Full List of all Nigerian Presidents - Head of states

Here is the full list of all Nigerian presidents and their achievements from 1960 (independence) till date, with their pictures, tenure (year in office), and more.

Names of PresidentsTenure (Year)
1.Abubakar Tafawa Balewa1960-1963
2.Nnamdi Azikwe1963-1966
3.Johnson Aguiyi Ironsi1966
4.Yakubu Gowon1966-1975
5.Murtala Rufai Mohammed1975-1976
6.Olusegun Aremu Obasanjo1976-1979
7.Alhaji Shehu Shagari1979-1983
8.Muhammadu Buhari1983-1985
9.Ibrahim Babangida1985-1993
10.Ernest Adegunle Shonekan1993
11.Sani Abacha1993-1998
12.Abdulsalami Abubakar1998-1999
13.Olusegun Aremu Obasanjo1999-2007
14.Umaru Musa Yar’Adua2007-2010
15.Goodluck Ebele Jonathan 2010-2015
16.Muhammadu Buhari2015 till date

Nigeria, established as a federation in 1960, is a constitutional democracy, and its government is driven by a president.

This president is usually the winner of the election process which constitutes contestants belonging to various political parties.

This is a chronologically ordered list of all Nigerian Presidents, from the earliest to the most later.

Nigeria’s President is the Head of State and of Government. He is the Commander-in-Chief of the Army, Navy, and Air Force, and the Grand Commander of the Federal Republic (GCFR).

Nigeria is a country in West Africa bordered by Ghana, Benin, Niger, Cameroon and Chad. The country is home to one of the largest crude oil reserves in the world.

The president is the head of government and chief of state.

The country gained independence from Britain on October 1st, 1960, becoming the second sub-saharan African country to attain independence.

The president and vice-president are elected straightforwardly by an absolute majority of the vote.

The president serves a four-year term and is qualified and can run for a second.

As a Nigerian citizen, you may be wondering and have a great deal of questions about Presidents in Nigeria.

We will answer all your questions in this article, questions including:

  • How numerous presidents has Nigeria had since her independence in 1960? – The answer is 14. Some ruled twice.
  • Currently, who is the president and vice-president of Nigeria? – President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice president Yemi Osinbanjo.
  • Who was the first military head of state? – Major General Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi (17th January, 1966 – 29th July, 1966).

In this article, we investigate the past regimes and Presidents who have led Nigerians. We have taken into consideration some of the high points of their rule and what these might have shown Nigerians about what an ideal ruler should be.

List of All Nigerian Presidents and Their Notable Achievements Since Independence

1. Prime Minister Abubakar Tafawa Balewa (1960-1963)

Tafawa Balewa - List of all Nigerian Presidents
Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa

Brought into the world a commoner in the north of colonial Nigeria, he had training as a teacher.

Abubakar Tafawa Balewa was conceived in December 1912 in Bauchi State.

Balewa is the only one in Nigerian history to have been bestowed with the title of Prime Minister. He is first on our list of all Nigerian Presidents.

Balewa ventured into the Nigerian government in 1952 as Minister of Works, and later as Minister of Transport.

In 1957, he was elected Chief Minister, forming an alliance government between the NPC and the National council for Nigeria, and the Cameroons.

He assumed an important job in the transitional period among colonial and indigenous rule of Nigeria.

His legacy was made through the collaboration between ethnic groups and mediation of other African conflicts.

Following quite a while of colonial rule, the British Crown finally gave up authority to Nigeria.

Sir Abubakar Tafawa with Queen Elizabeth II at that point ruled Nigeria as the first prime minister (from 1960-1963). This was when Nigeria turned into a Republic.

2. President Nnamdi Azikiwe (1963-1966)

Nigerian Presidents - Nnamdi Azikwe

Azikiwe was the first President of Nigeria after the nation transformed into an independent republic. Then, Nigeria severed ties almost totally with Britain.

Azikiwe was born on January 16, 1904. He is originally from Nnewi in Anambra State, and is outstanding for promoting modern Nigerian and African nationalism.

After a successful career in publishing, he ventured into politics alongside Sir Herbert Macaulay, he helped to establish the National Council Of Nigeria and Cameroon (NCNC) which later became National Council of Nigeria Citizens(NCNC).

In 1947, Zik was elected into the Legislative Council of Nigeria. In 1951, he became pioneer of opposition to the government of Obafemi Awolowo.

In 1960 he was sworn in as the first Nigerian indigenous president.

During his tenure, Nigeria’s first constitution as a federal republic – the 1963 Constitution was declared.

He ruled for 3 years (1963-1966) before he was ousted from government through a military coup. He died  at the University Of Nigeria Teacher Hospital, Enugu.

3. Major-General Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi (1966)

Nigerian Presidents - Aguiyi Ironsi

Major General Johnson Thomas Aguiyi-Ironsi, Nigeria’s first military Head of State was conceived in 1924 in Umuahia, Abia State.

He later joined the Nigeria Army in 1942 as a private and was advanced Major General in 1964.

He’s the third president on this list of all Nigerian Presidents.

Aguiyi-Ironsi was a senior Nigerian officer in the military, and drove the 1966 military coup against Azikiwe’s government.

The coup started by Aguiyi-Ironsi and his army. They killed the highest rank politicians in the North and West of the country (including Balewa, the first Prime Minister).

Ironsi came to power in the wake of the disturbance that grasped the country during the 1966 coup. This coup saw the assassination of Tafawa Balewa.

He also was Nigeria’s first military president just to be executed in another coup. The coup was completed by young soldiers unsatisfied with the previous coup.

During his short term, Aguiyi-Ironsi declared a heap of decrees.

Among them were the Constitution Suspension and Amendment Decree No.1, which suspended most articles of the Constitution.

However, he never tampered with sections of the constitution that managed fundamental human rights, freedom of expression and conscience.

4. General Yakubu Gowon (1966-1975)

Nigerian Presidents - General Yakubu Gowon

The next president on the list of all Nigerian Presidents is General Gowon.

He was born in nineteenth October, 1934 in Kanke, plateau state, Nigeria. Gowon is a Ngas (Angas) from Lur, a small village in the present Kanke Local Government Area of Plateau State.

He forcefully obtained power after the counter-coup against Aguiyi-Ironsi.

Soon after he had gotten power, Gowon executed genocidal tactics against the Igbo people in the north. This led to the killing more than 50,000 people.

In 1967 after tensions had arrived at a boiling point, the Nigerian Civil War broke out.

His administration was defaced by the devastating effects of the Nigerian civil war. Over 100,000 soldiers and 1,000,000 civilians were executed in the war, known as the Biafran War.

During his regime, Gowon brought an end to the Nigerian Civil War (Biafran war). He created 12 states and established the National Youth Service Corps program, (now having 37 orientation camps across the country).

He also propelled the first National Development Plan and and approved the modernization of Nigeria creating infrastructure around the nation.

5. General Murtala Rufai Ramat Mohammed (1975 to 1976)

Murtala Muhammed was born on 8 November 1938.

Murtala Muhammed joined the Nigerian Army in 1958. He’s the fifth president on the list of all Nigerian Presidents.

Like most Nigerian leaders of that era, General Murtala Mohammed obtained power through a coup d’etat.

Coup plotters overthrew the then Head of State – Yakubu Gowon while attending an OAU submit in distant Kampala, on 29 July, 1975.

Subsequently, Murtala Mohammed was announced as the new military ruler. He was a military ruler (Head of Federal Military government) of Nigeria (1975-1976).

Spending an aggregate of just 200 days, he took series of decision. These decisions were considered one of the most important decisions of any previous governments and was subsequently christened a national Hero.

He is attributed with instituting plans to move the capital territory from overpopulated Lagos to Abuja.

He also made seven more states in February 1976.

One of his first acts, was to scrap the 1973 census weighted for the north, and to revert to the 1963 count for official reasons.

He pursued a unique foreign policy that was Africa centric.

6. Major General Olusegun Obasanjo (1976-1979)

Nigerian Presidents - General Olusegun Obasanjo

Olusegun Obasanjo was conceived on 5 March 1937 in Abeokuta, Ogun State, Nigeria.

His family originates from the village of Ibogun-Olaogun. He’s one of two presidents to rule twice on this list of all Nigerian Presidents.

Obasanjo didn’t effectively take an interest in the 1975 military coup in spite of the fact that he supported General Mohammed in that period.

Subsequently, Obasanjo was named as deputy in Mohammed’s government and was also named for assassination yet managed to escape.

Obasanjo restored peace and security in the capital as well as army rule.

When Obasanjo was in power, a program to restore civilian rule of Nigeria had been established. Obasanjo followed through with this program, holding general elections in 1979 and helping to make the Nigerian Constitution.

Probably the greatest accomplishment was heralding the transfer of power to the first elected civilian president of Nigeria.

He resigned from politics and as head of state surrendered power to Shehu Shagari on the 1st of October, 1979.

Obasanjo’s tenure saw the resurgence of Industrialization previously ended because of the effects of the Nigerian civil war. He was in power from February 1976 to October 1979.

7. Alhaji Shehu Shagari ( 1979-1983)

Nigerian Presidents - Shehu Shagari

Shehu Usman Shagari was born in 1925 in the northern Shagari village to a Fulani family.

Shagari village was established by his incredible grandfather, Ahmadu Rufa’i, who was also the Village Head and took the name Shagari as his family name.

His father’s name is Aliyu and his mother’s name is Mariamu.

In the wake of defeating Chief Obafemi Awolowo in the 1979 presidential election, Shagari became second republic of Nigeria President.

He also appreciated part of Nigeria’s oil boom before the fall in oil prices started in 1981. He’s the seventh president on this list of all Nigerian Presidents.

He made housing, industries, transportation and agriculture the priority of his tenure, and this led to constructing a network of roads all over the country.

He also initiated a program to ensure more use of machinery in agriculture. His government also introduced the 6-3-3-4 education policy.

However, efforts in all these sectors would later be defaced by allegations of widespread corruption, as he turned into a casualty of a ton of insults and criticisms.

As the economy experienced depression, Shagari’s government removed around 2,000,000 immigrants in the country; majority of whom are Ghanaian, an incident famously referred to as “Ghana-Must-Go”.

8. Major General Muhammadu Buhari (1983 to 1985)

Nigerian Presidents - Major General Muhammadu Buhari

Muhammadu Buhari was destined to a Fulani family on 17 December 1942, in Daura, Katsina State, to his dad Hardo Adamu, a Fulani chief, and mother Zulaihat.

In January 1963, at age 20, Buhari was commissioned second lieutenant and appointed Platoon Commander of the Second Infantry Battalion in Abeokuta, Nigeria.

General Buhari was a part of the coup spearheaded by Lt.Col Murtala Muhammed to oust the then head of state, General Aguiyi-Ironsi.

Buhari is the eight president in Nigeria and on this list of all Nigerian Presidents. The then, young man was known to be incorruptible and championed anti-corruption campaigns.

Buhari is most associated with a strict campaign against indiscipline and corruption. He was considered a “straightforward totalitarian.”

Under his regime, civil servants needed to do jump squats for showing up at work late while soldiers forced civilians to form flawless queues at public transport stations.

His signature program was the much feared “war against indiscipline.” He also changed the shade of the Naira to stem its being accumulated outside the banking system.

9. General Ibrahim Babangida (1985-1993)

Nigerian Presidents - General Ibrahim Babangida

Born on 17 August 1941 in Minna, Niger State, General Babangida went to the prestigious government college Bida.

He later joined the Nigerian army in 1962, serving his country for 31 years.

Babangida took power with support of loyal mid-level military personnel which he had strategically placed into positions to profit his aspirations of power.

He is the ninth president on the list of all Nigerian Presidents that have ruled till date.

The notable effort of the Babangida’s regime was the introduction of the austerity measure called the Structural Adjustment Program.

This involved deregulation of the agricultural sector, elimination of price controls, privatization of public enterprises and Naira devaluation to help the competitiveness of export among others.

Babangida’s government also opened the route for private broadcasting, established the Federal Road Safety Corps, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, and the National Directorate of Employment among others.

10. Chief Ernest Adegunle Oladeinde Shonekan (1993-1993)

Nigerian Presidents - Ernest Shonekan

Born on ninth may 1936, Ernest Shonekan was appointed as interim president of Nigeria by General Ibrahim Babangida before resigning in 1993.

He was raised in Lagos, the then Nigerian capital.

During the 3 months of his administration, he structured plans for the arrival of democracy and the withdrawal of Nigerian troops from the peacekeeping assignment in Liberia.

Shonekan’s tenure as president was known for the annulment of the offensive Military Decrees 2 and 54 which allowed for the detention of people without arrest warrants and the seizure of assets at the impulse of government.

He also freed a ton of political detainees. He was known for his quiet and personal discipline.

Because of his obvious weakness in control of the military, General Sani Abacha, at that point defense secretary led a royal residence coup to oust Shonekan.

More Pictures and Names of Nigerian President From 1960 Till Date

11. General Sani Abacha (1993-1998)

Nigerian Presidents - General Sanni Abacha

A Kanuri from Borno, Abacha was conceived and raised in Kano, Nigeria.

He went to the Nigerian Military Training College and Mons Officer Cadet School before being commissioned as a second lieutenant in 1963.

His political legacy rests upon his amazing economic achievements, which seem to suppress some of the more controversial aspects of his government such as human rights abuses and corruption.

Abacha managed to increase Nigerian foreign reserves from $494 million in 1993 to $9.6 billion by the center of 1997. Abacha also paid off the obligation of Nigeria from $36 billion in 1993 to $27 billion in 1997.

His government established the last six states that sum up Nigerian states to 36 and also increased the quantity of local governments to 774.

Under his government, Kudirat, spouse of the winner of the June 1993 election, Abiola, was murdered in cold blood.

12. General Abdulsalami Abubakar (1998-1999)

Nigerian Presidents - Abdulsalam-Abubakar

Abubakar was born on 13 June 1942 to his father Abubakar Jibrin and his mother Fatikande Mohammed, in Minna, Niger State, Nigeria.

From 1950-1956 he went to Minna Native Authority Primary school. General Abdulsalam Abubakar went to the Kaduna Technical College before joining the Nigerian Military.

In spite of the fact that Abubakar was hesitant to acknowledge and accept the leadership of Nigeria when Abacha passed away, Abubakar was sworn in on the ninth of June, 1998.

At that moment, Nigeria required a pioneer of Abubakar’s bore to abstain from plunging into civil clash, as he was a peaceful man who had Nigeria’s best interests in mind.

Shortly in the wake of assuming office, Abubakar promised democratic transition within a year and established the Independent National Electoral Commission.

He satisfied this promise on May 29, 1999 when former military president, Obasanjo, was sworn in as a civilian President.

One of his greatest accomplishment is the establishment of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and subsequent transfer of power to civilian government.

Abdulsalam Abubakar has over 12 prestigious awards and medals to his name.

13. Chief Olusegun Mathew Okikiola Aremu Obasanjo (1999-2007)

List of Nigerian Presidents - Olusegun Aremu Obasanjo

In the wake of ruling from 1976 to 1979 as a military head of state, Olusegun Obasanjo staged a major political comeback by emerging as the presidential candidate of the People’s Democratic Party ( PDP).

He subsequently contested and crushed Olu Falaye. His election to the office of President in 1999 denoted Nigeria’s arrival to civilian rule.

Obasanjo won 62% of the vote and his election day is presently set apart as Democracy Day, a public holiday in the country.

He is the twelfth president on this list of all Nigerian Presidents and one of the two presidents to rule twice in Nigeria.

Obasanjo spent most of his time traveling across the globe to reassure potential investors, especially those in the USA and UK, that the oil industry was stable, and that Nigeria was a fair and democratic country.

Obasanjo was elected a second term in office in 2003 by Nigerians, winning 61% of the vote and defeating former military pioneer Muhammad Buhari.

He is credited with increasing Nigeria’s foreign reserves from $2 billion in 1999 to $43 billion on leaving office in 2007.

Obasanjo stabilized democracy during his second coming as head of state.

He left on Pensions Reform, established the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) and Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

14. President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua (2007-2010)

Past Nigerian leaders and their achievements

Yar’Adua was naturally introduced to an aristocratic Fulani family in Katsina; his dad, a Minister for Lagos during the First republic.

He started his education at Rafukka Primary School in 1958. In 1971 he got a Higher School Certificate from Barewa College.

He went to Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria from 1972 to 1975, where he obtained a B.Sc.

On 16–17 December 2006, Yar’Adua was elected as the presidential candidate of the ruling PDP for the April 2007 election.

After the controversial elections of 2007, Yar’Adua was proclaimed the winner and assumed the Presidential office of Nigeria.

While in office, Yar’Adua fell sick and was not able maintain and execute his Presidential duties. He combat with pericarditis, an inflammation of the pericardium all through his rule as president.

This prompted him being absent from public life, thereby putting the nation in a dangerous situation.

The 7-Point agenda constitutes Yar’adua’s most important policy framework.

He also initiated the amnesty program for Niger Delta Militants. He is the fourteenth president on this list of all Nigerian Presidents.

15. Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan (2010-2015)

Goodluck Ebele Jonathan

Jonathan was born in 1957 in what is currently Bayelsa State, to a family of canoe dealers.

He holds a B.Sc. degree in zoology (second-class honors), an M.Sc. degree in hydrobiology and fisheries biology, and a Ph.D. degree in zoology from the University of Port Harcourt.

In the wake of becoming acting President following the death of Yar’Adua whom he assigned, Jonathan focused electoral reforms and anti-corruption as the focus of his government.

However, war against Boko Haram insurgency took over most of the efforts of his government.

His administration anyway succeeded to contain the insurgency as his administration was drawing to a close.

Jonathan was praised for his relative non-interference in election results in the country.

He was also credited with reviving the country’s railway sector that had been dormant before his regime.

Telecommunications and internet infiltration also become higher during his rule. His government was credited with managing the Ebola crisis well, in this way preventing a greater disaster.

Subsequent to running in and winning the presidential election of 2011, he was unable to make the same success for a second term in 2015.

16. President Muhammadu Buhari (2015-Present)

Nigerian President - Muhammadu Buhari

Buhari, is a military dictator turned Democrat, having contested in the previous Presidential election, was finally successful in his 2015 campaign to become President.

Sworn in on May 29, 2015, Buhari became the second ex-military leader to become a President in Nigeria.

He had previously contested and lost miserably three times before emerging as the candidate of the APC – an alliance of several opposition parties.

Subsequent to being elected, Buhari was also known as a strong voice against Boko Haram, urging Nigerians neglect their differences to crush the Islamic insurgency. 

Buhari has an insightful way to deal with governance, his presidency improved in dealing with corruption and also in deploying resources to the field to battle the insurgence of Boko Haram.

He is the final and the current president on this list of all Nigerian Presidents.

His administration also Implemented the National Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) to help economic recovery, taking the country out of her worst recession in 29 years, despite fall in oil prices.

Conclusion On List of All Nigerian Presidents

Nigeria has had numerous presidents from diverse ethnic groups with various character, strength and distinct personalities.

There is no benchmark to articulate the best leadership Nigeria has ever had yet, but you can measure the effect every government had on the citizens during the time of their rule.

This list of all Nigerian Presidents have been able to show us the good and the bad sides of the past regimes we have had in Nigeria.

Evidently, there are ups and downs that characterize every administration in power over these years.

We can be able to determine what an idea leader entails through this list of Presidents and their achievements.

This shows us what has been done so far to move Nigeria forward and what could still be done to make it better.

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