BACKGROUND: The aim of this study is to establish the patterns of death amongst Nigerian leaders since independence, thus providing a feasible avenue to avoid their recurrence if possible especially amongst the political elite who currently hold power. METHODS: Using available unclassified authentic public information, all leaders who had ruled Nigeria since her independence on 1 October, 1960 until her 45th birthday on 1 October 2005, irrespective of whether they are dead or alive were included. Data was extracted and analyzed. RESULTS: On 1 October 2005, Nigeria celebrated 45 years as a sovereign nation. Within this period, the country has had eleven leaders, all of whom were men. Only three (27.3%) were civilians, while eight (72.7%) were army generals. Of the eleven leaders, four (36.4%) had died before Nigeria reached its 45th birthday and all of these four (100%) died while still in office. Three of the dead leaders (75%) were assassinated, while one (25%) died suddenly in mysterious circumstances, believed to be the result of poisoning by unknown external powerful interest groups. Three of the deaths (75%) occurred during violent periods of Nigeria’s checkered history (1966-1970 and 1993-1999), showing that periods of national and international strife appeared to be the weakest link in chains of events that led to their death while in office. Autopsies were neither requested nor performed on any of the dead leaders, signifying an entrenched culture of nonchalance, a lack of a coordinated national coroner’s law and contempt for accurate and detailed death records. Worse still, no valid tenable death certificate has ever been issued. In other words, no attempt has been made to determine the cause of death of four of the nation’s former leaders. Only hurried national burials were accorded two (50%) of them while the other two (50%), who died in the coup and revenge coup of 1966, were completely neglected, and not even given a decent national burial. CONCLUSIONS: The facts identified above will serve as a landmark to highlight an existing problem, and thus bring the issue to the attention of policy-makers and the political elite. The overall expected benefit is that nations like Nigeria can focus on the issue of orderly succession and the peaceful handing-over of government to duly transparently elected national leaders and all efforts should be made to avoid holding on to power unnecessarily. The tenets of democracy shall be upheld and transparent elections take place so as to reduce national tension and strife to the barest minimum. We also strongly recommend a review and improvement of Nigeria’s national coroner’s laws.
J Inj Violence Res. 2010 Jun; 2(2): 61-5. doi:10.5249/jivr.v2i2.30
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