Nigeria has been an independent country for almost 57 years and it has seen its fair share of presidents. However, we have noticed that there is a debate about who was the first Executive President of Nigeria. In this article, we will try to clear up the confusion about the topic, as well as tell you a little bit more about the first Nigerian leader.
When talking about the first Executive President of Nigeria, the main reason for the debate is the differences in perception. There are three answers to this question, depending on what you count as presidency.
Some people go by the book and say that the first President of Nigeria was Nnamdi Azikiwe, popularly known as Zik (1904-1996).
5 facts about Nnamdi Azikiwe
✦ His nationalistic ideas stemmed from the thoughts of Marcus Garvey, whose teachings are known as Garveyism.
✦ He had his own group of newspapers called the Zik Group, and this included the West African Pilot and Eastern Guardian.
✦ Azikiwe was the first Nigerian person to be named to the P. C. (Privy Council of the United Kingdom).
✦ He is the founder of the University of Nigeria in Nsukka, which opened in 1960.
✦ During the Civil war, he actually supported the idea of Biafra, however, after some time, he changed his mind.
His first position in the sovereign Nigeria was that of Governor-General in 1960. Three years later, he became the President of Nigeria (or so-called ‘first republic’). He remained at the post until 1966, when the coup happened and he was overthrown by the Igbo rebels.
Nnamdi Azikiwe was appointed by the parliament, and his position was mostly ceremonial. That is why a lot of people do not consider him to be the first Executive President of Nigeria. Instead, they argue that the true president should be elected and not appointed, thus, Shehu Shagari, who took the post in 1979, should be considered the first President of Nigeria.
5 facts about Shehu Shagari
✦ Before going into politics, Shagari used to be a teacher.
✦ Apart from being the president, he also occupied the posts of Minister of Economic Development, Minister of Internal Affairs, Minister of Public Works, and of Minister of Finance.
✦ His presidency fell during the time if what was known as the ‘oil boom’, and his policies were focused on gaining the most profits from it.
✦ Due to him being a Muslim, he was polygamous and had three wives.
✦ He could have been elected for second term; however, many suspected that he did not win the 1983 election fairly, which was why he was overthrown in 1983.
One would think that two candidates for the position of the first President of Nigeria are more than enough. Nevertheless, there are also people that are not satisfied with either of the previous two options.
When asked ‘who was the first elected Executive President of Nigeria?’, they say that it was Olusegun Obasanjo. The reason for this answer is that it was in 1999, when Obasanjo won the democratic presidential election that Nigeria first became what it is today (‘the fourth republic’).
5 facts about Olusegun Obasanjo
✦ Due to his achievements in the military service, he has been given the name ‘Baba Africa’.
✦ As the Head of State in the years 1976-1979, he worked hard on improving the economy and education and succeeded. He increased the country’s GDP and the number of higher education institutions.
✦ He served two terms as the President of Nigeria, and both times won the elections with over 60% of votes.
✦ Most consider Obasanjo’s style of ruling to be overly authoritative for a democratic country. During his presidency, he often came under fire for being too harsh.
✦ He has twenty children from four wives.
Each of these three people were commendable presidents in their times. Of course, they were not perfect and had their ups and downs, but still they worked on improving the life of Nigerian citizens. However, it is hard to say definitively which one should be considered the first Executive President of Nigeria, as all three of them were first in one way or another. That is why we have offered you the option to decide for yourself. Which one do YOU think was the first President of Nigeria?