This article is about the full list of all Nigerian Presidents or Heads of State since independence till date. Between 1914 and 1960, Amalgamated Nigeria was officially under British Colonial Rule and the Head of State was the Monarch of the United Kingdom. After Nigeria attained independence in the year 1960, the country began to have her own indigenous Presidents/Heads of State and since that time till now, we have had a total of fifteen (15) Presidents and they are listed and discussed below.
FULL LIST OF ALL NIGERIAN PRESIDENTS/HEADS OF STATE SINCE INDEPENDENCE
The following is a comprehensive list of all Presidents/Heads of State/Heads of Government in Nigeria since independence:
SIR ABUBAKAR TAFAWA BALEWA
Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa was not a President or Head of State of Nigeria but was the first and only Prime Minister of Nigeria. This explains why he is featured in this list because by virtue of being a Prime Minister, he was the Head of Government of Nigeria, and he served in that capacity between August 30, 1957 – January 15, 1966 when he was assassinated in a bloody a coup d’etat. Balewa became Nigeria’s Prime Minister through a political coalition between the Northern People’s Congress (NPC) and the Nnamdi Azikiwe-led National Council for Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC). Before entering into politics, Tafawa Balewa was a school teacher.
NNAMDI BENJAMIN AZIKIWE
Dr. Nnamdi Benjamin Azikiwe, also known as the “Great Zik of Africa” was the last Governor-General of Nigeria under colonial rule and the first and only indigenous Governor-General of Nigeria. He became Governor-General in the year 1960, with Abubakar Tafawa Balewa serving as the Prime Minister. Nigeria became a republic in 1963, and Azikiwe became the country’s first President. He was however, removed from office on January 15, 1966 in the bloody military coup that led to the assassination of many high profile figures in Nigeria’s political sphere, and he was the most prominent politician to avoid assassination after the coup.
After the Nigerian Civil War which was a direct consequence of the January 15, 1966 military coup, Nnamdi Azikiwe was Chancellor of the University of Lagos from 1972 – 1976. He joined the Nigerian People’s Party (NPP) in 1978, and after making two unsuccessful bids for the Presidency in 1979 and 1983, he left politics involuntarily after the December 31, 1983 military coup. Nnamdi Azikiwe died aged 91 on May 11, 1996 at the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital in Enugu after a long illness, and is buried in Onitsha, Anambra State.
MAJOR-GENERAL JOHNSON THOMAS UMMUNNAKWE AGUIYI IRONSI
Major-General Johnson Thomas Umunnakwe Aguiyi-Ironsi was the first military Head of State of Nigeria, rising to that role as a direct result of the January 15, 1966 military coup. His rule started on January 16, 1966 until he was overthrown and assassinated in a counter coup on July 29, 1966. Ironsi was born in Umuahia, Abia State in the year 1924. He joined the Nigerian Army in 1942 as a private and was promoted to the rank of Major-General in 1964.
GENERAL YAKUBU DAN-YUMMA GOWON
General Yakubu Gowon, also known as “Jack” became Nigeria’s Head of State after Ironsi was assassinated in the bloody July 1966 counter coup. He was the youngest person to have ever become Nigeria’s Military Chief of Staff at the age of 31. Under his rule as military Head of State, he presided over the Nigerian Civil War (1967-1970), one of the deadliest wars in modern times.
GENERAL MURTALA RAMAT MUHAMMED
Murtala Muhammed took power from Gowon while the latter was away on official duties attending the 12th summit of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) in Kampala, Uganda in 1975. He played a major role in the July 1966 counter coup that assassinated Ironsi and installed Gowon as Head of State. Murtala Muhammed served as Military Head of State from 1975 until 1976 when he was killed in an abortive coup attempt in which his car was ambushed in traffic in lagos .
GENERAL OLUSEGUN MATTHEW OKIKIOLA OGUNBOYE AREMU OBASANJO
General Obasanjo was Chief of Staff under the Murtala Muhammed regime before taking over as Head of State after General Murtala’s demise. Obasanjo was the first military Head of State in Nigeria to hand over power to a civilian government in 1979. He would later be the second democratically elected President, leading Nigeria from 1999 – 2007.
ALHAJI SHEHU USMAN ALIYU SHAGARI
Alhaji Shehu Usman Aliyu Shagari was the first democratically elected President of Nigeria. He came into office in 1979 after the transfer of power by military Head of State General Olusegun Obasanjo in 1979, and this gave rise to the Second Republic. Shagari would rule for four years until 1983 when the Military under the command of Major-General Muhammadu Buhari took power in a bloodless coup.
MAJOR-GENERAL MUHAMMADU BUHARI
Major-General Muhammadu Buhari served as the Nigeria’s military Head of State from December 31, 1983 to August 27, 1985, after taking power from Shehu Shagari in a military coup d’etat. He would later be overthrown by General Babangida in another coup in 1985. Buhari is currently the President of Nigeria, and has been in office for two terms since 2015.
GENERAL IBRAHIM BADAMASI BABANGIDA
General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida was Military Head of State of Nigeria between 1985-1993, and he was the first and only Military President of Nigeria. Though he ran largely a Military Government, he did so as if it was a democracy, and till date he remains the country’s only Head of State to be addressed by the title of Military President. His rule was popular for its liberal economic policies.
OTHER PRESIDENTS/HEADS OF STATE OF NIGERIA
Other Presidents/Heads of State of Nigeria include the following:
- Chief Ernest Adegunle Oladeinde Shonekan
- General Sani Abacha
- General Abdulsalam Abubakar
- Chief Olusegun Obasanjo
- Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’adua,
- Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, and
- Major-General Muhammadu Buhari (Rtd)
- Chief Bola Ahmed Tinubu (incumbent).