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Insight & Analysis - July 4, 2022

5 Best Nigerian Presidents of All Time

Nigeria has a history of severe bad leadership and underdevelopment despite its abundant natural and material wealth. So, it could be difficult to believe that there has ever been a good President in Nigeria’s political life.

Fifteen chief executives have served as Nigeria’s President, Head of State, Prime Minister, or Head of the Interim National Government.

Although most of these presidents’ administration was marred by corruption and ineptness, some performed reasonably well and made efforts to bring substantial development to the country.

Here are the 5 best Presidents in Nigeria’s history based on an opinion poll conducted by several online news media and forums.


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1. President Olusegun Obasanjo (from 1976 – 1979 / 1999 – 2007)

Numerous internet media outlets and public opinion surveys have supported that Olusegun Obasanjo is the best president in the history of Nigeria. Obasanjo served as both a military leader and a Democratic President.

He served as a military head of state from 1976 to 1979. During his rule, Nigerians experienced effective leadership. This was due to his continuous reforms, developments, and efficient governance.

Many Nigerians praise Obasanjo for uniting the country during his rule and bringing about peace, security, and stability.

He stunned the whole country in 1979 when he established a commission to design a new constitution and transfer power to a civilian leader, becoming the first military leader to relinquish power to a democratic leader.

Also, in his efforts to combat corruption in Nigeria, the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) were established under Obasanjo’s administration.

Before leaving the government in 2007 as a civilian President, he stabilised Nigeria’s democratic system and increased its foreign reserves by almost 50% ($2 billion to $43 billion).

2. President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua (from 2007 – 2010)

President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua came in second on the list as one of the best President Nigeria has had, according to a poll conducted by theCable, in which more than 2000 Nigerians participated.

Umaru Musa Yar’Adua’s reform goals were enshrined in a 7-Point agenda, which contained developmental policies in key areas that affect the citizens, including power and energy, Food security, Wealth creation, Transport sector, Land reforms, Security, and Education.

Unfortunately, Yar’Adua had limited time to actualise all his goals for the nation. After he died in 2010, his deputy, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, took over and continued to do more for the country. 

3. President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan (From 2010 – 2015)

There is no doubt that Nigeria has significantly benefited from Jonathan’s leadership. 

According to many Nigerians, he would have been the best president in the history of Nigeria if it weren’t for how poorly he handled the Boko Haram insurgency. This was the main obstacle his administration faced.

Beyond this, Jonathan’s administration successfully addressed and managed the Ebola outbreak in the country and re-established Nigeria’s railway system, which incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari consolidated.

President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan is still hailed as a moral and conciliatory figure. He was described as a hero after handing over power to President Buhari, who defeated him in the 2015 Presidential election.

However, many Nigerians contend that Jonathan was too complacent to govern a country like Nigeria.

4. General Murtala Rufai Mohammed (From 1983 to 1985)

Born on November 8, 1938, Murtala Rufai Mohammed was a Nigerian revolutionary and a military commander. If not for his death, he would have been one of the best things to happen to Nigeria.

It was alleged that his opponents murdered him 200 days after taking office due to the positive expectations he had for Nigeria. He is frequently hailed as a hero, and his 200 days in office were the finest in Nigerian history.

Murtala launched the plan to relocate Nigeria’s seat of power to Abuja. He also made several foreign policy decisions to support the nation’s expansion and prosperity. 

5. General Muhammadu Buhari (From 1983 to 1985 and 2015 – Present)

Surprisingly, according to numerous assessments and polls, Muhammadu Buhari is among the best presidents Nigeria has ever had.

Buhari was a military head of state from 1983 to 1985. During his military rule, he was perceived as a straightforward totalitarian who did everything in his power to ensure that indiscipline and corruption was reduced to the barest minimum.

He became a civilian president in 2015 and is currently in his second term. Since he is a serving President, it would not be fair to draw conclusions regarding his accomplishments. 

However, President Buhari has already implemented many changes, such as the National Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP), which was put in place to aid the nation’s economic recovery.

Although the effectiveness of his administration’s economic drive is in doubt, given the worse living conditions of Nigerians. It is believed that the global economic slump occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic partly disrupted the economic recovery plans.


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