Nigeria Leaders (Prime Ministers, President & Head Of States) From 1960 – Date

These are Nigerian leaders from past to present. They are the movers and shakers of Nigerian Economic, Politics, Commerce and whatever. See their names and their contributions below. 

Sir A.Tafawa Balewa

He was the first prime minister of an independent Nigeria. Born a commoner in the north of colonial Nigeria, he trained as a teacher. Balewa entered the government 1952 as Minister of Works, and later served as Minister of Transport. In 1957, he was elected Chief Minister, forming a coalition government between the NPC and the National council for Nigeria and the Cameroons, led by Nnamdi Azikiwe.He was overthrown and killed in a military coup on January 15, 1966, as were many other leaders, including his old companion Ahmadu Bello. His body was discovered by a roadside near Lagos six days after he was ousted from office Balewa was buried in Bauchi.The Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University in his honour.


Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe

Born on November 16, 1904, he hails from Nnewi in Anambra State and died in 1996 at the University Of Nigeria Teacher Hospital, Enugu. His portrait adorns Nigeria’s five hundred naira currency note N500. He was one of the leading figures of Nigeria nationalism. He also espoused African nationalism liberation and emancipation. Armed with a Master’s degree from the University Of Pennysylvania, US, Zik became an instructor at instructor at Lincoln University. He later joined the African Morning Post in Accra,Ghana as Editor.He went on to become one of the leading lights of journalism in Nigeria, founding the West African Pilot and the Zik Group of Newspapers which published several newspapers across Nigeria.Following a successful career in publishing, he went into politics alongside Sir Herbert Macaulay, he co-founded 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 and in 1951, he became leader of opposition to the government of Obafemi Awolowo in the Western region House of Assembly in 1954, he became the premier.In 1960 he became 1st senate president.



    Gen. Aguiyi Ironsi

    JTU Aguiyi- Ironsi Johnson Thomas Umunnakwe Aguiyi-Ironsi (1924- 1966) was a Nigerian Igbo political figure. He served as the President of Nigeria from January 16, 1966 until he was overthrown and killed in a coup on July 29, 1966. Major General J.T Aguiyi-Ironsi, Nigeria’s first military Head of State was born in 1924 in Umuahia, Abia State. He later joined the Nigeria Army in 1942 as a private and was promoted Major General in 1964.

    Nigeria Past Leaders



      Gen. Yakubu Gowon

      He took power after one military coup d’etat and was overthrown in another. He remains the youngest person to have ruled the country. His government fought to keep Nigeria one during the civil war(1967-1970), which broke out in the aftermath of the regional tensions arising from the January and July 1966 coups d’etat. A Christian from Kanke Local Government Area of Plateau State, Gowon had a thorough bred career before the circumstances of the time thrust upon him a leadership role.He fought in congo(Zaire) as part of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in 1960 to 1961 and in 1963.Highlights of Gowon’s nine year old government included development of the country’s former capital, Lagos creation of 12 states, and expansion of government bureaucracy.He is also remembered for his indigenization policy in 1972, which is dedicated to seeking the face of God for the good of the country.An elder statesman in African politics, he is involved in the Guinea Worm Eradication Programme and the HIV Programme with Global Fund of Geneva.

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        Gen. Murtala Muhammed

        Was a military ruler (Head of Federal Military government) of Nigeria (1975- 1976). Mohammed opposed the regime of Johnson Aguiyi –Ironsi which took power after a coup d’etat on January 15, 1966. On july 29, 1975, General Mohammed was made head of state by younger soldiers who wanted to ensure that Nigeria was returned to democratic rule. The armed forces chose thirty- eight- years old Brigadier (later General) Murtala Ramat Mohammed, a Musli m northerner, to succeed Gowon.A hausa, trained at the British military academy at sandhurst, murtala muhammed had command of federal field forces in the had played a prominent role in rallying northern offices behind the july1996 coup that fell ironsi .Murtala Muhammed was however killed on February 13,1976 in an abortive coup attempt when his car was ambushed in traffic in lagos .He was succeeded by chief of staff Olusegun Obasanjo ,who completed the plan of an orderly transfer to civilian by handing power to Alhaji Sehu Shagari on October 1,1979.his portrait adorns Nigeria N20 Naira currency note.


        Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo

        He was a chief of staff during Muritala R Muhammed regime before he was named as a military leader in the country.He was the first military leader in the country.He handed over power to a civilian government, Alhaji Sehu Shagari, he became elected civilian president on may 29 ,1999.The division he headed during the nation’s civil war, 3rd marine commando, helped bring the war to an end ,when it took owerri, in the then eastern Nigeria heartland.Obasanjo’s first time in power was marked by improvemaent in education, through the universal primary education policy and other programmes, and attempts to expand the country’s industrial base with huge revenues from the oil boom at the time, and the Operation Feed the Nation,a programme designed to encourage farmers in the country .On October 1, 1979 handed power to Alhaji Shehu Shagari. Obasanjo was born on March 5, 1937 in Ogun State.He grew up in Owu, Abeokuta, and enlisted in the Nigeria Army in 1958.He trained at Aldershot, a military city and centre in Hampshire, Southern Nigeria.



        Alh. Shehu Shagari

        Nigeria’s Second Republic President, was the first elected president of Nigeria to exercise full executive powers, after the handover of power by General Olusegun Obasanjo caretaker Government. Shagari rose from very humble origins to the highest political throne in the country.He thaught briefly before going into Politics in 1954 as elected member of the Federal House of Repesentatives. He made housing, industries, transportation, and agriculture the major goals of his presidency, launching large scale housing programme that built estates, like the Shagari Estate. In industries, Shagari completed the Delta Steel Complex in 1982, and invested heavily on the Ajaokuta Steel Complex and the Steel Rolling Mills. Shagari initiated and Economic Stabilisation Programme meant to protect the country against any shortfalls in oil revenue after the highs of the 70’s and to guide the economy towards positive growth. Key objectives of the programme included reduction of import licencec and government spending and the upward review of custom duties.He was born on the February 25, 1925 in Shagari village, Sokoto State. Shagari was considered a Champion of Democracy and Government due to his programmes target at improvement of the lives of the great majority. Rampant corruption under Shagari’s administration, include an election marked by accusations of fraud, coupled with a decline in world oil price, led to a marked determination in the national finances under Shagari’s watch, while religious and political violence became so endemic that his overthrow by General Muhammadu Buhari on New Year’s Eve in the 1983 was actually looked upon with relief by most of the Nigeria Public at the time.


        Maj. Gen. Muhammedu Buhari

        Born on December 17,1942. His ethnic Background is Fulani and his faith is Islamic,his family is from katsina State.Buhari first came to lime light in 1975 when he became the Minister for Petroleum And Natural Resources under the then Head of State General Olusegun Obasanjo.Before then he was the Governor of the newly created North Easthern State of Nigeria during the regime of Murtala Mohammed.he later became the head of the newly created Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation in 1977. Major General Buhari and Major General Tunde Idiagbon were selected to lead the country by middle and high rank military offices after a successful military coup d’etat that overthrew civilian President Shehu Shagari on December 31,1983. Buhari was appointed Head of State and Commander in Chief, of arm forces and Idiagbon was appointed as Chief of General Staff(the Defactor #2 in the Administration. Buhari justified the military’s seizure of Power by castigating the civilian government hopelessly corrupt and his administration subsequently initiated a public campaign against indicipline known as “War Against Indiscipline” (WAI). Later became the leader of the All Nigerian People Party(ANPP), contesting and losing presidential elections to the ruling PDP candidates in 2003 and 2007 elections. Also in 2011 he became the leader of CPC contested and loosed in presidential election to PDP.



          Gen. Ibrahim Babangida

          Born on August 17, 1941 in Minna, popularly known as IBB. He introduced the concept of military president into the Nigerian political lexicon and till date remains the country’s only military leader addressed by that title. He maintained a firm grip on power and tried to abrogate the unpopular policies he inherited in office. Babangida’s regime was popular for its liberal economic policies. He tried to introduce the culture of debate into politics, with the open deliberations that preceded his lunching of the World Bank, International Monetary Fund(IMF) supported Structure Adjustment Programme (SAP). He administered an eight years political transition prgramme that, though did not culminate in the enthronement of civil democracy but succeeded in throwing up new crop of leaders in various spheres of the country’s political life. He departed from office under heavy popular pressure in 1993, after his annulment of elections held that year which were widely held to have been the freest and fairest in Nigeria’s Post Independence History.

          Chief Ernest Shonekon

          Chief Ernest Adegunle Oladeinde Shonekan was born on 9 May 1936 in lagos, South-West Nigeria.He is a British trained Nigerian Lawyer, Industrialist and political.He was appointed as interim president of Nigeria by Nigeria General Ibrahim Babangida on 26 August 1993. Babangida resigned under pressure to cede control to a democratic government. Shonekan’s transitional administration only lasted three months, as a palace coup led by General Sani Abacha via Shonekan’s “resignation” forcefully dismantled the remaining democracy institutions and brought the Government back under military control, on United African Company (UAC), a large Nigerian Conglomerate.

          Gen. Sanni Abacha

          General Sani Abachi ( 20 September 1943 8 June 1988) was a Nigerian politician and military leader.He was the de facto president of Nigeria from 1993 to 1998
          • Political Life: Abacha was a muslim of kanuri extraction.He was instrumental in the two bloodless military coup d’etat brought and removed General Mohammadu Buhari from power in 1983 and 1985.When General Ibrahim Babangida was named president and commander in chief of the armed force of the federal republic of Nigeria in 1985, abacha was named chief of army staff.He was later appointed minister of defence in 1990. Abacha took over power from the caretaker government of chief Ernest Shonekan, which was put into place by General Ibrahim Babangida after his annulment of the 12 june 1993 elections (won by Moshood Kasimawo Olawale Abiola) caused a massive popular uproar.Abacha’s government was accused of human rights abuses, especially after the hanging of Ogoni activist Ken Saro-Wiwa by the Auta tribunal. His regime suffered stiff opposition internally and externally pre-democracy activists who made the regime unpopular. General Abacha died at the age of 54 of an alleged heart attck at the presidential villa Abuja, and was buried on the same day without an autopsy fuelling speculation that the General may have been poisoned by political rivals.After his death, Sani Abacha’s name is often used in 419 scam letter as the source for ‘money’ that does not exist.
          • His Sudden Death: Here is a wide held believe amongst Nigerians that Abacha died due to a Viagra overdose.General Abacha served during the controversial execution of Ken Saro Wiwa. On the 10th of November 1995, Saro Wiwa was hanged by Abacha, resulting in the immediate suspension of Nigeria from the commonwealth of Nations.

          Gen. Abdulsalaam Abubakar 

          Born June 13 1942, became Nigeria’s 8th military head of state in 1998.he was born in minna, Niger State in Northern Nigeria.He schooled locally and outside Nigeria, he also served locally and outside Nigeria, before he emerged as Head of State in Nigeria.Abubakar is one of the few generals in Nigeria who rose to the top without holding political office.He has previously held Military Positions, and had , in general, stayed out of the political limelight. His wife, Fatima, was a high court Judge.At the time of his appointment, He was just away from his 56th birthday on june 13.Abubakar was appointed head of state upon the sudden death of his predecessor, Sani Abacha.He notably re-established the democracy tradition in Nigeria arranging for general corruption-free election that resulted in 1999 ascension of Olusegun Obasanjo as the democritically elected leader of the country as opposed to its previous rule(1976 to 1979) as inheritor of the power structure of coup leader Murtala.



            General Chief Olusegun Obasanjo

            Obasanjo was born on march 5, 1937 in Ogun state.He grew up in Owu Abeakuta,and enlisted in the Nigerian Army in 1958.he trained at Aldershot. A military city and centre in Hampshire, Southern England.he was a chief of staff during Murtala R. Mohammed regime before he named as a military leader in the country.He was the first military leader in the country to hand over power to the civilian government. He became the elected president on May 29, 1999.He also conducted the country first civilian to civilian hand over on May 29 2007.He is the only Nigerian to have ruled twice as a military and later as elected leader..Political Party, People democratic Party, Spouse Stella Obasanjo(deceased).


            Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’Adua

            Umaru Musa Yar’Adua(16 August 1951-5 May 2010) Yar’Adua was born into an aristocratic Fulani family in katsina; He stated his education at Rafukka Primary School in1962.In 1971 he received a a Higher School Certificate from Barewa College.He attended Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria from 1972 to 1975, attaining a Bsc in Education and Chemistry, and then returned in 1978 to achieve an M.Sc Degree in Analytical Chemistry.
            • Professional Career: Yar’Adua’s first employment was at Holy Child College in Lagos (1975-1976). He later served as a lecturer at the College of Arts, Science, and Technology in Zaria, Kaduna State, between 1976 and 1979. Board Chairman of katsina State Investment and Property Development Company(KIPDECO) between 1994 and 1996.Yar’Adua served as a director of many companies, including Habib Nigeria Bank Ltd.
            • Presidency: In the presidential election held on 21 April 2007,Yar’Adua won but strongly criticized by observers, as well as the two primary opposition candidates, Mohammed buhari of all Nigeria peoples party (ANPP) and Atiku Abubakar of the Action Congress(AC). After the election, Yar’Adua proposed a government of National unity. In late june 2007, two opposition parties, the ANPP and the Progressive Peoples Alliance(PPA), agreed to join Yar’ Adua’s government. On 28 June 2007, Yar’Adua publicly revealed his declaration of assets(becoming the first Nigeria leader to do so).This disclosure, which fulfilled a pre-election promise he made, was intended to set an example for other Nigerian politician and discourage corruption.
            • Illness and death: President Yar’Adua left Nigerian 23 November 2009, and was reported to be receiving treatments for pericarditis at a clinic in Saudi Arabia.On 22 January 2010,the supreme court of Nigeria ruled that the federal executive council (FEC) had 14 days to decide on a resolution about whether he “is incapable of discharging the function of his office”. On 9 february 2010, the senate decided that presidential power be transferred to vice president Goodluck Jonathan, and that he would serve as acting president, with all the accompanied powers, until Yar’Adua returned to full health. The power transfer has been called a ‘coup without the word’ by opposition lawyers and lawmakers. However, there are others that felt the power vacuum will lead to instability as a political military take over. On 24 february 2010, Yar’Adua returned to Abuja. His state of health was unclear, but there was speculation that he was still on a life support machine. Yar’Adua died on 5th of May 2010 at the Aso Rock Presidential Villa.An Islamic Burial took place on 6th Of May in his hometown.



              Dr. Goodluck Jonathan

              Early Life, Education And Personal Life: Jonathan was born in Otueke in Ogbia Local Government Area of the then eastern region, later River State, now Bayelsa State.He holds a Bachelor of Science (B.Sc) degree in zoology in which he attained Second Class Honours, Upper Division.He also holds an M.Sc in Hydrobiology/Fisheries biology and a Doctor Of Philosophy(Ph.D) in zoology from the University Of Port-Harcourt. He is married to Patience and has two children. Jonathan is an Ijaw.

              Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa

              The Prime Minister of the First Republic between October 1st 1960 – January 15th, 1966. He was born in the year 1912 and died in the year 1966.

              Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe

              The First President between October 1st 1960 – January 15th 1966.
              He was born in the year 1904 and died On May 11, 1996.

              Gen. Aguyi-Ironsi

              The First Military Head of State between January 15th 1966 – July 29th 1966.

              Gen. Yakubu Gowon

              The Second Military Head of State between 1966 – 1975.
              He was born in the year 1934.

              Gen. Murtala Mohammed

              The Third Military Head of State between 29th July 1975 – February 13, 1976.
              He was born in the year 1938 and died in February 13, 1976.

              Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo

              The Fourth Military Head of State between 1976 – 1979.
              He was born in the year 1937.


              The First Executive President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria
              between 1st Oct. 1979 – 3rd December 1983.
              He was born in the year 1925.


              Head of State between 1983 – 1985.
              He was born on Dec. 17, 1942.


              The Nigeria Military President between 27 Aug., 1985 – 26 Aug., 1993.
              He was born in the year 1941.


              The Head State between 26th August, 1993 – 17th Nov., 1993.


              The Head of State between 19th November, 1993 – 8th June, 1998.
              He was born in the year 1943 and died on June 8, 1998.


              The Head of State as from June 8, 1998 – May 29, 1999.
              He was born in the year 1942.


              The National President of Nigeria between May 29,1999 – May 29, 2007.


              The National President from May 29, 2007 till May 5, 2010. He died in office at the of 59.


              The National president from May 6, 2010 to 2016. He was the Vice President and became the Acting President. He later became the President after the death of Yar’adua, and afterwards Contested and won the 20011 Presidential elections.

              President Muhammed Buhari 

              In 2015, PMB contested under the All Progress Congress (APC) and won the incumbent President (PDP). He is the current President of Nigeria

              Source: Martins Library

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