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30 Interesting Facts about Nigerian Leaders

Nigerian Leaders; how much do you know about them? Who founded the Central Bank of Nigeria? Did you know that President Olusegun Obasanjo had no shoe when he wooed his first wife? Interestingly, only two states, Ogun and Katsina, have produced the most elected Presidents in Nigeria’s 58-year-old history.

Join me in reading on:

1. Till date, no President/Head-of-State has been born in/after 1960, the year Nigeria got her independence.

2. Olusegun Obasanjo is the only President whose exact year of birth is unknown. He was shoeless when he wooed his first wife, Remi. He is diabetic. He’s the only president to lose his wife and First Lady, Stella, while in office.

3. Obasanjo and Goodluck Ebele Jonathan are the only deputies to succeed immediately to the Presidency on the occasion of their principal’s death.

4. Obasanjo and Muhammadu Buhari are the only persons in the nation’s history to rule as both a military Head-of-State and a civilian President.

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. The two Presidents were North-Westerners; Presidents Shehu Shagari (Sokoto State) and Umaru Yar’Adua (Katsina State). They were both Muslims. They were both teachers.

7. While soldiers were dying at the battlefront, General Yakubu Gowon was getting married in Lagos. He remains the youngest Head-of-State at 31 years, 10 months and also the first to get married while in power. Gowon 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 and the second-largest in Africa is named after him.

9. Of the four major founding fathers, Chief Jeremiah Obafemi Awolowo was the only founding father who had one wife. His wife, Hannah Idowu Dideolu Awolowo lived till 98. Awolowo described her as a “Jewel of inestimable value“.

10. Alvan Ikoku (the man on the 10 naira note) and his son, Samuel Goomsu Ikoku were political enemies. Samuel won an election against his father in the Eastern Regional Assembly elections on March 15, 1957.

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 Macauley (the man on the 1 naira note) was the first Nigerian civil engineer and the first to institute a political party in Nigeria. 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 Nigerian leader to die in office. He was 37.

15. General Sani Abacha had 9 children and the last child, a boy, was born in Aso Rock in 1994.

16. Sani Abacha was born on a Monday. He also 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 federal 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 34 years and 2 months.

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. Shonekan ruled Nigeria the shortest; 2 months and 21 days while Olusegun Obasanjo ruled the longest (both military and civilian) for 11 years, 7 months and 18 days. Shonekan and Obasanjo 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 (Ibrahim Babangida, Abdussallam Abubakar), Katsina (Muhammadu Buhari, Umar Musa Yar’Adua) and Ogun (Olusegun Obasanjo, Ernest Shonekan) are the only states to have produced two leaders who had ruled the country.

A Carnage Before Dawn: 1966 Coup d'etat of Nigerian Leaders
You can get this book here.

27. In 1966, Nigeria had no Head-of-State for three days (July 29-August 1).

28. The only president who had no executive power at all was Dr. Benjamin Nnamdi Azikiwe.

29. Goodluck Jonathan was the first (and only) incumbent President to be defeated in an election in 2015.

30. The only Nigerian Heads-of-State who could speak the country’s three major languages (Hausa, Igbo, Yoruba) fluently were Igbos; Nnamdi Azikiwe and Johnson Thomas Aguiyi-Ironsi.

So that’s it. If you enjoyed these facts I first researched in 2016, you can share additional facts in the comment box below. You can also follow me on Twitter @AmazingAyo. Meanwhile, don’t forget to visit and subscribe to our YouTube channel for numerous interesting historical videos.

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Ayomide Akinbode

Ayomide Akinbode holds a degree in Chemistry but has a passion for History and Classics. When he is not writing, he’s either sleeping or playing Scrabble.

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