Not many people know that both General Murtala Mohammed and General Sani Abacha were born and buried in Kano, and that all civilian presidents of Nigeria were once teachers, except Olusegun Obasanjo and Muhammadu Buhari.
Below are 30 shocking facts about Nigerian leaders since 1960.
30 Facts About Nigerian Leaders
1. To date, no Nigerian President/Head of State has been born in or after 1960, the year Nigeria got its independence.
2. Chief Olusegun Obasanjo is the only President whose exact year of birth is unknown and the only president to lose his wife, Stella, while in office.
3. Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan are the only Nigerian Vice Presidents to ever become presidents of the country.
4. Obasanjo and Muhammadu Buhari are the only people in Nigeria’s history to rule as both military Heads of State and Civilian Presidents.
5. The two Presidents who succeeded Obasanjo, first as Head of State in 1979 and as President in 2007, did not complete their tenures.
6. These two presidents were North-Westerners; Presidents Shehu Shagari (Sokoto State) and Umaru Yar’Adua (Katsina State).
7. While soldiers were dying at the battlefront during the Nigerian civil war, Yakubu Gowon got married in Lagos. He is the youngest Head of State at 32 years old and the first to get married while in power. He also ruled the longest (uninterrupted) for 9 years.
8. Alhaji (Sir) Ahmadu Bello was killed with his wife in 1966 by Major Kaduna Nzeogwu. His great-grandfather was the great jihadist from Sokoto, Uthman Dan Fodio. The largest university in West Africa is named after him.
9. Of the four major founding fathers, Chief Jeremiah Obafemi Awolowo, was the only one who had one wife. She lived till 98.
10. Alvan Ikoku (the man on the 10 naira note) and his son, Samuel, were political enemies.
11. Alhaji (Sir) Abubakar Tafawa Balewa was not supposed to be Prime Minister in 1959, but Alhaji (Sir) Ahmadu Bello (as the leader of the NPC). He gave Balewa the position and referred to him as “my lieutenant in Lagos”.
12. Herbert Heelas Samuel Macaulay (the man on the 1 naira note) was the first Nigerian civil engineer and the first to start a political party in Nigeria, NNDP. He was the grandson of Bishop Samuel Ajayi Crowther.
13. Generals Murtala Mohammed and Sani Abacha were both born and buried in Kano.
14. Murtala Mohammed, as Head of State, had no convoy nor escorts. He was the youngest Head of State to die in office at 37.
15. General Sani Abacha had 9 children and the last child, a boy, was born in Aso Rock in 1994.
16. General Sani Abacha was born on a Monday and died on a Monday.
17. Umar Musa Yar’Adua was the first elected President to die while in office.
18. During the civil war, Emeka Ojukwu slept every day with his boots on.
19. Major-General Johnson Thomas Umunakwe Aguiyi-Ironsi maintains the record as the tallest Head of State. He was the first Military Head of State.
20. Chief Festus Okotie-Eboh founded the Central Bank of Nigeria in 1959. He was the only minister killed in the January 15 coup of 1966.
21. Christians have ruled Nigeria for 25 years and 9 months while Muslims have ruled for 31 years and 5 months as at the point of writing this list.
22. Chief Ernest Adegunle Oladeinde Shonekan is the only civilian Head of State without a political party to rule Nigeria. He was also the only unelected leader and the only one to resign from office.
23. Ernest Shonekan ruled Nigeria the shortest for 2 months and 21 days while Olusegun Obasanjo ruled the longest (both military and civilian) for 11 years, 7 months and 18 days. Both are the only South-Westerners ever to rule the country. Both are from Abeokuta in Ogun State. Both are Christians.
24. Every Nigerian Head of State with an Ogun State indigene as his deputy, whether removed or sustained, died in office.
25. All civilian presidents were once teachers, except Olusegun Obasanjo and Muhammadu Buhari.
26. Niger, Katsina and Ogun States are the only states to have produced two leaders who had ruled the country.
27. Nigeria once had no leader for 3 days (July 29-August 1, 1966).
28. The only president who had no executive power at all was Dr Benjamin Nnamdi Azikiwe.
29. Dr Goodluck Jonathan is the first incumbent President to be defeated in an election.
30. The only President and Head-of-State who could speak Nigeria’s three major languages (Hausa, Igbo, Yoruba) fluently were Igbos – President Nnamdi Azikiwe and Major-General Johnson Thomas Aguiyi Ironsi respectively.
Thanks for reading 30 shocking facts about Nigerian leaders on OldNaija.
- Nigeria | History, Population, Flag, Map, Languages, Capital, & Facts. (n.d.). Encyclopedia Britannica; www.britannica.com.
- Omipidan, T. O. (2020, July 25). The Nigerian Civil War: Why and How It Happened (1967-1970) – OldNaija. OldNaija; oldnaija.com. https://oldnaija.com/2020/07/26/the-nigerian-civil-war/
- Omipidan, T. (2020, March 30). Nigerian National Democratic Party (NNDP) – First Political Party in Nigeria – OldNaija. OldNaija; oldnaija.com. https://oldnaija.com/2020/03/30/nigerian-national-democratic-party-nndp-first-political-party-in-nigeria/
- History of Nigeria | nigerianembmexico. (n.d.). Nigerianembmexico; www.nigerianembmexico.org. https://www.nigerianembmexico.org/history-of-nigeria