“From the First Republic Prime Minister, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa to the immediate past President Muhammadu Buhari, the list is a potpourri of those elected through participatory democracy and the military dictators who foisted themselves on the nation through coups and counter coups. “
*Photo: President Bola Ahmed Tinubu *
President Bola Ahmed Tinubu has a long and rich list of forerunners in the office since October 1st, 1960, when Nigeria gained independence from Great Britain.
From the First Republic Prime Minister, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa to the immediate past President Muhammadu Buhari, the list is a potpourri of those elected through participatory democracy and the military dictators who foisted themselves on the nation through coups and counter coups.
Abubakar Tafawa-Balewa (1st October 1960- 15th January, 1966)
Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa-Balewa, the first and only prime minister of Nigeria, was a humble protege of Sir Ahmadu Bello, the late Premier of the defunct Northern Region and leader of the Northern People’s Congress (NPC).
He became Prime Minister because Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto and direct descendant of Uthman Dan Fodio (founder of the Sokoto Caliphate) was more interested in remaining the Premier of Northern Region than becoming the Prime Minister of Nigeria.
On the attainment of independence by Nigeria, the two other regional premiers – Dr Nnamdi Azikwe (Eastern Region) and Chief Obafemi Awolowo (Western Region) moved to the centre as ceremonial President and Leader of Opposition respectively.
But Sir Ahmadu Bello stayed back in Kaduna, the capital of Northern Region, as Premier and the lot fell on Alhaji Balewa to be the Prime Minister with executive powers under the British-styled parliamentary system of government that Nigeria operated during the First Republic.
The government came into being with the Dr Azikiwe-led National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC) and the NPC forming a governing alliance while the Action Group (AG) which had Chief Awolowo as leader was the main opposition party.
Balewa, a trained teacher, was elected to the Northern House of Assembly in 1946 and to the Legislative Council in 1947.
He was Vice President of the Sardauna-led NPC under which he was elected in 1951 by an electoral college system to the Federal House of Representatives from the regional assembly.
In 1952, he became Minister of Works, and later served as Minister of Transport during a time Nigeria was moving towards self-government.
Balewa became the Chief Minister and Prime Minister designate in 1957, when NPC won the plurality of votes in the Federal House of Representatives.
He retained the post as Prime Minister of Nigeria when Nigeria gained independence in 1960, and was re-elected in 1964.
Balewa’s tenure faced turbulent times at the home front with domestic problems constantly threatening his government.
His administration however recorded landmark achievements in foreign affairs as the Prime Minister played a key role in the formation of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU).
He was also a dominant figure in the negotiations between Moise Tshombe and the Congolese authorities during the Congo Crisis of 1960–1964 and also one of the leaders who campaigned for the expulsion of apartheid South Africa from the Commonwealth.
Balewa’s government was toppled in a military coup on 15 January, 1966, led by some young Majors.
The deposed Prime Minister and some other political leaders – including the Sardauna and Sir Ladoke Akintola, Premier of Western Region and estranged deputy of Awolowo – were killed by the coup plotters.
General Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi (15 January 1966 -29 July, 1966)
Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa-Balewa was succeeded by General Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi, who spent just 194 days in office as Head of State. Though he was not part of the original coup plotters, he seized power during the ensuing chaos after the military coup as the most senior military officer.
Aguiyi-Ironsi, who joined the Nigerian Regiment as a private with the seventh battalion 1942, had risen to the peak of his military career by the time the coup took place.
He was promoted to the rank of major general in 1965 and that same year, the British born Major General C.B. Welby-Everard handed over his position as the General officer Commanding, (GOC) of the entire Nigerian Army to Aguiyi-Ironsi, which made him the first indigenous officer to head the Nigerian Army.
The Aguiyi-Ironsi’s administration promulgated a number of Decrees.
These included the Constitution Suspension and Amendment Decree No.1, which suspended most articles of the Constitution. There was also the Circulation of Newspaper Decree No.2 which removed the restrictions on press freedom that had been put in place by the preceding civilian administration.
Yet another notable military ‘legislation’ by the administration was the Defamatory and Offensive Decree No.44 of 1966, which made it an “offense to display or pass on pictorial representation, sing songs, or play instruments the words of which are likely to provoke any section of the country”.
Perhaps the most controversial among the decrees was the Unification Decree No. 34, which aimed to turn Nigeria into a unitary state.
Aguiyi-Ironsi however had a short-lived reign as he was killed in the counter-coup of 29 July, 1966, led by a group of Northern army officers comprising of Major Murtala Mohammed, Captain Theophilus Danjuma, Lieutenant Muhammadu Buhari, Lieutenant Ibrahim Babangida and Lieutenant Sani Abacha. The Northern military officers, as fate would have it, later – though at different times (with the exception of Danjuma) – formed a large bulk of President Tinubu’s forerunners in office.
The main grouse of the Northern officers against Aguiyi-Ironsi was his failure to bring the masterminds of 15 January 1966 coup to justice.
While political leaders from other parts of the country were killed in the coup, those from Igboland in the Eastern Region suffered no such misfortune. Since the coup plotters were mainly Igbos and Aguiyi-Ironsi was himself Igbo, the Northern officers that staged the counter coup felt the Head of State was part of a plot against the rest of the country, particularly the North.
They became even more alarmed when Aguyi-Ironsi promulgated Decree Number 34, which proposed the abolition of the federal system of government in favor of a unitary state.
Unitarism had long been championed by a major section of the Igbo-dominated NCNC and its introduction by Aguiyi-Ironsi was interpreted by the North as an Igbo attempt at a takeover of all levers of power in the country.
It was said that the original intention of the counter coup leaders was the secession of the Northern region from Nigeria as a whole, but they were reportedly dissuaded by several advisors, amongst which included a number of high-ranking civil servants and judges, and importantly emissaries of the British and American governments who had interests in the Nigerian polity.
General Yakubu Gowon (29 July, 1966 – 29 July 1975)
Following the success of their counter coup, the young officers named Lieutenant Colonel Yakubu Gowon as the new Head of State.
One of the first things Gowon did on assumption of power was the abrogation of Aguiyi-Ironsi’s Decree Number 34.
To stabilize his regime and shore up his status as Head of State and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, Gowon promoted himself to Major-General just before the commencement of the Nigerian civil war in 1967 and to full General at the end of the civil war in 1970.
The Gowon regime in a bid to pre-empt and weaken the planned secession by the Eastern Region under Colonel Chukwuemeka Odumegu Ojukwu announced on 5 May 1967, the division of the 3 Nigerian regions into 12 states: North-Western State, North-Eastern state, Kano State, North-Central State, Benue-Plateau State, Kwara State, Western State, Lagos State, Mid-Western State, and, from Ojukwu’s Eastern Region, a Rivers State, a South-Eastern State, and an East-Central State.
The South-Eastern and Rivers states were non-Igbo. And like the minorities in the other regions, they do not have much affection for the majority tribes within their region as they considered them domineering.
Pulling the South-Eastern and Rivers states out of the old Eastern Region gave the people of the two new states a sense of ‘liberation ‘.
The creation of new states and other measures did not however deter Ojukwu, as he declared secession on 30 May 1967, thus setting the stage for the Nigerian Civil war.
A deeply compassionate leader, Gowon at end of the war on 13 January 1970, made the famous “no victor, no vanquished” speech. He followed it up with an amnesty for the majority of those who had participated in the Biafran uprising, as well as a program of “Reconciliation, Reconstruction, and Rehabilitation”, to repair the extensive damage done to the economy and infrastructure of the East during the war.
General Murtala Ramat Mohammed/General Olusegun Obasanjo (29 July 1975 – 1st October, 1979)
In another game of musical chair, the Gowon’s regime also suffered a military coup, though this time bloodless. He was swept out of office on 29 July 1975, while he was attending an OAU summit in Kampala, Uganda.
The coup plotters appointed Brigadier Murtala Muhammed, a key figure in the counter-coup against Aguiyi-Ironsi, as the head of the new government and Brigadier Olusegun Obasanjo as his deputy.
Later promoted General, Murtala endeared himself to the populace, especially when he outlined plans to return Nigeria to civil rule.
Building on the 12 states structure it inherited from Gowon, the Murtala Muhammed military administration on 3 February 1976, created new states and renamed others.
The states it created include: Bauchi, Benue, Borno, Imo, Niger, Ogun, and Ondo. This brought the total number of states in Nigeria to nineteen (19).
Also as head of state, Muhammed put in place plans to give Nigeria a new Federal Capital Territory due to Lagos being overcrowded. He set up a panel headed by Justice Akinola Aguda, which chose the Abuja area as the new capital.
A downside of his administration however was the 1975 mass purge in the Nigerian Federal Civil Service which saw many Civil Servants being retired and sacked “with immediate effect.”
Although there was a near general consensus that the civil service was undisciplined, there were allegations that malice and revenge was used by heads of department in recommending people for retrenchment.
Murtala Muhammed’s life was cut short on 13 February 1976 in yet another military coup. The coup later turned out to be abortive and he was succeeded by his deputy, General Olusegun Obasanjo.
As part of its achievements, Obasanjo’s administration in 1979 introduced Operation Feed the Nation (OFN) with the specific focus of increasing food production in the country. Nigerians, including civil servants were encouraged were encouraged to embrace farming at both small and large scale levels.
It is instructive that Obasanjo and other leading lights of his administration such as his deputy, General Shehu Yar’Adua and General Theophilus Danjuma, the Chief of Army Staff took to large scale farming upon their retirement from the military in 1979.
Under Obasanjo also,the military government set up a constituent drafting committee to fashion out a new constitution as a prelude to a return to civil rule.
The committee recommended that Nigeria should change its civil system of government which was based on the British parliamentary system, to one based on the U.S. presidential system whereby a single elected president would be both head of state and head of government.
President Shehu Shagari (1st October, 1979 – 31st December, 1983)
Obasanjo remained faithful to the pledge of Murtala Muhammed’s regime to return Nigeria to civil rule and on 1st October, 1979, he handed power to Alhaji Shehu Shagari, from Sokoto State, who was elected executive president on the platform of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN).
Among his major opponents in the 1979 presidential election were two gladiators of the pre-independence and the First Republic politics, Dr Azikiwe and Chief Awolowo who contested on the platforms of the Nigerian Peoples Party (NPP) and the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) respectively.
As was the case during the First Republic, Azikiwe’s NPP went into an accord with the NPN to give the latter a comfortable majority in the National Assembly while Awolowo and his lieutenants remained out of the power loop at the federal level.
Part of the manifesto of the NPN upon which Shagari was elected president was “Green Revolution” , a somewhat replica of Obasanjo’s OFN.
In pursuing the “Green Revolution”, the administration distributing seedlings and fertilizer to farmers. President Shagari also commissioned The Bakalori Dam in Sokoto State; South Chad Irrigation Scheme, Borno State; Kafin Zaki Dam Bauchi State; Ogun River Dam, Ogun State; Dadin Kowa Dam Bauchi
State; Goronyo Dam Sokoto State, and Zobe Dam, Kastina State.
Housing equally had a pride of place in his party’s manifesto and many “Shagari Estates” established by his administration are still to be found in many states of the federation.
Not only that, his government also in 1980, finished building the Kaduna refinery, which started operating that year.
The Shagari administration launched many road networks across the country, including the ones leading to the new Federal Capital Abuja. Others were the Badagry-Sokoto, Lagos-Kano, Port Harcourt-Enugu, Kano-Bauchi, Warri-Okene, Abuja-Kaduna, Calabar-Ikom, Yola-Maiduguri, Mokwa-Bidda, Abuja-Keffi, Effurun-Patani-Kaiama, Jibia-Katsina, Kano-Kari and Potiskum-Maiduguri.
Generals Muhammadu Buhari/Tunde Idiagbon (31st December, 1983 – 27 August, 1985)
Shagari was re-elected president four years later, but the military staged a comeback on 31st December, 1983 and this brought in General Muhammadu Buhari – another leader of the July 29, 1966 counter coup – as Head of State.
Buhari as military head of state brooked no opposition. Together with his deputy, Brigadier Tunde Idiagbon, he jailed many politicians, accusing them of corruption.
The Buhari administration also identified indiscipline as the bane of the nation’s ills and therefore decided to fight it with the launching of the different phases of the War Against Indiscipline (WAI).
WAI had five phases, namely :-
a. Queuing (March 20, 1984)
b. Work Ethics (May 1, 1984)
c. Nationalism and Patriotism (August 21, 1984)
d. Anti-Corruption and Economic Sabotage (May 14, 1985)
e. Environmental Sanitation (July 29, 1985).
Other highlights of the measures taken by the regime were:
1. The suspension of the 1979 Constitution in January 1984.
2. The dissolution of political parties and ban on political activities in January 1984.
3. The freezing of accounts of political parties and corrupt ex-political office holders in the Second Republic in 1984.
4. The trimming down of the country’s Civil service labour force in 1984.
5. The change of colour of the nation’s currency notes (except the fifty kobo note) in April 1984 to stop currency trafficking. The exercise rendered almost half of the estimated N6 billion in circulation worthless at the expiration of the change.
6. The deportation of illegal aliens on the 14th of April, 1984 and 9th of August, 1985 respectively.
7. The clamp down on economic saboteurs with the legal backing of the Miscellaneous Offences Decree No. 20 of 1984.
8. The launching of the Expanded Immunization Programme (EPI) in May, 1984.
9. The initiation of counter trade in Petroleum products in May, 1984.
10. The wrestling of a major concession from OPEC in 1984 to increase Nigeria’s oil production quota from 1.3 million barrels to 1.45 million barrels per day.
11. The adoption of stricter austerity measures in 1984 and 1985 to further revamp the economy which include:
i. The closure of the Nigerian borders in January 1984 to stem smuggling.
ii. The setting up of taskforce to check bunkering as a result of expert’s estimation of a loss of one million Naira a day under the civilian government.
iii. The slashing of the basic travelling allowance (BTA) from N 500 to N 100 per annum in 1984.
iv. The introduction of N 100 airport special levy for travellers going outside Africa.
v. The reduction of the home remittance for foreigners to 25 per cent in 1984.
vi. The abolition of the Approved Users Scheme, the General Concessionary Rates of Duty and the Compulsory Advance Deposit Scheme.
vii. The introduction of a new Customs Tariff, which reduced the range of import duties from between zero and 500 per cent to between 5 per cent and 200 per cent.
viii. The granting of import duty exemption to only twenty items including agricultural implements, air craft, fuels, lubricants, educational films, technical assistance materials etc.
ix. The introduction of the Advanced Import Duty Payment Scheme.
x. The imposition of a levy on dormant companies.
xi. The promulgation of the Finance Decrees to amend the Income Tax Act of 1969.
xii. The halving of civil servants’ leave entitlement in January, 1985.
12. The trial and conviction of ex-politicians who ” illegally enriched themselves or their political parties”.
13 In 1984, Nigeria’s recognition of the Sahara Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) on November 11, 1984.
14. The encouragement of substitution of imported raw materials with local raw materials to boost the growth of industries.
15. The encouragement of self-sufficiency in agricultural food production.
16. The promulgation of a series of decrees aimed at revamping the economy and inculcating discipline. The most controversial being the Public Officers (Protection Against False Accusation) Decree No 4 and the
Miscellaneous Offences Decree No. 20 of 1984.
17. The rescheduling of the nations’s short term trade debts valued at over =N=5 billion and the subsequent issuance of promissory notes to the uninsured creditors.
General Badamosi Babangida ( 27 August, 1985 – 26 August 1993)
A palace coup was staged against Buhari on 27 August, 1985 and his Chief of Army Staff, General Ibrahim Babangida, brimming with gap-toothed infectious smiles, emerged the new leader.
The new military dictator – in a clear departure from the previous juntas – adopted the title of President.
Babangida shortly after coming to power established the Nigerian Political Bureau and charged it with the task to among others, “Review Nigeria’s political history and identify the basic problems which have led to our failure in the past and suggest ways of resolving and coping with these problems.”
The exercise was the broadest political consultation conduced in Nigerian history.
The regime also in1986 launched the Structural Adjustment Program (SAP), with support from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, to restructure the Nigerian economy.
In 1987, Babangida launched the Mass Mobilization for Self Reliance, Social Justice and Economic Recovery (MAMSER), following a recommendation from the Political Bureau, to increase self-reliance and economic recovery. The policies involved in the SAP and MAMSER were:
. deregulation of the agricultural sector to include abolition of marketing boards and elimination of price controls
. privatisation of public enterprises
. devaluation of the Nigerian naira to improve the competitiveness of the export sector
. relaxation of restraints on foreign investment put in place by the Gowon and Obasanjo governments during the 1970s.
. re-orient Nigerians to shun waste and vanity, promoting economic recovery
. shed all pretences of affluence in their lifestyle, promoting self reliance
. propagate the need to eschew all vices in public life, including corruption, dishonesty, electoral and census malpractices, ethnic and religious bigotry, promoting social justice
Babangida finished the construction of the Third Mainland Bridge, the largest bridge on the continent at the time. His administration also saw the completion of the dualising of the Kaduna-Kano highway. Babangida also completed the Shiroro Hydroelectric Power Station. He had the Toja Bridge in Kebbi constructed. He also created the Jibia Water Treatment Plant and the Challawa Cenga Dam in Kano. Babangida also founded the Federal Road Safety Corps in order to better manage the national roads.
On 23 September 1987, Babangida created two states: Akwa Ibom State and Katsina State. On 27 August 1991, he created nine more states: Abia, Enugu, Delta, Jigawa, Kebbi, Osun, Kogi, Taraba and Yobe, bringing the total number of states in Nigeria to thirty.
Babangida relocated the seat of government from Lagos to Abuja on 12 December 1991.
His transition programme was however deceitful and it ended in a fiasco. He later took Nigerians on a long and winding transition to civil rule program, banning and un-banning ‘old politicians’ , cancelling results of party primary elections as well as dissolving parties established by politicians. His regime would later decree two political parties – Social Democratic Party (SDP) and the National Republican Convention (NRC) – into existence and asked politicians to join them.
Babangida dribbled the nation so much that many Nigerians and foreigners came to the conclusion that he was simply not interested in quitting office.
I remember an encounter I had with a foreign diplomat in New York, at United Nations headquarters when I was on the entourage of Babangida to the 1991 UN General Assembly Session, which underscored this widely held view.
Babangida had just delivered his address to the August body where he reeled out his transition programme. Just as we were about leaving the hall, the diplomat, a white man, pulled me back and asked if truly my president’s handing- over promise should be believed. I responded in affirmation but the diplomat grimaced in a show of skepticism. I was at that time the State House Correspondent of The Democrat newspaper, which then had as its Editor, Mallam Abba Kyari, the late Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari.
After years of changing the goal post of his transition programme, a presidential election was held on June 12, 1993 but just when the billionaire newspaper publisher and philanthropist, Chief MKO was about to be announced the president-elect, Babangida’s regime annulled the election.
That singular act threw the nation into political turmoil and the regime came under intense pressure from Abiola and the ranks of pro-democracy campaigners, including Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu who by then was in the Senate on the platform of SDP under a military – civilian diarchy that Babangida had put in place as the Third Republic.
Babangida was forced to ‘step aside’ on 26 August 1993 and he handed over power to Chief Ernest Adegunle Shonekan whom he named Head of Interim National Government (ING) through a military decree.
Chief Adegunle Shonekan, Head of Interim National Government, ING ( 26 August 1993- 17 November 1993)
Shonekan, Abiola’s kinsman and fellow Egba High Chief, had been for many years the chairman and Chief Executive of the United African Company (UAC), successor of the British owned Royal Niger Company, before Babangida drafted him to governance.
Pro-democracy campaigners gave Shonekan no breathing space and the clamour for de-annulment of Abiola’s June 12 mandate became more trenchant. His ING remained beleaguered and on November 10, 1993, a judge of the Lagos High Court, Justice Dolapo Funlola Akinsanya, declared it illegal.
Shonekan was finally sent packing on 17 November 1993 in a bloodless military coup when the Armed Forces, headed by then Defence Minister, General Sani Abacha, forced him to resign.
General Sani Abacha (17 November 1993- 8 June 1998)
Abacha was the last of the leaders of the 1966 counter coup that became Head of State.
In his nationwide broadcast as the new leader, he described the June 12 election, as ‘a watershed’ in Nigeria’s political history and appointed as Ministers several political associates of the presumed winner of the election, including Ambassador Babagana Kingibe, Abiola’s running mate.
This fueled speculations that he would correct the injustice of the annulment of that election and hand over power to Abiola. Abacha soon showed that he had no such plans and the struggle against the annulment began afresh.
Abacha ran the most vicious military regime in the annals of Nigeria’s political history. So brutal was his junta that Abiola and many other opponents of military rule, among them Tinubu, fearing for their lives, went into exile to continue with the struggle.
Abiola later came back to the country June 11, 1994. He declared himself president before a ‘ mammoth crowd’ at Epetedo, Lagos and went underground. The Abacha junta bared its fangs by declaring him wanted. He was put on trial and kept in detention after he showed up.
Abacha defied both national and international clamour for the release of Abiola and termination of his treason trial. His defiance earned the regime sanctions from some western countries but Abacha would not yield.
Instead, his regime rail-roaded more critics into detention and accused others, such as his deputy, General Oladipo Diya and Generals Obasanjo and Musa Yar’Adua (retired) of coup plots against him. Those people were tried by military tribunals and pronounced guilty.
Nigerians and the entire world waited with bated breath, fearing the worst for those convicted. Then news filtered out on 8 June 1998 about the death of Abacha at the Aso Rock Presidential Villa. One account of his death had it that he had a cardiac arrest while having a dalliance with some Indian prostitutes. Another account said he was poisoned by agents of a foreign country in a bid to resolve Nigeria’s political impasse.
The Abacha’s administration will go down in the history of Nigeria among the most corrupt, if not the most corrupt.
Following the agreement reached with some countries, Nigeria has been receiving tranches from what is now known as “Abacha loot” many years since the death of the former dictator.
Abacha’s national security adviser, Alhaji Ismaila Gwarzo, was accused by the civilian government of President Olusegun Obasanjo to have played a central role in the looting and transfer of money to overseas accounts. Abacha’s son, Mohammed Abacha and best friend Alhaji Mohammed M. Sada were also involved.
A preliminary report published by the Abdulsalam Abubakar transitional government in November 1998 described the process.
Abacha held a constitutional conference between 1993 and 1995 and early in 1998, he announced that elections would be held on 1 August, with a view toward handing power to a civilian government on 1 October. It later became apparent that Abacha had no intention of relinquishing power as by April 1998, he had coerced the country’s five political parties into endorsing him as the sole presidential candidate.
His government has its own achievements though, as it was responsible for the reorganisation of Nigeria into six geopolitical zones in order to reflect cultural, economic, and political realities of the regions;
. North Central: Benue State, Kogi State, Kwara State, Nasarawa State, Niger State, Plateau State and Federal Capital Territory, Nigeria.
. North East: Adamawa State, Bauchi State, Borno State, Gombe State, Taraba State and Yobe State.
. North West: Jigawa State, Kaduna State, Kano State, Katsina State, Kebbi State, Sokoto State and Zamfara State.
. South East: Abia State, Anambra State, Ebonyi State, Enugu State and Imo State.
. South South: Akwa Ibom State, Bayelsa State, Cross River State, Delta State, Edo State and Rivers State.
. South West: Ekiti State, Lagos State, Ogun State, Ondo State, Osun State and Oyo State.
General Abdulsalami Abubakar (8 June 1998 – 29 May 1999)
The military high command drafted in General Abdulsalami Abubakar as the new Head of State after the death of Abacha. Abubakar’s regime announced plans to release all political prisoners. But few days to Abiola’s expected freedom, the regime announced that he died on July 7, 1998 in detention in Abuja after taking ill while receiving a delegation from the United States of America.
Many believed that Abiola was killed to ‘even-up’ with the death of Abacha, though General Abubakar strongly denied any wrong doing by his regime on the death.
Abubakar as military Head of State wasted no time in outlining plans to get the military back to the barracks.
Few days after assuming office, he promised to hold elections within a year and transfer power to an elected president.
He fulfilled the promise and his transition programme produced a former military head of state and retired general, Obasanjo as president.
President Olusegun Obasanjo ( 29 May 1999 – 29 May 2007)
Obasanjo had apparently planned to go into a quiet private life after his after his close shave with death under Abacha and subsequent release from prison by Abubakar. But he later caved in to pressure from some powerful interest groups who felt the nation needed someone like him from Abiola’s hometown, Abeokuta to assuage the grief and anger of Yoruba on the annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election and the death of its winner in detention.
Obasanjo, military Head of State between 13 February 1976 and 1 October 1979, was sworn as civilian president on 29 May 1999 having won the 1999 presidential election on the platform of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
He thus made history as the first military head of state to return to office as elected president. The second person to achieve the feat was Buhari, Tinubu’s immediate forerunner.
As a retired general, former military head of state and major player in the Nigerian military during the era of coups and counter coups, president Obasanjo took bold steps to ensure the stability of his administration and the Republic.
He retired around 200 military officers, termed “political soldiers “, thus making a coup by experienced officers less likely. He also moved the Defence Ministry from Lagos to Abuja, ensuring it was brought under more direct government control.
He brought an end to by Bakassi Peninsula dispute between Nigeria and Cameron by signing the the Greentree Agreement with Cameroonian President Paul Biya on 12 June 2006.
Though the Senate passed a resolution declaring that the withdrawal of Nigerian troops from the Bakassi Peninsula was illegal, Obasanjo was resolute and gave the order for it to continue as planned.
Obasanjo made other remarkable achievements during his 8 years in office as civilian president.
Some of these included getting a Debt-relief of $18 million from Paris club; curbing corrupt through the establishment of Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Introduction of mobile phones system.
He also privatised many public utilities and introduced Monetization Policy to control fringe benefits of civil servants such as house rent, furniture, health, and other benefits.
His second term however witnessed open confrontation between him and the Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar. Obasanjo threw his weight behind Alhaji Umaru Yar’Adua to win the PDP presidential ticket and the main election.
President Umaru Yar’Adua ( 29 May 2007 – 5 May 2010 )
Umaru, a two- term governor of Katsina State was declared the winner of the Nigerian presidential election held on 21 April 2007, and was sworn in on 29 May 2007.
He suffered from frail health and died in office on 5 May 2010, aged 58, without completing his first term.
As president, Yar’Adua openly admitted that the electoral process through which he was elected was not perfect. He therefore established a presidential electoral reform committee. Headed by Mohammed Uwais, a former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, the committee was asked to look into the legal factors, social and political institutions and security issues that affect the quality and credibility of elections in the country and also, to make recommendations on improving the credibility of elections. The reform committee, among other recommendations called constitutional measures to make the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) truly independent. It also recommended speedy resolution of legal challenges of elections, presumably before the swearing in ceremony of the victor of the seat being challenged.
Yar’Adua’s administration in August 2007 unveiled a seven-point agenda, namely:
. Infrastructure, power and energy
. Food security
. Wealth creation
. Land reforms
The administration was however not able to achieve them due to the ill health of the president.
Perhaps Yar ’Adua’s most enduring legacy was the Amnesty Programme he introduced in the oil rich Niger Delta region which encouraged militants to lay down their arms in exchange for rehabilitation. Through that program, an end was brought to kidnapping of indigenous and expatriate oil workers. Thus the nation’s continuous revenue from crude oil which was hitherto endangered again became assured.
President Goodluck Jonathan ( 6 May 2010 – 29 May 2015 )
The Vice President, Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan was named as Acting President of Nigeria on 9 February 2010, as a result of the prolonged absence of Yar’Adua from home for treatment in Saudi Arabia. Senate came up with what it termed the “doctrine of necessity” which allowed Jonathan to be sworn -in as Acting President. He became the substantive president on 6 May 2010 to complete the term of President Yar’Adua who died on 5 May 2010.
Jonathan is from the Ijaw ethnic group of Bayelsa State, in the Niger Delta region. The first and the only Nigerian Head of State till date to hold a doctorate degree was also the choice of his party, the PDP, for the 2011 presidential election.
He won the race and on 29 May 2011, he took the oath of office as president for his own first term.
As an “offshoot ” of Yar’Adua’s the Jonathan’s administration pursued part of the economic roadmap of its predecessor. The government “rebased” Nigeria’s gross domestic product for the first time in over a decade, thus becoming the largest economy in Africa by overtaking South Africa and Egypt.
On 2 August 2010, Jonathan launched his ‘Roadmap for Power Sector Reform‘. Its primary goal was to achieve stable electricity supply in Nigeria. The Power Holding Company of Nigeria, which acted as the nation’s electricity provider, was broken up into 15 firms, with Nigeria handing over control of state electricity assets to 15 private bidding companies.
Jonathan took another shot at the presidency in the 2015 general election but his luck failed him and he became the first incumbent president to be defeated by the candidate of an opposition party, the All Progressives Congress (APC).
President Muhammadu Buhari (29 May 2015 – 29 May 2023)
Retired Gneral Muhammadu Buhari won the presidential election in 2015 after he had contested three times and failed. He became the first opposition party to defeat a ruling party in Nigeria.
President Buhari’s policies were founded on a tripod of economic recovery, combating corruption and ensuring national security.
The administration came in during a period of economic downturn and fiscal challenges that resulted in the economy sliding into recession and States were unable to pay salaries.
The Buhari administration responded through the disbursement of bailout funds and the distribution of the secured Paris Club debt refunds to states of the federation. This significantly helped in reflating the economy and stabilizing the purchasing power of the citizens particularly the civil servants.
Buhari also in November 2015 launched the Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP) as part of measures for Nigeria’s economic recovery.
The objectives of ABP included linking anchor processing companies with smallholder farmers (SHFs) of some key agricultural commodities and ensure easy access to credit at low interest rate.
In August 2015, the president introduced the Single Treasury Account (TSA) and issued a directive to all MDAs to close their accounts with the Deposit Money Banks (DMBs) and transfer their balances to the CBN on or before 15th September, 2015. This decision helped in consolidating more than 20,000 bank accounts previously spread across DMBs in the country, and in saving of an average of 4.7 billion monthly in banking charges associated with indiscriminate government borrowing from the DMBs.
Buhari re-energized a demoralised military which had been cowered by the Boko Haram insurgents who had expanded terrorist attacks beyond their North East base to the Federal Capital.
Specifically, in defeating Jonathan and the PDP in 2015, Buhari owed a debt of gratitude to the birth of APC from the fusion of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), a breakaway faction of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and the new PDP – a faction of then ruling People’s Democratic Party.
And now, he would be happy the the APC has also produced his successor, President Bola Tinubu.
*Mikail Adegoke MUMUNI, Historian, Journalist and member of the Media and Publicity Directorate of the Tinubu/Shettima Presidential Campaign Council wrote from Lagos via firstname.lastname@example.org, 08062448710