Who was the first president of Nigeria? If you have been wondering who the first president of Nigeria was, don’t worry because you are about to find out.
The Federal Republic of Nigeria is one of the biggest and most populated countries in Africa. It is bordered by Ghana, Benin Republic, Cameroon, and Chad.
Nigeria gained its independence from Britain on October 1st, 1960, becoming the second Sun-Saharan African country to attain independence.
The country has had some leaders in the past, and a lot of people often wonder who was the first president of Nigeria.
The president is usually the winner of an electoral process, and he is elected by an absolute majority of the vote. He serves a four-year term and is qualified to run for a second term.
The president is the Head of State and of Government. He is the Commander-in-Chief of the Army, Navy, and Air Force and also the Grand Commander of the Federal Republic, GCFR.
After Nigerians gained independence from the British colony and started to rule themselves, the country was led by many presidents and military heads of state who, in one way or the other, contributed immensely to the growth and development of the nation.
This article talks about the past presidents of Nigeria, but most importantly, it answers the question; who was the first president of Nigeria?
Who was the First President of Nigeria?
Dr Nnamdi Azikwe was the very first president of Nigeria, and he ruled the country from 1st of October, 1963, till 16th of January, 1966
After Nigeria became a republic on October 1st, 1963, it severed all ties with the British colonial masters, and Dr Nnamdi Azikwe took over as the head of the country.
Dr Nnamdi Azikwe was a well-known statesman. He, with some other Nigerians, was on the frontline fighting for the independence of Nigeria in 1960. He came to be known as the ‘father of Nigerian Nationalism’.
The first president of Nigeria, Dr Nnamdi Azikwe, usually referred to as ‘Zik’ was born on November 16, 1904, in Zungeru, Niger State. However, he hailed from Onitsha in Anambra state.
Nnamdi Azikwe ventured into politics alongside Sir Hebert Macaulay, and he helped establish the National Council of Nigeria and Cameroon, NCNC, in 1944, which later became National Council of Nigerian Citizens. He became the council’s secretary-general in 1946.
‘Zik’ became governor-general of Nigeria on 16 November 1960, with Abubakar Tafawa Balewa as the Prime Minister. He became the country’s first president in 1963 when Nigeria became a republic.
Dr Nnamdi Azikwe was removed from office in the 1966 military coup.
‘Zik’ established the ‘University of Nigeria, Nsukka, in 1960 and became the Chancellor of the University of Lagos from 1972 to 1976.
On 11th May 1996, after a prolonged illness, Dr Nnamdi Azikwe, aged 91, died at the University of Nigeria teaching hospital and was buried in his hometown.
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Other Presidents of Nigeria Till Date
Other presidents and heads of state of Nigeria after Dr Nnamdi Azikwe include;
Major General Jonhson Thomas Aguiyi-Ironsi
After the 1966 military coup that removed Dr Nnamdi Azikwe from office and led to the assassination of Tafawa Balewa, Major general Jonson Aguiyi-Ironsi took over as the first military president of Nigeria.
Major Gen. Aguiyi-Ironsi was born in the present-day Abia State on March 3rd 1924, in Umuahia. He joined the Nigerian Regiment at the age of 18.
Aguiyi-Ironsi rose to power after the disturbance that shook Nigeria after the 1966 military coup-de-tat. He ruled the country from 16th January 1966 till 29th July 1966.
During his short regime of 194 days, 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. He, however, never tampered with those sections that dealt with fundamental human rights, freedom of expression, and conscience.
Major General Aguiyi-Ironsi, aged 42, was assassinated during another military coup in Ibadan while he was visiting the house of Lieutenant Colonel Adekunle Fajuyi as part of his nationwide tour. This coup took place on July 29, 1966, and was led mostly by the northerners. His body and that of Fajuyi were later found in a nearby forest.
This coup brought an end to Aguiyi-Ironsi’s government and ushered in that of General Yakubu Gowon.
General Yakubu Gowon
After the July 26, 1966 coup that the assassination of Major General Aguiyi-Ironsi, General Yakubu Gowon took over as the second military president of Nigeria.
General Gowon was born on October 19, 1934, in Plateau State. He is known for leading Nigeria during the Nigerian Civil war, also known as the Biafran war. He was also the longest-serving Military head of state, ruling for 9 years.
Until July 1966, General Gowon remained a strict career soldier with no involvement in politics until the tumultuous events suddenly thrust him into a leadership role.
In July 1975, while Gowon was attending a summit in Kampala, yet another military coup took place, leading to his overthrow. The coup plotters appointed Brigadier Murtala Muhammed as the new head of government and Brigadier Olusegun Obasanjo as his deputy.
General Yakubu Gowon created 12 more states during his regime and established the National Youth Service Corps program.
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General Murtala Muhammed
Murtala Ramat Muhammed was born on November 8, 1938, in Kano. He led the 1966 Nigerian counter-coup that overthrew Major General Aguiyi-Ironsi’s regime, and he later ruled the country in July 1975 after the coup that overthrew Gowon’s regime.
During his estimated 200 days in office, Murtala Muhammed created 7 more states in February 1976. He is attributed with instituting plans to move the capital city from Lagos to Abuja
General Murtala Muhammed was assassinated on the 13th of January, 1976, on his way to work in his Mercedes Benz saloon car with his aide-de-camp, Lt. Akintunde Akinsehinwa. General Olusegun Obasanjo succeeded him.
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General Olusegun Obasanjo
Olusegun Obasanjo was born on March 5, 1937, in Ogun State. He took over the running of the country in 1976 after the assassination of General Murtala Muhammed.
Obasanjo heralded the transfer of power from military rule to civilian rule by holding a general election in 1979. He resigned from politics and surrendered power to the first elected civilian president, Alhaji Shehu Shagari, on the 1st of October, 1979, ushering in the second republic.
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Alhaji Shehu Shagari
Shehu Usman Shagari was born in 1925 to a Fulani family. After defeating Chief Obafemi Awolowo in the 1979 general election, he became Nigeria’s first democratically elected president.
When he completed his first four-year term in office, Shagari ran for a second term and won the election. However, he was overthrown by the General Muhammadu Buhari-led military coup on December 31st, 1983, ending the second Nigerian republic.
General Muhammadu Buhari
Major general Muhammadu Buhari became the military president after the successful coup that overthrew the civilian government and transferred power back to the military government.
Muhammadu Buhari was born on 17th December 1942 in Daura, Katsina state. He was known as a crime fighter during his military regime. His signature programme was the much-feared ‘War Against Indiscipline’.
In August 1985, General Muhammadu Buhari was overthrown and detained in a coup led by General Ibrahim Babangida.
General Ibrahim Babangida
Born on August 17, 1941, General Babangida was the military president of Nigeria from 1985 until he resigned in 1993.
He was born in Minna, Niger state and joined the Nigerian army in 1962.
Chief Ernest Shonekan
Born on 9th May, 1936 in Lagos state, Chief Ernest Shonekan was appointed interim president of Nigeria by General Babangida before resigning in 1993. He led the country for a short period of 3 months.
During these 3 months, he structured plans for the arrival of democracy. His tenure as president saw to the annulment of the offensive military Decrees 2 and 54, which allowed for the detainment of people without arrest warrants and the seizure of assets at the impulse of the government.
Ernest Shonekan was known for his quiet and personal discipline, and this obvious weakness was used as leverage to facilitate the palace coup led by General Sani Abacha.
He died on January 11 2022, at the age of 85, at the Evercare Hospital in Lagos.
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General Sani Abacha
Abacha served as military president after seizing power in 1993 until his death in 1998.
He was born on September 20, 1943, in Kano state.
Sani Abacha’s government established the last 6 states that sum up Nigerian states to 36.
He died in the presidential villa on June 8, 1998, due to an alleged heart attack.
General Abacha was a well-known dictator in Nigerian history. His government was tyrannic in nature and remained one of the most criticized government to date.
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General Abdulsalami Abubakar
Abdulsalami Abubakar succeeded General Sani Abacha after his death in 1998 and ruled the country till May 1999.
A few days after assuming office, General Abubakar promised to hold elections within a year and transfer power to an elected civil president. He established the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC and a presidential election was held on February 27 1999.
In May 1999, he handed power over to the newly elected civilian president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, welcoming the Fourth Republic.
Chief Olusegun Obasanjo
Olusegun Obasanjo assumed power again as the president of Nigeria in 1991. After winning the general election, he was also elected for a second term in office.
During his tenure in office, he established the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission, ICPC and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFC.
Chief Olusegun Obasanjo ruled Nigeria for a cumulative of eleven years, two hundred and 30 days (including his military regime), making him the longest-ruling president of Nigeria.
He handed over power to the newly elected president in 2007.
President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua
In 2007, Musa Yar’Adua was elected the president of Nigeria under the umbrella of the ruling People’s Democratic Party, PDP.
Unfortunately, Yar’Adua fell sick a while after assuming power and was not able to execute his presidential duties effectively. He battled with Pericarditis, an inflammation of the Pericardium, until his death in May 2010.
After his death, his vice, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, took over, ruling the country in his stead.
Goodluck Ebele Jonathan
He was the 14th president of Nigeria, and he took over running the country after the death of Yar’Adua until his tenure ended. Goodluck Jonathan then gunned for presidential seat during the 2011 elections and won under the People’s Democratic Party.
He continued as the president of the country until 2015, when he lost the election to Muhammadu Buhari.
President Muhammadu Buhari
Muhammadu Buhari got into power again in 2015 after three unsuccessful attempts. He is the 15th and current president of Nigeria.
FAQs on Who is the First President of Nigeria
Who was the first president of Nigeria after 1960
The first president of Nigeria was Dr Nnamdi Azikwe, and he ruled the country from 1963, when it gained independence, till 1966. Before this, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa was the Prime Minister after Nigeria gained independence in 1960.
Was Nnamdi Azikiwe the first president of Nigeria?
Yes, Dr Nnamdi Azikwe was the very first president of Nigeria.
Who was the first prime minister and president of Nigeria?
The first prime minister of Nigeria was Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, and the first president of Nigeria was Dr. Nnamdi Azikwe.
Who founded Nigeria?
The modern state originated with British colonialization in the 19th century, taking its present territorial shape with the merging of the Southern Nigeria Protectorate and Northern Nigeria Protectorate in 1914 by Lord Lugard.
These are the past presidents of Nigeria from 1963 till today. We hope you have been able to gain some insights on the past presidents and also gotten an answer to the question of who was the first president of Nigeria.