Nigeria has had 16 Heads of State and Presidents since it gained independence from the British on October 1, 1960.
Some of the past Nigerian leaders were military generals, who got into power through coup while others were elected through the ballot.
As contained in a report on the website of the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation(OSGF), and Nigerian Tribune, this piece lists the Nigerian leaders, the ages when they became heads of state/Presidents and their states of origin.
1. Nnamdi Azikiwe
Nnamdi Benjamin Azikiwe, born 16 November 1904, was made Nigeria President on October 1, 1963, at the age of 58 years.
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He was from Anambra state in the southeast.
2. Major General Johnson Thomas Aguiyi Ironsi
Major General Johnson Thomas Aguiyi Ironsi, became Head of State on January 16, 1966, through a coup and was assassinated six months later on July 29, 1966.
Aguiyi Ironsi was from Umuahia in Abia state.
3. General Yakubu Gowon
General Yakubu Gowon is the youngest head of state in the history of Nigeria. He got into power after Aguiyi Ironsi’s death on August 1, 1966, at the age of 31.
He was overthrown on July 29, 1975, and he is from Plateau state
4. General Murtala Ramat Mohammed
He was the fourth Nigerian Head of state and got into power on July 29, 1975, at 36.
He was assassinated on February 13, 1976 and he was an indigene of Kano state.
5. General Olusegun Matthew Obasanjo
Obasanjo was the first South-Western to lead Nigeria, which became possible after his principal Mohammed was killed on February 13, 1976. He was 38 years old when he became head of state and was the first military head of state to hand over to a civilian president in Nigeria on October 1, 1979.
He is from Abeokuta in Ogun state.
6. Shehu Usman Aliyu Shagari
Shagari became the first civilian president on October 1, 1979, at the age of 54.
He was re-elected in 1983, but the military took over on December 31, 1983. The first elected president was from Sokoto state
7. Major-General Muhammadu Buhari
Buhari became head of state after a successful coup ousting Shagari from government in 1983 and left power on August 27, 1985. He was 41 years old when he became head of state and is from Katsina state.
8. General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida
Babangida became the 8th head of state/president on August 27, 1985, after overthrowing Buhari in a coup at the age of 44.
He handed over power to Chief Ernest Shonekan on August 26, 1993, and he’s from Niger state.
9. Chief Ernest Adekunle Oladeinde
Shonekan, was head of the interim government set up after the June 12, 1993 election was annulled by IBB.
He was president from August 26, 1993, to November 17, 1993, when General Sani Abacha overthrew him from power.
Shonekan was 57 years old and an indigene of Ogun state.
10. General Sani Abacha
Abacha came into power on November 17, 1993, at the age of 50. He was head of state for almost five years. He died on June 8, 1998.
The late Abacha was the 10th Nigerian head of state/president and was from Kano state.
11. General Abdulsalami Abubakar
Abdulsalami took over the heir of leadership after the death of Abacha on June 9, 1998, till May 29, 1999, when he handed over power to a civilian government.
He became head of state at 55 years old, and he’s from Niger state.
12. Olusegun Matthew Obasanjo
Obasanjo returned to the seat of power 20 years after handing over as a military general to a civilian government in 1979.
He became civilian president at the age of 62 and was in power for 8 years.
Obasanjo is from Ogun state.
13. Umaru Musa Yar'adua
Late Yar’adua was in power for almost 3 years before his death on May 5, 2010.
He was sworn in on May 29, 2007, as Nigeria’s 13th head of state/president at the age of 55 years. He was from Katsina state.
14. Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan
Jonathan, as vice president, took over after Yar’adua’s death in May 2010, at the age of 52.
He failed in his re-election bid in 2015, when he lost to Muhammadu Buhari. He is from Bayelsa state.
15. Muhammadu Buhari
Buhari was the oldest to become Nigeria’s president at the age of 72. He became Nigeria’s 15th president on May 29 and was in power for 8 years.
The immediate past president is from Katsina state.
16. Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu
President Tinubu became Nigeria’s 16th president after he was sworn in on May 29, 2023, at the age of 71.
The sitting president is from Lagos state.
List of past Presidents and how they emerged at the polls
Meanwhile, Legit.ng had reported that Nigeria had its 16th President on Monday, May 29, when President Bola Tinubu, was sworn in at an inauguration ceremony held at Eagles Square in Abuja.
The report highlighted how past Nigerian presidents emerged as winners in their elections.