List: Nigeria presidents and military rulers since independence

Former President Goodluck Jonathan

Nigeria elects a new president on Saturday. Here is a list of former heads of state and military rulers since independence from Britain in 1960:

Queen Elizabeth II was head of state from October 1, 1960 to the same date in 1963 and ruled with a governor-general and prime minister until a republic was declared in 1963.

First Republic (1963-1966)

Nnamdi Azikiwe
Nnamdi Azikiwe

Nnamdi AZIKIWE (president, ceremonial; prime minister Abubakar Tafawa Balewa): Oct 1, 1963 to Jan 16, 1966 (overthrown).

Military rule (1966-1979)

General Johnson Thomas AGUIYI-IRONSI: Jan 16, 1966 to Jul 29, 1966 (overthrown).

General Yakubu GOWON: Jul 29, 1966 to Jul 29, 1975 (overthrown).

General Murtala MOHAMMED: Jul 29, 1975 to Feb 13, 1976 (assassinated).

General Olusegun OBASANJO: Feb 13, 1976 to Oct 1, 1979 (resigned).

Shehu Shagari
Shehu Shagari

Second republic (1979-1983)

Shehu SHAGARI: Oct 1, 1979 to Dec 31, 1983 (overthrown).

Military rule (1983-1993)

General Muhammadu Buhari Image by © William Campbell/Sygma/Corbis
General Muhammadu Buhari
Image by © William Campbell/Sygma/Corbis

General Muhammadu BUHARI: Dec 31, 1983 to Aug 27, 1985 (overthrown).

General Ibrahim BABANGIDA: Aug 27, 1985 to Aug 26, 1993 (resigned).

Third republic (1993)

Ernest SHONEKAN: Aug 26, 1993 to Nov 17, 1993 (overthrown).

Sani Abacha
Sani Abacha

Military rule (1993-1999)

General Sani ABACHA: Nov 17, 1993 to Jun 8, 1998 (died in office).

General Abdulsalami ABUBAKAR: Jun 8, 1998 to May 29, 1999 (resigned).

Fourth republic (1999-present)

President Goodluck Jonathan
President Goodluck Jonathan

Olusegun OBASANJO: May 29, 1999 to May 29, 2007.

Umaru Musa YAR’ADUA: May 29, 2007 to May 5, 2010 (died in office).

Goodluck JONATHAN: May 5, 2010 to date.


  1. One ex-military Nigehrian head of state recently argued that the US has had many ex- military officers in that country as presidents but that in Nigeria we are always casstigating our ex-military rulers.

    Ja, it is true that many US ex-military officers later became US presidents but that is where the comparison with Nigeria ends because none of the US presidents had history of instigating or leading any coup d’etat to destabilize their country’s political system. None of them had at any time looted their nation’s treasury only to use such ill-gotten wealth later to ascend to their nation’s presidency. In summary, none of the US ex-military officers that later became US presidents had any blemish that can lead to such castigations as are regularly cast on Nigerian ex-dictators.

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