanjo said: “I have been diagnosed with diabetes for more than 35 years now, and here I am, I’m still going about, I’m still jumping up and down, I’m still doing many things many people of my age cannot do.

“Since I was diagnosed with diabetes, a number of my friends have died, and the reason is that they just did not manage their diabetes the way they should manage it.



    “It does not matter whether you are type one or type two, so far there is no cure for diabetes, maybe there will be a cure before I die, but I pray that there will be a cure before you die.

    “You have to understand the type of food you should eat; you must completely abstain from sugar. The amount of carbohydrates that you take must be watched,” the elder statesman said.

    Obasanjo ruled Nigeria as a military Head of State between 1976 and 1979 and as elected president between 1999 and 2007.

    The Africa Check shows that about five million Nigerians have diabetes, while the country ranks third in Africa in diabetic burden.


    Marcus bears the light, and he beams it everywhere. He's a good governance and decent society advocate. He's The ICIR Reporter of the Year 2022 and has been the organisation's News Editor since September 2022. Contact him via email @ [email protected].

    Join the ICIR WhatsApp channel for in-depth reports on the economy, politics and governance, and investigative reports.

    Support the ICIR

    We invite you to support us to continue the work we do.

    Your support will strengthen journalism in Nigeria and help sustain our democracy.

    If you or someone you know has a lead, tip or personal experience about this report, our WhatsApp line is open and confidential for a conversation


    Please enter your comment!
    Please enter your name here

    Support the ICIR

    We need your support to produce excellent journalism at all times.

    - Advertisement


    - Advertisement