The following people are considered by Pantheon to be the top 10 most legendary Nigerian Politicians of all time. This list of famous Nigerian Politicians is sorted by HPI (Historical Popularity Index), a metric that aggregates information on a biography’s online popularity. Visit the rankings page to view the entire list of Nigerian Politicians.
With an HPI of 69.81, Muhammadu Buhari is the most famous Nigerian Politician. His biography has been translated into 65 different languages on wikipedia.
Muhammadu Buhari (born 17 December 1942) is a Nigerian politician who has been president of Nigeria since 2015. Buhari is a retired Nigerian Army Major General and served as military head of state from 1983 to 1985, after taking power in a military coup d'état.The term Buharism is ascribed to the authoritarian policies of his military regime. Buhari has said that he takes responsibility for anything over which he presided during his military rule, and that he cannot change the past. He has described himself as a "converted democrat".Buhari ran for president of Nigeria in 2003, 2007, and 2011. In December 2014, he emerged as the nominee of the All Progressives Congress party for the 2015 general election. Buhari won the election, defeating incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan. This was the first time in the history of Nigeria that an incumbent president lost a general election. He was sworn in on 29 May 2015. In February 2019, Buhari was re-elected, defeating his closest rival former Vice President Atiku Abubakar by over 3 million votes.
With an HPI of 64.57, Olusegun Obasanjo is the 2nd most famous Nigerian Politician. His biography has been translated into 52 different languages.
Chief Olusegun Matthew Okikiola Aremu Obasanjo, GCFR, (; Yoruba: Olúṣẹ́gun Ọbásanjọ́ [olúʃɛ́ɡũ ɔbásanɟɔ]; born 5 March 1937) is a Nigerian political and military leader who served as Nigeria's head of state from 1976 to 1979 and later as its president from 1999 to 2007. Ideologically a Nigerian nationalist, he was a member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) from 1999 to 2015 and again from 2018 onward. Born in the village of Ibogun-Olaogun to a farming family of the Owu branch of the Yoruba, Obasanjo was educated largely in Abeokuta. Joining the Nigerian Army, where he specialised in engineering, he spent time assigned in the Congo, Britain, and India, rising to the rank of major. In the latter part of the 1960s, he played a senior role in combating Biafran separatists during the Nigerian Civil War, accepting their surrender in 1970. In 1975, a military coup established a junta with Obasanjo as part of its ruling triumvirate. After the triumvirate's leader, Murtala Muhammed, was assassinated the following year, the Supreme Military Council appointed Obasanjo as head of state. Continuing Murtala's policies, Obasanjo oversaw budgetary cut-backs and an expansion in access to free school education. Increasingly aligning Nigeria with the United States, he also emphasised support for groups opposing white minority rule in southern Africa. Committed to restoring democracy, Obasanjo oversaw the 1979 election, after which he handed over control of Nigeria to the newly elected civilian president, Shehu Shagari. He then retired to Ota, Ogun, where he became a farmer, published four books, and took part in international initiatives to end various African conflicts. In 1993, Sani Abacha seized power in a military coup. Openly critical of Abacha's administration, in 1995 Obasanjo was arrested and convicted of being part of a planned coup, despite protesting his innocence. While imprisoned, he became a born again Christian, with providentialism strongly influencing his subsequent worldview. He was released following Abacha's death in 1998. Entering electoral politics, Obasanjo became the PDP candidate for the 1999 presidential election, which he won comfortably. As president, he de-politicised the military and both expanded the police and mobilised the army to combat widespread ethnic, religious, and secessionist violence. He withdrew Nigeria's military from Sierra Leone and privatised various public enterprises to limit his country's spiralling debt. He was re-elected in the 2003 election. Influenced by Pan-Africanist ideas, he was a keen supporter of the formation of the African Union and served as its chair from 2004 to 2006. Obasanjo's attempts to change the constitution to abolish presidential term limits were unsuccessful and brought criticism. In retirement, he earned a PhD in theology from the National Open University of Nigeria. Obasanjo has been described as one of the great figures of the second generation of post-colonial African leaders. He received praise both for overseeing Nigeria's transition to representative democracy in the 1970s and for his Pan-African efforts to encourage cooperation across the continent. Critics maintain that he was guilty of corruption, that his administrations oversaw human rights abuses, and that as President he became too interested in consolidating and maintaining his personal power.
With an HPI of 61.80, Sani Abacha is the 3rd most famous Nigerian Politician. His biography has been translated into 45 different languages.
Sani Abacha GCFR (pronunciation ; 20 September 1943 – 8 June 1998) was a Nigerian military general who served as the military head of state of Nigeria from 1993 until his death in 1998. He was also Chief of Army Staff between 1985 to 1990; Chief of Defence Staff between 1990 to 1993; and Minister of Defence. In 1993, Abacha became the first Nigerian Army officer to attain the rank of a full military general without skipping a single rank.His rule saw the achievement of several economic feats and also recorded human rights abuses and several political assassinations. He has been dubbed a kleptocrat and a dictator by several commentators.
With an HPI of 61.75, Umaru Musa Yar'Adua is the 4th most famous Nigerian Politician. His biography has been translated into 60 different languages.
Umaru Musa Yar'Adua (16 August 1951 – 5 May 2010) was a Nigerian politician who was the President of Nigeria from 2007 to 2010. He was declared the winner of the Nigerian presidential election held on 21 April 2007, and was sworn in on 29 May 2007. He previously served as the Governor of Katsina state from 1999 to 2007; and was a member of the People's Democratic Party (PDP). In 2009, Yar'Adua left for Saudi Arabia to receive treatment for pericarditis. He returned to Nigeria on 24 February 2010, where he died on 5 May.
With an HPI of 61.19, Shehu Shagari is the 5th most famous Nigerian Politician. His biography has been translated into 30 different languages.
Shehu Usman Aliyu Shagari (25 February 1925 – 28 December 2018), titled Turakin Sokoto from 1962, was a Nigerian aristocrat and statesman who was the first democratically elected President of Nigeria, after the transfer of power by military head of state General Olusegun Obasanjo in 1979 giving rise to the Second Nigerian Republic. An experienced politician, he briefly worked as a teacher before entering politics in 1951; and was elected into the House of Representatives in 1954. At various times between 1958 through independence of Nigeria in 1960 and 1975, he held a cabinet post as a federal commissioner or as a federal minister.
With an HPI of 61.12, Goodluck Jonathan is the 6th most famous Nigerian Politician. His biography has been translated into 56 different languages.
Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan (born 20 November 1957) is a Nigerian zoologist and politician who served as the President of Nigeria from 2010 to 2015. He lost the 2015 presidential election to former military head of state General Muhammadu Buhari, and was the first incumbent President in Nigerian history to concede defeat in an election. Prior to that, he served as Vice President of Nigeria from 2007 to 2010 under the administration of Umaru Musa Yar'Adua; and in oil-rich Bayelsa State as Governor of Bayelsa State from 2005 to 2007.
With an HPI of 61.06, Yakubu Gowon is the 7th most famous Nigerian Politician. His biography has been translated into 32 different languages.
Yakubu Gowon (born 19 October 1934), affectionately known as Jack Gowon, is a retired Nigerian Army general and military leader. As Head of State of Nigeria, Gowon presided over a controversial Nigerian Civil War and delivered the famous "no victor, no vanquished" speech at the war's end in an effort to promote healing and reconciliation. The Nigerian Civil War is listed as one of the deadliest in modern history, with some accusing Gowon of crimes against humanity and genocide. Gowon maintains that he committed no wrongdoing during the war and that his leadership saved the country.An Anglican Christian from a minority Ngas family of Northern Nigeria, Gowon is a Nigerian nationalist, and a believer in the unity and oneness of Nigeria. Gowon's rise to power following the July 1966 counter-coup cemented military rule in Nigeria. Consequently, Gowon is the longest serving head of state of Nigeria, ruling for almost nine years until his overthrow in the coup d'état of 1975 by Brigadier Murtala Mohammed.
With an HPI of 60.66, C. Odumegwu Ojukwu is the 8th most famous Nigerian Politician. His biography has been translated into 23 different languages.
Chukwuemeka "Emeka" Odumegwu-Ojukwu (4 November 1933 – 26 November 2011) was a Nigerian military officer, statesman and politician who served as the military governor of the Eastern Region of Nigeria in 1966 and the leader of the breakaway Republic of Biafra from 1967 to 1970. He was active as a politician from 1983 to 2011, when he died aged 78.
With an HPI of 60.63, Abdullah al-Thani is the 9th most famous Nigerian Politician. His biography has been translated into 16 different languages.
Abdullah al-Thani (Arabic: عبد الله الثني Libyan pronunciation: [ʕæbˈdɑllɑ tˈtini, -ˈθæni]) is a Libyan politician who became prime minister of the House of Representatives of Libya on 11 March 2014, when he took over in an interim capacity after the dismissal of Ali Zeidan. He was previously the defence minister in the government of Zeidan.He is not related to Qatar’s ruling House of Al Thani, despite a similar surname with members of the House.
With an HPI of 60.43, Ibrahim Babangida is the 10th most famous Nigerian Politician. His biography has been translated into 35 different languages.
Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida GCFR (born 17 August 1941) popularly known as IBB; nicknamed, "Maradona" or "The Evil Genius", is a retired Nigerian Army general who ruled the Federal Republic of Nigeria from 27 August 1985 until his resignation in August 1993. He served as Chairman of the Armed Forces Ruling Council from 1985 to 1993 and Chief of Army Staff from 1984 to 1985; going on to orchestrate his seizure of power in a palace coup d'ètat against Muhammadu Buhari. He rose through the ranks of the Nigerian Army fighting in the Nigerian Civil War and at various times being involved in all the military coups in Nigeria, before advancing to the full-rank of a General and ultimately as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces; and as an unelected President and military strongman from 1985 to 1993, ruling for an uninterrupted period of eight years. His years in power, colloquially known as the Babangida Era, are considered one of the most controversial in the military history of the country, and characterized by a burgeoning political culture of corruption in Nigeria, with Babangida and his regime estimated at least 12 billion dollars (23.9 billion today).The Babangida government oversaw the establishment of a state security apparatus; survived two coup d'ètat attempts and the subsequent execution of Mamman Vatsa (1985) and Gideon Orkar (1991) alongside the trial of hundreds of soldiers; assassination in Lagos of Dele Giwa (1986). The regime also faced a series of ethnic and religious outbreaks related to the fallout of Babangida's decision to increase cooperation with the Muslim world and rise in extremist tendencies. On the continent his rule projected the country as a regional power with diplomatic successes including the Abuja Treaty and the military engagement of Nigerian troops in Liberia and Sierra Leone. Abroad, Babangida's military government cemented traditional relations with the English-speaking world of the United States and United Kingdom; and implemented economic liberalization and the privatization of state-owned enterprises alongside a national mass mobilization. The fall of Babangida and his regime was precipitated by the transition towards the Third Nigerian Republic and subsequent militarization of politics in the 1993 presidential election which Babangida annulled.
Pantheon has 19 people classified as politicians born between 1900 and 1957. Of these 19, 9 (47.37%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living politicians include Muhammadu Buhari, Olusegun Obasanjo, and Goodluck Jonathan. The most famous deceased politicians include Sani Abacha, Umaru Musa Yar'Adua, and Shehu Shagari. As of October 2020, 1 new politicians have been added to Pantheon including Obafemi Awolowo.
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Which Politicians were alive at the same time? This visualization shows the lifespans of the 10 most globally memorable Politicians since 1700.