The president of Nigeria and a list of his predecessors since 1960

After its independence on first October 1960, Nigeria has had it's political affairs in the hands of many leaders who served under civilian and military regimes of governance.

Less than a decade into independence, the country witnessed its first coupe d'etat which led to another one, a crisis that gradually led to the Nigerian Civil war called the Biafra war. 

The second half of the 20th century was indeed a troublesome period  for the country as there was no stable form of government from the 60s to the 90s. 

After many trials, the country was finally returned to democracy in 1999 and a democratic constitution was drafted and came into effect in that year. 

The country now has a central federal government presided over by the president and a total of 36 states each governed by a state governor, with the federal capital territory under the leadership of a Minister.

In this post, we shall talk about the Nigerian president and his predecessors.
Nigerian presidents are elected through a general democratic election which is conducted once every four years.
The Nigerian democracy practices a multi-party system which allows individuals with similar interests to form political parties, nominate a candidate and participate in elections.
Even though there are many parties in the country,  only two to three of them are literally strong to have political influence  at the federal level. 
The people's Democratic Party was Nigeria's first ruling party which ruled from 1999 until 2015 when the All Progressives Congress won to become the ruling party.

List of all Nigeria presidents since 1960 independence

  • Muhammadu Buhari: Current President
  • Goodluck Ebele Jonathan: 2010 - 2015
  • Umaru Musa Yar'adua: 2007 - 2010
  • Olusegun Obasanjo: 1999 - 2007
  • General Abdulsalami Abubakar: 1998 - 1999
  • General Sani Abacha: 1993 - 1998
  • Chief Ernest Shonekan: 1993
  • General Ibrahim Babangida: 1985- 1993
  • General Muhammadu Buhari: 1983 - 1985
  • Alhaji Shehu Aliyu Shagari: 1979 - 1983
  • General Olusegun Obasanjo: 1976 - 1979
  • General Murtala Ramat Muhammad: 1975 - 1976
  • General Yakubu Gowon:  1966 - 1975
  • General Aguinyi Ironsi: 1966
  • Chief Benjamin Nnamdi Azikiwe: 1963 - 1966
  • Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa: 1960 - 1966 

Muhammadu Buhari is the Current president of Nigeria.

The current president of Nigeria is Muhammadu Buhari who assumed office in 2015. 
He was born in Daura,  Katsina state to the family of Mallam Hardo Adamu on  17th December.
Buhari's earlier appointments were: as governor of North-Eastern state which was later divided into Bauchi,  Bornu and Gongola states where he became the first governor of Bornu state, this was under the Murtala regime between 1975 and 1976. Under Obasanjo's regime as military head of state he was appointed as the  Federal Commissioner for Petroleum and Natural Resources and also the first chairman of NNPC in 1977.
Muhammadu Buhari became the 15th president of Nigeria on 29th May 2015.
Before winning the 2015 general election, President Muhammadu Buhari was a former head of state of the Federal Republic of Nigeria under military regime from 31 December 1983 to 27 August 1985.
He had contested in almost all the previous elections the country has had since the country's return to democracy in 1999, his first attempt to presidency was in 2003 under the umbrella of All Nigeria People's Party (ANPP) which he lost to the then incumbent president Olusegun obasanjo,  he also lost to the late president Musa Yar'adua at his second attempt in 2007, in 2011 he contested under Congress for progressive change (CPC) and  lost to former president Goodluck Ebele Jonathan who he will later in 2015 defeat to become the first time an incumbent president lost in the Nigerian general election. He assumed office on the 29th of May 2015 and contested for a second term in 2019 which he defeated his main opposition, Atiku Abubakar to emerge the winner and was given the certificate of return. He ran in the 2015 and 2019 election under his new party,  the All Progressive Congress (APC) with Prof.  Yemi Osinbajo as his running mate in both elections.
Muhammadu Buhari is expected to handover and leave office in 2023 after the general election.

Goodluck Ebele Jonathan  - 2010 to 2015

Born on November 20th 1957 in Ogbia, Bayelsa state. He graduated from the university of Port Harcourt with a degree in Zoology then proceeded to acquire his masters and doctorate degrees. He was a lecturer before the start of his political adventure in 1999.
After the death of his predecessor, Musa Yar'adua in 2010, Goodluck Jonathan became the president of Nigeria in accordance with the order of succession laid out in the Nigerian constitution.
Prior to this, he was the vice president from 2007 to 2010.
Before being picked as the running mate to Yar'adua in 2007, he served as the deputy governor of Bayelsa state from 1999 till 2005 when he became governor after the impeachment of governor Diepreye Alamieyeseigha who was facing money laundring charges in the UK. 
Goodluck Ebele Jonathan became the 14th president of Nigeria in May 2010.
In 2011 he picked up the presidential ticket and ran in the general election which he won defeating his main opponent of the Congressive People's Change (CPC), Muhammadu Buhari. 
He also ran in the 2015 general election which he lost to Muhammadu Buhari of the newly formed opposition party (APC), he had called to congratulate his opponent on the victory, an act that won him the admiration of many. He handed over and left office on May 29th 2015. 
His running mate in both the 2011 and 2015 general elections was Namadi Sambo who was the governor of Kaduna state prior to his appointment as vice president.

Umaru Musa Yar'adua 2007 - 2010

Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar'adua was born on the 16th day of August 1953 to the Yar'adua family of Katsina state. 
Being an early member of the people's Democratic Party,  the first ruling party of Nigeria after returning to democracy, he was the governor of Katsina state from 1999 to 2007.
He contested and won the 2007 general election to become the 13th president of Nigeria. The vice president of Nigeria during Yar'adua's governance was Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, who would later become his successor. 
Although the 2007 election which saw him victorious with over 70% of the votes counted was largely considered to have been rigged in his favor, Yar'adua had called on the agrieved opposition parties to join his government as a possible way to maintain national peace and stability after the election.
His administration is considered by many Nigerians to be  the best Nigeria has ever had,  making him the best president of Nigeria by popular belief.
The Nigerian government under Yar'adua had unveiled a seven point agenda which had forecasted Nigeria to be among the top 20 economies in the world by 2020.
The agenda  includes Infrastructure, power and energy, Food security, Wealth creation, Transport, Land reforms, Security and Education.
Unfortunately, the seven point agenda did not see the light of the day owing to his illness and later death in May 2010.
One of the things that earned him the admirations of many is that,  Yar'adua was the first governor to declare his asset after winning election in 1999 and also the first Nigerian president to publicly declare his assets.
In November 2009, Yar'adua was flown out to Saudi Arabia where he received treatment for Pericarditis, this created a power vacuum in the presidency forcing the senate to use the controversial Doctrine of Necessity in making Goodluck Jonathan the acting president of Nigeria. Yar'adua returned to Nigeria in February 2010 but the condition of his health was still a topic of debate till his death on 5th May, 2010.
Yar'adua was buried according to Islamic rites on 6th May,  2010 in his hometown in Katsina state.
He was succeeded by Goodluck Jonathan who completed the Yar'adua tenure and ran for office in the next general election.

Olusegun Obasanjo 1999 - 2007

He was born on 5th March 1937 to the family of Amos Adigun Obaluayesanjo "Obasanjo" Bankole in Ibogun-Olaogun, Ifo Ogun, Nigeria.
He had applied to study at the University College of Ibadan but Obasanjo had a rough childhood and couldn't afford university education so he decided to join the Army and pursue a career in Civil Engineering while serving in the mlitary.
He served in the military and was once a military head of state in the 70s.
He was jailed during the Abacha regime of the 90s for allege conspiracy against the government but was found innocent and released by Abdulsalam Abubakar after Abacha's death.
At this point, Abdulsalam Abubakar was setting stage for the country's transition to democracy and political activities was intense with various political parties being formed to contest for positions in governance. 
Being a former head of state with the reputation of a patriot, the people's Democratic Party which was the most popular party at that time invited Obasanjo to become their presidential candidate for the 1999 presidential election picking Abubakar Atiku as his vice president.
He accepted the party's offer and ran for office against Olu Falae, he won the election with around 63% of the votes. 
Olusegun Obasanjo became the 12th president of Nigeria on 29th May 1999.
He contested  for a second term in 2003 with General Muhammadu Buhari as his main opponent whom he defeated with about 11million votes taking 61.8% of the votes.
He was alleged to have made bid to amend the constitution to enable him run for a third term in office, a move that gained him the criticism of many.  He denied having anything to do with such attempt.
After the 2007 election, Olusegun Obasanjo handed over power to the winner, Umaru Musa Yar'adua. 

General Abdulsalami Abubakar - 1998 to 1999

He was born on 13th June 1942 to the family of Malam Abubakar Jibrin of Minna, Niger state.
He was seconded into the Nigerian army in 1966 after his earlier training as one of the first Air Force cadet.
He served as the chief of defense staff of the Sani Abacha regime from 1993 to 1998.
He became the head of state after the sudden  death of Sani Abacha in 1998 and promised to hand over power to a democratically elected president in less than a year. 
He ordered for the creation of the Independent National Electoral commission, INEC that same year which would serve as the electoral body of Nigeria.
Elections were conducted from the local government, state and federal levels which saw Olusegun Obasanjo as the winner of the election. 
On the 29th of May 1999, Abdulsalami Abubakar kept to his promise and handed over power, giving birth to a new age of democracy in Nigeria. 

General Sani Abacha

He was born in Kano on 20th September 1943 to a Kanuri family.
He became the Nigerian head of state on 17th November 1993 when he forced the Interim government to resign stating social and economic instability under the interim government of Ernest Shonekan.
He was a military head of state. 
Abacha joined the military in 1963 and is the first Nigerian soldier to reach the rank of a General without skipping any rank. 
He was the chief of army staff in the early days of the Babangida regime before being appointed as the minister of defense.
Nigeria witnessed a favourable economic growth under his government. 
The country's foreign reserve was raised from less than $500m to about $9.6b. 
Although it was primarily from the oil sector, the country's GDP grew by 2.2% 
He was also able to reduce Nigeria's inflation rate of 54% in 1993 to 8.4%.
The military government under Abacha recorded several Human Rights violations and he was tagged a dictator.
He was also said to have looted over $1b from Nigeria.
Sani Abacha died on 8 June 1998 in the presidencial villa.  Although it was suspected to have been poisoned, no autopsy was carried out and he was buried on the same day according to Islamic rites.
He was succeeded by his Chief of Staff,  General Abdulsalami Abubakar. 

Chief Ernest Shonekan

He was born in Lagos State on 9 May 1936 to the Shonekan family, his father was an Abeokuta civil servant.
He was appointed by General Ibrahim babangida on 26 August 1993 to act as the interim president of Nigeria.
Before his appointment, Shonekan was a lawyer and a businessman, the chair person of United Africa company of Nigeria which was the largest African conglomerate at that time.
Although he was president but full power was vested in the military. His main work was to act as the transition face between the military and a democratic government.
Barely three months in office,  he was forced to resign and hand over power on 17 November 1993 in a palace coupe staged by General Sani Abacha who succeeded Shonekan as head of state. 

General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida

He was born in Minna, Niger state on 17 August 1941 to the family of Muhammad Babangida.
He joined the Nigerian army in 1962.
He became the head of state after a coupe which led to the end of the General Muhammadu Buhari's military regime in 1985.
Prior to this, his was the chief of army staff during Buhari's government.
The vice president during his regime was Ebitu Ukiwe and later Augustus Aikhomu.
Although his administration witnessed several infrastructural developments, there were reports of Human Rights violations as he was alleged to be the mastermind behind the Death of Dele Giwa.
Another notable crisis that rocked Nigeria during his regime was the registration of Nigeria into the Organization of Islamic Coorperation in 1986 which led to serious religious outbreak in 1987. 
IBB had organized to hand over power to a civilian government but he later annulled the June 12th 1993 election. 
He resigned later that year and handed power over to an interim head of state which would serve as a transition between the military and a democratic government. 
He was succeeded by Chief Ernest Shonekan. 
Ibrahim Babangida later entered politics in the fourth republic and ran for office, although he wasn't successful.

General Muhammadu Buhari

Before becoming a democratically elected president in 2015, Muhammadu Buhari had served as a military head of state between 1983 and 1985.
He came into power after staging a coupe against the then civilian government of President Shehu Shagari citing wide corruption in the Shagari led government.
His second in command was General Tunde Idiagbon. 
The Buhari led military regime was admired by many for his war against indiscipline.
Although there were reports of Human Rights violations such as the detainment of singer and activist Fela Kuti.
His government was known to be a promoter of locally produced goods as was evident in his economic policies such as the closure of boarders.
He left office in 1985 after a palace coupe staged by Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida.
after the coupe, Buhari was detained for 3 years in Benin. 

Alhaji Shehu Aliyu Shagari

He was born on 25th February 1925 in Shagari Sokoto State to the family of Magajin Shagari. 
He became the first executive president of Nigeria marking the beginning of the second republic and the 6th head of state since independence.
The vice president was Alex Ekwueme. 
He belonged to the National Party of Nigeria.
Prior to becoming the head of state,  he was an experienced politician who had served in a few ministerial positions in previous government.
In terms of infrastructural developments and other national projects, Shagari's government has carried out the most projects to be carried out by a single head of state.
His government was bent towards the industrialization of Nigeria.
Despite this,  it was widely believed to be ravaged with corruption, an issue that buhari used to stage a coupe against the Shagari led administration in 1983.
It was a palace coupe which led to the ascension of General Buhari.
Shehu Shagari died in 28 December 2018 at the age of 93.

General Olusegun Obasanjo

He was born on 5th March 1937 in Ibogun-Olaogun, Ogun state.
He became the 5th head of state after the foiled coupe that led to the death of General Murtala Muhammad in 1976.
The chief of staff during his regime was Shehu Musa Yar'adua. 
Prior to this,  he was the minister of works and housing during the Yakubu Gowon's administration and also the Chief of defense staff to the Murtala's regime. 
He was also a very instrumental figure in the Nigerian civil war as he played a vital part in the victory and immediate aftermath of the war. 
His government was known to be a promoter of agriculture and a great supporter of African freedom.
It was his support for South Africa and dislike for colonialism that led to a decrease in the country's relationship with Britain giving birth to a new  Nigeria-American relationship.
Obasanjo had organized election and handed over to Shehu Shagari who was the winner of the 1979 election.
He left office on 30 September 1979 but his patriotic popularity later paved a way for him to come back to power as a democratically elected president in 1999.

General murtala Muhammad

He was born in Kano on 8 November 1938 to the family of Muhammed Riskuwa. 
He became the 4th head of state of the Federal Republic of Nigeria after staging a coupe against the Yakubu Gowon administration on July 30 1975.
His chief of defense staff was Olusegun obasanjo. 
Prior to this,  General Murtala Muhammed was the Federal Commissioner for Communications from August 1974 till the coupe in July 1975, a position he combined with his military duties as Inspector of Signals at the Army Signals Headquarters in Apapa, Lagos.
He set up a panel for the creation of a new capital territory, the panel recommended the capital to be moved to Abuja. 
Murtala was well known and loved for his decieciveness as was shown in his usual phrases, he was the first head of state to use s "Fellow Nigerians" and "with immediate effect''
He was assassinated on February 13 1975 in a coupe attempt led by Lt. Col. Buka Suka Dimka. Although his assassination was an easy task but the coupe was foiled making Dimka to flee.
After his death,  his chief of defense staff succeeded him as the head of state.

General Yakubu Gowon

He was born in Lur, Kanke Local Government Area of Plateau State on 19 October 1934 to the family of Nde Yohanna. He joined the army in 1954.
Yakubu Gowon became the third head of state after a group of Northern soldiers staged the July 1966 coupe to  counter an earlier January coupe which led to the death of many Northern Elite in government.
Prior to this,  he was the chief of staff to the Aguiyi Ironsi administration which took office after the January 1966 coupe. 
His appointment didn't go down well with the governor of eastern region who then declared secession of his region from Nigeria. This led to the Biafra war which lasted from 1967 to January 1970.
He was overthrown on 29 July 1973. While on a visit to Kampala on an OAU summit, a group of soldiers led by Col. Joe Garba announced Murtala Muhammed as the new head of state.
He was later exiled to the UK and was implicated in the bloody 1976 Buka Suka Dimka led coupe d'etat  which was aimed at re-installing him as head of state. 
He was later pardoned by President Shehu Shagari during the he second republic.

General Aguiyi Ironsi

He was born in Ibeku, Umuahia, Abia State
on 3rd March 1924 to the family of Mazi Ezeugo Aguiyi. he joined the Nigerian Army in 1942 at the age of 18. 
He became the first military head of state of Nigeria on 16 January 1966 after the controversial coupe led by Major Chukwuma Ezeagu which saw the death of many politicians mostly from Northern Nigeria. 
Prior to this, he served as the commandant of the entire United Nations peace keeping force in the Congo in 1964 and was made the General Officer Commanding of the entire Nigeria Army in 1965.
His chief of staff was Babafemi Ogundipe and chief of army staff was Yakubu Gowon.
After capturing power in January, Ironsi went on to cancel the federal system declaring a single unitary government. 
His declaration coupled with the controversy surrounding the January 13 bloody coupe angered a group of mutinied soldiers from the North. 
He was killed on 29 July 1966 in what was called a counter coupe staged by the Northern soldiers.
Although the purpose of the coupe was a secession but with external influence and recommendations from local Elite, the secession plan was dropped and Yakubu Gowon who maintained a neutral position in both coupe d'etats was made the head of state. 

Dr.  Nnamdi Azikiwe

He was born in Zungeru, Niger state on 16 November 1904 to the family of Obed-Edom Chukwuemeka Azikiwe. He then lived in Onitsha and Lagos while growing up making him fluent in Hausa,  Igbo and Yoruba languages of Nigeria.
Nnamdi Azikiwe became the first president of Nigeria in 1963 although it was a ceremonial position.
Prior to this, he had a reputation of a nationalist and was the premier of Nigeria's Eastern Region in 1954. 
He became the governor-general on 16 November 1960, a position that was later changed to the ceremonial president after Nigeria became a republic in 1963.
He was removed from office after Aguiyi Ironsi took over government in 1966.
He contested in the 1979 and 1983 presidential elections but was unsuccessful in both. 
Nnamdi Azikiwe died on 11 May 1996 at the University of Nigeria teaching hospital and was buried in Onitsha.

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