In the history of Nigeria, 5 leaders have died in office.
Out of the five, three were assassinated, while one died mysteriously and the other died of health related issues.
The longest to stay in office among the dead leaders was Tafawa Balawa, who ruled for 6 years before he was killed in military coup.
The shortest was that of Aguiyi Ironsi who ruled for only a few months before his assassination.
Below are the five leaders and how they died while in office.
1. Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa (Prime Minister):
Lived from 1912–1966. He was the first Nigerian head of government to die in office. He was appointed prime minister of the Nigerian Federation in 1957, and after independence in 1960, he remained in that post. He ruled the country till January 15, 1966 when he was killed in the first military coup in the country, led by Major Kaduna Nzeogwu. He was a founder and Deputy President of the Northern People's Congress.
2. Major General Johnson Thomas Umunnakwe Aguiyi-Ironsi:
Lived from 3 March 1924 - 29 July 1966. He was a Nigerian soldier who seized power in the chaos that ensued in the first military coup in Nigeria. He served as the Head of State of Nigeria from 16 January 1966 until he was overthrown and killed on 29 July 1966 by a group of Northern army officers who revolted against his perceived tribalistic government.
3. General Murtala Mohammed:
He was born on November 8, 1938 and died on February 13, 1976. Murtala was made head of state in July 1975, when General Gowon was overthrown while at an Organization of African Unity (OAU) summit in Kampala, Uganda. He was killed at the age of 37 alongside his aide-de-camp, Lieutenant Akintunde Akinsehinwa, on February 13, 1976 in an abortive coup attempt led by Lt. Col Buka Suka Dimka, when his car was ambushed while en route to his office at Dodan Barracks, Lagos.
4. General Sani Abacha:
He was a Nigerian Army general and politician who served as the de facto President of Nigeria from 1993 to 1998. Abacha died mysteriously in June 1998 while at the presidential villa in Abuja and was buried on the same day, according to Muslim tradition, without an autopsy. After his death, there were speculations that he was poisoned by his political rivals via Indian prostitutes. Report had it that he was in the company of two Indian prostitutes imported from Dubai and they poisoned him, making him feel unwell around 4:30am. He retired to his bed and was dead by 6:15am.
The government identified the cause of death as a sudden heart attack.
However, Hamza al-Mustapha, a former army major and the Chief Security Officer (CSO) of General Sani Abacha has debunked th speculations and rumours that he was poisoned by prostitutes. According to him, Abacha’s sickness started the previous day (Sunday, 7th June, 1998) right from the Abuja International Airport immediately after one of the white security operatives or personnel who accompanied President Yasser Arafat of Palestine shook hands with him. In the evening of 8th June, 1998, around 6p.m; his doctor came around, administered an injection to stabilize him. In the early hours of 9 June, he died despite efforts to save him.
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5. Umar Musa Yar’Adua:
He was the President of Nigeria and the 13th Head of State. He was declared the winner of the controversial Nigerian presidential election held on 21 April 2007, and was sworn in on 29 May 2007. President Yar'Adua left Nigeria on 23 November 2009 for Saudi Arabia where he was reported to be receiving treatment for pericarditis and he was not seen in public again. 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. He eventually died on 5 May at the Aso Rock Presidential Villa. An Islamic burial took place on 6 May in his hometown.