Within the rank structure of the Nigerian Army there exists, for reasons which shall soon be made known, a very exclusive level of generalship where few have so far been privileged to rise to. These are the lofty ranks of Lieutenant General and General.

The first-ever pair of Nigerian Army officers to be directly promoted to and serve on the rank of lieutenant general were the duo of Olusegun Obasanjo and Theophilus Danjuma. This happened in January 1976. Altogether,twenty five(26) officers have attained the rank of Lieutenant General since the inception of the Nigerian Army nearly 150 years ago. Five of these lieutenant generals have thereafter been promoted to the rank of four-star general.

In 1979, Julius Alani Akinrinnade rose to the rank of lieutenant general upon his elevation to the command of the Nigerian Army. His successor, Gibson Jalo followed suit in 1980 when he also took his turn as Chief of Army Staff. Shortly after that and with Jalo’s appointment as Chief of the Defence Staff, his successor as army chief, Mohammed Wushishi also rose to the rank of lieutenant general. It was not until 1 October 1987 that the duo of Major Generals Domkat Bali and Mohammed Sani Abacha, Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff and Chief of army Staff respectively, filed out for the Independence Day parade wearing their new ranks of Lieutenant General.

By the end of 1992, very senior officers such as Garba Duba, Jeremiah Timbut Useni, Mohammed Balarabe Haladu,Donaldson Oladipo Diya, Joshua Nimyel Dogonyaro, Salihu Ibrahim and Aliyu Mohammed Gusau were in active service and wore the substantive rank of lieutenant general.

Between 1993 and 1999, only the pair of Rufus Modupe Kupolati and Ishaya Rizi Bamaiyi attained the rank of lieutenant general and in the post-1999 era, Samuel Victor Malu, Alexander Ogomudia, Martin-Luther Agwai, Andrew Owoye Azazi, Abel Akale, Joseph Owonibi, Chikadibia Isaac Obiakor, Luka Nyeh Yusuf and Abdulrahman Bello Dambazau have risen to the rank of lieutenant general.

Of the total of twenty-five officers who have attained the rank of lieutenant general since 1976, five officers (Bali, Abacha, Ogomudia, Agwai and Azazi)all of whom have been either Chief of Defence Staff and/or Chief of Army Staff have risen to the rank of four-star general and without skipping any rank during the course of their rise to the very top of the professional ladder.

Eight of the said twenty five officers who attained the rank of Lieutenant General (Obasanjo, Useni, Duba, Haladu, Kupolati, Owonibi, Akale and Obiakor) did so without having served as Chief of Army Staff or Chief of Defence Staff.

Of all the officers commissioned prior to the attainment of Nigerian political independence in 1960 and who underwent their preliminary officer training at the British West Africa-owned Regular Officers Special Training School (ROSTS)at Teshie in Ghana, only Olusegun Obasanjo and Gibson Jalo attained the rank of lieutenant general by direct promotion to same. In April 1979, he was promoted to the rank of four-star general.

The Regular Course 1 intake(RC1) of the Nigerian Defence Academy(NDA) which enlisted in March 1964 produced a record of four lieutenant generals(Ibrahim, Diya,Dogonyaro,Gusau).

Officers of the 1960 to 1963-era Nigerian Military Training College (NMTC)intakes produced a total of seven lieutenant generals namely Danjuma,Akinrinnade(1960), Bali(1961), Duba, Useni(1962) and Haladu(1963) while officers who enlisted through the post-1963 NDA-era intakes account for the rest of the members of this very exclusive group.

Ishaya Rizi Bamaiyi who enlisted the Short Service Combatant Course(SSC) intakes and who was commissioned during the heat of the Nigerian Civil War in October 1968 remains the only SSC officer to have attained the rank of lieutenant general till date.

Five of the said twenty-five lieutenant generals thus far produced by the Nigerian Army(Useni, Haladu, Kupolati, Agwai, Akale) never served as General Officer Commanding any of the army divisions before they attained the said rank.

In all, the Nigerian army has produced a total of ten four-star generals throughout its long history. These are Yakubu Gowon, Murtala Muhammed, Olusegun Obasanjo,Ibrahim Babangida,Domkat Yah Bali, Mohammed Sani Abacha, Abdulsalami Abubakar, Alexander Ogomudia, Martin Luther Agwai and Andrew Owoye Azazi. Of the lot, six officers (Gowon, Muhammed, Obasanjo, Babangida, Abacha and Abubakar) have served as Nigerian military Heads of State.

Only Sani Abacha ever rose to became military Head of State whilst he was on the substantive rank of four-star general. Murtala Muhammed got promoted from the rank of brigadier to general, or from one-star to four-star generalship in one hop while Gowon, Babangida and Abubakar all got promoted to the rank of four-star general from the rank of major general.

In all cases where the said four-star generals either served as military Heads of State and Commander-in-Chief or held office as Chiefs of Defence Staff, the attainment of the rank of four-star general was predicated on the need to establish their seniority over all officers of the Nigerian Armed Forces.

As of today (27 April 2010), there are only two lieutenant generals in active service with the 90, 000-strong Nigerian Army. One is the incumbent Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Abdulrahman Bello Dambazau while the other is the incumbent United Nations Military Adviser, Lieutenant General Chikadibia Isaac Obiakor. Obiakor, a Regular Course 10 officer enlisted in June 1971 while Dambazau, a Regular Course 16 officer enlisted in June 1974

PS: In September 2010, Major General Azubike Ihejirika was appointed Chief of Army Staff and promoted to the next rank. He thus became the 26th officer to wear the rank insignia of a Lieutenant General.

PS: Having been appointed Chief of Army Staff in mid-January 2014, Major General KTJ Minimah got promoted to the substantive rank of Lieutenant General. He is the 27th Nigerian thus elevated.

On July 13th 2015, Major Generals Abayomi Gabriel Olonisakin and Yusuf Tukur Buratai were appointed Chief of Defence Staff and Chief of Army Staff in that order. Exactly a month afterwards, Olonisakin was doubly promoted to the substantive rank of General while Buratai was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant General. The duo thus became the 11th General and 28th Lieutenant General in the history of the Nigerian Army.

About beegeagle

BEEG EAGLE -perspectives of an opinionated Nigerian male with a keen interest in Geopolitics, Defence and Strategic Studies
This entry was posted in NIGERIA, NIGERIAN ARMED FORCES, NIGERIAN ARMY, NIGERIAN MILITARY HISTORY, Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. jay hollo says:

    this is very educational news for us Nigerians separating fact from fiction keep up the good work.

  2. Ayuba Mavalla says:

    The article is truly educative. However, I wonder what cariteria do the Nigeria Army used in promoting officers to the next rank? God bles

    • dahiru says:

      yes they promote their member on what have you scored in your prom exam for the junior rank and board for the senior and army councel have to approve it.

  3. Ini says:

    Please why was Abacha promoted to a 4 start general before he became Head of State? Was it not an affront on Babangida

    • beegeagle says:

      The following plausible reasons may have accounted for this situation.

      Babangida and Abacha were course-mates who enlisted on 10 December 1962. So there could have been an unstated case for parity underpinning all of that. Looking at their promotion histories, Babangida became a brigadier in 1979 while Abacha attained that rank in 1980 (alongside Useni, Nasko, Magoro and some other of their peers). Again, Babangida became a Major General in March 1983(promoted same day as Vatsa) while Abacha attained the rank of Major General in Sept 1984 (alongside Brigadiers Tunde Idiagbon, Solomon Omojokun, Charles Ndiomu, Mohammed Magoro, Gado Nasko and Paul Omu).

      By virtue of his position as Chief of Army Staff, Abacha was elevated to the rank of Lt General on 1 October 1987 while he got promoted to the rank of general in October 1990 (perhaps in appreciation of the role he played in saving the life of the Babangida administration during the April 22 1990 coup and to reflect his added role as Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff)

      • Friend of God says:

        You have a good knowlegde of the army.
        There is no better explanation for such question than this given.

  4. jon math says:

    Thanks for the history lessons it is indeed an eye opener for those of us who doesn’t know much especially on the subject owners of nigeria.I will appreciate follow ups sent to email. Keep it up. Jon math

  5. Dr Ogunmola says:

    Very interesting. Never knew Idiagbon got to the rank of Major General. And talking about seniority and rank, why was Babangida, as COAS, promoted to the rank of Major General ahead of Idiagbon who I think was 2ic, something like Head, Supreme HQ? And if I’m opportuned to join the Army, as I pray, what is the highest rank I can attain with the Direct Regular Course? I’m a medical doctor. Thanks.

    • beegeagle says:

      Babangida and Idiagbon both joined the Army in 1962. At the time of the inauguration of the Buhari-Idiagbon regime on 1 January 1984, Buhari was Major General while Idiagbon was a Brigadier. Yes, Babangida was also a Major General but Buhari had attained that rank in 1982, Babangida became a Major General in March 1983>

      It was not until September 1984 that the Federal Military Government promoted several officers namely Tunde Idiagbon, Sani Abacha, Mohammed Magoro, Gado Nasko, Paul Omu, Charles Ndiomu and Solomon Omojokun to the rank of Major General.

      Abacha, Magoro, Nasko and Babangida all joine the Army on the same day – 10 December 1962


    • Rabiu muhammad says:

      as a medical doctor you can get to the rank of Maj-General

    • sheriff mohammed says:

      Been a non combatant commission, the highest you can go is Brigadier- Gen.

  6. bassey, E says:

    interesting, but what are the criteria inwhich these people were promoted and others were not? I also want to know if intake into the Nigeria Army is based on what one has a degree in (say, BSC,), or are there special courses and training offered to those willing to change what they read in school. Thx

    • beegeagle says:

      Ideally, you have to be a graduate to be an army officer these days. The NDA has been a degree-awarding institution since 1985 and even now run postgraduate programmes. The rare exceptions include carefully chosen and qualified serving soldiers and ex-boy soldiers passing out of NMS who may be considered for Short Service Combatant Commissions

  7. Saeed Muhammad says:

    Very interesting to know some facts about Nigerian military personnel,but my question here is: Who are the course mates of Major Hamza Al-mustapha? And what role did he play in the Nigeria Army to deserve the position of Chief security adviser to the late Sani Abacha (Head of state)?

  8. Ovi Uma says:

    I am a graduate of the university of benin with major in industrial chemistry (2-1 with CGPA:4.40). I am interested in joining the nigeria army because they are discipline and I want to serve my lovely nation. I need a commissioned officer that would sign my referee letter. If there is any officer out there that would help me into the nigeria army, please help me. I need this help and God will help us. Thanks. My number:08187837064

  9. rethots says:

    Tis interesting that of all the (military) Heads of State we had, only Buhari did not (multi) promote himself to the rank of 4-star general.

  10. Caesar Uzor says:

    Could you pl’s,give me a comprehensive list of Major Patrick Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu’s Course-mate. Thanks !

  11. Ene, akabom says:

    Nigerian army…fame or patriotism? I’m joinin…but surely not for fame…bt fr lov’a modalnd…

  12. Ebiesuwa Taiwo Felix says:

    I’m a prospective batch C 2011 youth corp member with call up no; 2011196575. I’m carrying out a RESEARCH on THE ROLE OF THE NIGERIAN ARMY IN ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT.

  13. Gafan Matthew says:

    Thanks for the lessons and i will like to be receiving follow up to my email

    • beegeagle says:

      If you would like to receive an email notification everytime that a new post gets published on this blog, go to the TOP LEFT corner of this webpage and click on the tab which says “follow”.

      Thanks for visiting our blog today.

  14. Ify says:

    I am a law graduate with a second class upper division from the nigerian law school.i am 24yrs,female.are there opportunites for me in the nigerian army or navy.also i’d like to know what the promotional system is like and how often its done.lastly in the article i read no woman was mentioned.why?

  15. Kenny says:

    Interesting,but l wonder why one this 2 lt Gen in active service sign my SSC form( short service) in last year recruitment and not got shortlisted.why?

  16. Adedotun says:

    This is really educating, is there any lieutenant general toun? I heard this name actually from a brigadier’s son, I would want to join the Nigerian Army after my course in the university, how do I get in without starting from NDA .

  17. beegeagle says:

    That is incorrect, Sheriff.

    Since I began to keenly follow developments in the Nigerian military +/- 25 years ago, we have seen the Education Corps produce Commandants such as Major Generals Charles Ndiomu, Edet Akpan, Hafiz Momoh etc while the Medical Corps has produced the likes of Major General Ahmadu Rimi and the first-ever female Major General of the Nigerian Army, Aderonke Kale.

  18. Tony Cruz says:

    This is a very nice passage with a lot of information,but my observation is that Buhari wasn’t mentioned in this passage, I will like to know his set and promotion etc.. Thanks

  19. beegeagle says:

    Buhari’s name does not feature on the list because he retired on the rank of Major General.

    General Buhari enlisted into the Nigerian Military Training College(NMTC) which was what sufficed between March 1960 and the establishment of the Nigerian Defence Academy in March 1964.

    Buhari enlisted as part of the NMTC Course 5 intake in April 1962 and some of his coursemates included Shehu Musa Yar’Adua, Alfred Aduloju, Chris Ugokwe, Zamani Lekwot, Abubakar Waziri, Anthony Hananiya, Muhammadu Jega(Emir of Gwandu), Abdullahi Shelleng etc.

  20. Uchechukwu oforkansi says:

    Very interesting and will be a dream come through for to serve my mother land with all that i have.

  21. ayodele says:

    This research is educative and had thrown more light into the structure of the nigerian army, I ve fallen in love with establishment, even though am older than the ages required, but my children are powerfully coming in. Long live Great Nigerian Army, Long live Great Nigeria, You will rise greatly again, because you shall get rid of all your enemies. Thanks for the research. Shalom

  22. Ayodele A. Steve says:

    That is wonderful!!! Please keep it up

  23. Daniel says:

    I luv my Godfather abubakar abdusalam .God bless him

  24. Long live nigeria army generals,the nigeria army,nigeria. says:

    Nigeria have a great armies.long live nigeria

  25. John Edwards says:

    How old is Major Hamza Al Mustapha and when did he join Nigerian Army ? Are his mates still in the force now ?

  26. Sani alhassan says:

    I‘m a studen of ahmadu bello university of chemical engr. What is the highest rank i can attained if joint an army or airforce. thank

    • beegeagle says:

      These days that we have only the Chief of Army Staff as the SOLE Lieutenant General, you can expect to rise to the rank of Major General at the very least provided that age is on your side and that your Performance Evaluation is good. You also have to pass some exams in between.

      If you get all of those right, you will rise to lofty heights.

      • ade says:

        Is there any military officer ranked higher than the chief of defense staff? Any full general presently serving in the Nigerian army?

  27. beegeagle says:

    No. By conventional Nigerian military practice, the Chief of Defence Staff is the only four-star General inside the country. He could be an Army, Navy or Air Force officer.

    My emphasis on INSIDE THE COUNTRY stems from the fact that General Martin Agwai moved on to command UNAMID in Darfur after he had attained the rank of four-star General to which he was promoted upon elevation from the post of Chief of Army Staff to Chief of Defence Staff.

    By the same token, the only 3-star Generals serving inside the country at any given time are the service chiefs. In very rare exceptions, we have had very senior officers on UN assignment elevated to the rank of Lt.General. This happened when Lt General Joseph Owonibi served as Force Commander, UNMIL in Liberia and when Lt General Chika Obiakor was UN Military Adviser.

    At this point in time, the only Lieutenant General in active service is the Chief of Army Staff, Onyeabo Ihejirika while the only 4-star General is the Chief of Defence Staff, Oluseyi Petinrin, who is an Air Chief Marshal..the Air Force equivalent of a 4-star General.

  28. Peter says:

    I need help in applying for the nigerian defence accademy

  29. Brian EC says:

    Beegeagle Sir, I wish to know the following;
    What do I need to do to scale through in NA entry.
    Is there a course preference towards joining the SSC and DSSC.
    I studied Geography at the University of Nigeria Nsukka,where I made a Second class Lower Division.
    On this premise how best should I go about this application, I wish to state that I have the passion and zeal to be a seasoned Military Personel, and as such your guidiance would be highly appreciated. You could reach me through my email ID:
    Thanks a lot Sir,

  30. Okon Godwin Sunday says:

    Morning sir! the about info are mine. My problem now is how God can just help me to become one of the Nigerian Armed Force officer to enable me serve my country as i desire. I to be there one day.

  31. Nwagwu George Chinonso says:

    Good morning sir, sir i really want to be an army officer, it has been my dream to join army, am an a student of federal polytechnic Nekede Owerri, an ND holder, how may i join army & what rank will i hold if i join with my ND, thanks and God Bless you

  32. Peter Mashem says:

    Please can you tell me who is the first Nigerian Army Officer. is it WU Bassey or Lt Ogbonna? and also when Aderonke Kale was promoted to the rank Major General?

    • beegeagle says:

      LT UGBOMA (not Ogbonna) was the FIRST commissioned officer of the Nigerian Army. He alone was commissioned in November 1948.

      In June 1949, Wellington Bassey, Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi and Samuel Ademulegun were commissioned.

      However, Ugboma left the Army in the early 1950s. As a result of the fact that he was not in service as of the time when Nigeria attained independence in 1960, that honour – first commissioned officer of the Nigerian Army – became Wellington Bassey’s.

  33. beegeagle says:

    Oga Yohanna Solomon, but I did mention General Bali?


    “Of the total of twenty-five officers who
    have attained the rank of lieutenant
    general since 1976, five officers (BALI,
    Abacha, Ogomudia, Agwai and Azazi)all
    of whom have been either Chief of
    Defence Staff and/or Chief of Army Staff have risen to the rank of four-star
    general and without skipping any rank
    during the course of their rise to the very top of the professional ladder.”


    • beegeagle says:


      A very interesting read. Thanks for the extra-ordinary effort that was put in to reel out these facts. But please, can these issues bothering on General Buhari’s War college issue be cleared? Was Buhari ever a Brigadier General? As it appears he was Major General Buhari years after he was Colonel Buhari. There seem to be no record of when he was promoted to the ranks of a Brigadier.

      Would be glad if I can have a response.

  34. beegeagle says:

    Yes, Donald.

    Muhammadu Buhari was promoted to the rank of BRIGADIER in 1978, same day as his coursemates, Muhammadu Jega (now Emir of Gwandu) and Abubakar Waziri. Buhari was a GOC of 1 Division whilst a Brigadier while Jega and Waziri were Military Administrators of Gongola and Bendel at the time. If you take the time to go through the Chronicle of Command of 1 Division as published on the website of the Nigerian Army, you shall find listed as a past GOC, a certain Brigadier Buhari.

    To be sure, Buhari spent FOUR YEARS on the rank of Brigadier. Even in his book “REVOLUTION IN NIGERIA: ANOTHER VIEW”, which was published in 1981, late Major General Joe Garba made it clear that one of those who he encouraged to flip through the book to ascertain its factuality was a BRIGADIER Muhammadul Buhari. So inadvertently, Garba thus confirmed that Buhari was a Brigadier as of 1981. And that is very correct.

    Buhari got promoted to the rank of Major General in 1982, alongside his coursemates such as Alfred Aduloju, Abdullahi Shelleng, Muhammadu Jega(now Muhammadu Bashar, Emir of Gwandu), Abubakar Waziri etc. Shortly thereafter, Buhari was appointed to the command of 3 Armoured Division where he held sway until his emergence as C-in-C at 0100hrs on January 1st, 1984.

    Buhari, Shehu Yar’Adua and their aforementioned coursemates enrolled at the defunct Nigerian Military Training College in April 1962.

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