Umaru Musa Yar’adua : Nigeria’s Missed Chance To Greatness In Africa -By Saifullahi Attahir

It’s still morning in Nigeria, democracy is just 8 years old, our Nation has change for the better, but there is much left to do……for Nigeria of today, the Sun is still rising” ~Yar’adua during campaign 2007.

I deliberately chose the above phrase as a subtitle of my essay due to the sorrow I felt whenever I remember the chances our dear country missed by losing the above rare political figure through the cold hand of death. Although I’m a Muslim who belief in destiny, but still I can’t help myself but recounts the countless opportunities and milestones we were about to scale during a very golden hour in the political history of Nigeria.

Before 2007, not much was known about this gentleman apart from his home state Katsina, although many Northern Governors were busy lobbying in Abuja for President Obasanjo to anoint them as PDP presidential flag bearers, Umaru Yar’adua was far in the remote state of Katsina. Unconcerned with the political atmosphere in Abuja, he was busy building a legacy of service that was known in the blood of his family.

In a dramatic twist of fate, President Obasanjo decided to handover the PDP ticket to Umaru Yar’adua after inviting him to Abuja. This singular act of courage and benevolence by Obasanjo which deserved accolades was done after a careful scrutiny of all the Northern Governors at that time, with historians quoting Obasanjo as saying ‘Yar’adua was one of the few spotless politicians with good track record of efficient administration’. This can be a powerful message to powermongers especially in today’s politics, that God can give it (power) to whom He likes, without lobbying or cutting corners.

Umaru Yar’adua was born in 1951 to Late Musa Yar’adua, a former Lagos Minister during Tafawa Balewa administration. His father was also a Chieftain (Matawalle) in Katsina Royal court. Their household was a signatory of service, honesty and discipline, that produces many notable figures including his senior brother Late General Shehu Musa Yar’adua.

Yar’adua attended the prestigious Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) Zaria, where he obtained a degree and Masters in chemistry education between 1972-1978, he had a stinch as lecturer at CAST in Zaria and Katsina Polytechnic. Umaru Yar’adua was a teacher by heart who takes teaching as his favorite hobby and job despite his affluent family background, this can testify to the ultimate humility and love of service that this man has for his Nation.

It was not only teaching that Yar’adua knew, as part of their family tradition, he was later a Director of several companies that were founded by either his brother or Late father, including ; Habib bank Limited, Lodigiani Nig limited, Hamada limited, Sambo farms. This is to show that Yar’adua has a taste in the private sector as a prudent manager of resources with vast practical knowledge of economy.

During his tenure as Governor in Katsina state, he was the first in Nigeria to declare his asset to the public, he also saw to the massive construction of public schools, equipping and rehabilitating hospitals, good road networks,and prudent management of Katsina treasury. These are not just created lies, but historical facts, one example that can testify to this was how Yar’adua picked and groomed one of the finest intellectual and hardworking administrator Nigeria has ever has in person of Tanimu Yakubu Kurfi, this economic guru has worked closely with Yar’adua as an aide, and later as commissioner of finance. The hardwork of this fellow lead to Obasanjo appointing him as Chairman Federal Mortgage Commission. Indeed Tanimu Yakubu would be an article that I would separately write one day by God grace.

The choice of Yar’adua as the presidential candidate was not without foes, even among the Cabinet Ministers of Obasanjo, there were people that looks themselves as the most competent for that job, so this automatically created a harsh criticism between them and Yar’adua even before the government take off. The example of what transpired between Mallam Nasir El- rufa’i and Yar’adua was an unfortunate event , although I look El-rufa’i as an exemplary leader and some sort of my political mentor, but the show of bitterness and open hatred toward Yar’adua was less expected of him. At least it should have ended after his death, but to the surprise of many, his untimely death has become a source of pride and rejoice for others.

Among the first surprises of Yar’adua to the world after his election was his confession that the election that bought him to power was faulty, but assert his commitment to bring change in electoral reforms. He quickly again declare his assets. The choice of Cabinet members in Yar’adua government was a testimony to the commitment he has for Nigeria. Most of his political appointees are people of unquestionable character, integrity and experience technocrats.

Dr. Shamsudeen Usman, a Kano-born Economic guru, was the Minister of National planning. Dr Mansur Mukthar, another Kano technocrat was the Minister of Finance. Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, a radical Economist, was the head of CBN. Colonel Abdurrahman Dambazau, another Kano- strong man, was the chief of Army staff. Ojo maduekwe, a smart diplomat, was the Foreign Minister. Dora Akunyili, an iron Lady, was the head of NAFDAC. Tanimu Yakubu, a rare gems, was the Chief Economic Adviser. Segun Adeniyi, a veteran writer and mentor, was the Presidential spokesperson. Abba Sayyadi Ruma, a confidant of Yar’adua, was the Minister of Agriculture. Dr. Aliyu Modibbo in charge of FCT. Mrs. Fareeda Waziri as EFCC boss. Attahiru Jega, as the unforgettable INEC chairman. Even Mallam Nasir Elrufa’i was intially part of the government as head of Energy sector reform. These are some of the few members of Umaru administration to give an idea about what he intended for this country.

Immediately after inaugurations, Yar’adua set agenda for this country as ‘VISION 2020’ with the aim of setting Nigeria as one of the world top 20 countries with strong economy by 2020.

These were not empty promises or the usual character of some politicians, but a tangible and committed road map he has charted for Nigeria with the strong political will to deliver. Yar’adua came up with the famous ‘7 POINT AGENDA’ a simplistic approach to good governance and roadmap for a brighter Nigeria. This is unlike the multiple, complex, ambiguous, and confused slogans we have been witnessing since after his demise by the subsequent regimes .

7 POINT AGENDA are set of policies Yar’adua envision to concentrate on during his tenure as President, they are as follows; 1)Power and Energy. 2)Food security. 3) Wealth creation 4) Transportation. 5) Land reforms. 6) Security. 7) Human capital development/Education.

Despite the short period of his government which was also interspersed by crises and frequent health concerns, within 3 years between May 2007 to May 2010, Yar’adua was able to leave an indelible positive mark as one of the best leaders this country ever produced. Majority of Nigerians are of the belief that had Umaru leave up to 2015, our story would have been a different one, full of hope.

1) Yar’adua was able to solve the crisis of Niger Delta, this automatically bring security to the region and also boost the crude oil production of Nigeria.

2) Yar’adua adhere to maintaining rule of law especially in electoral matters by bringing many reforms in INEC, hence many elections were won and given to the opposition parties, as exemplified in Ekiti, and others.

3) Inflation was dramatically brought down during his regime, where by many commodities become cheaper and subsidizes, including petrols. Fertilizer, food stuffs etc.

4) Its was Yar’adua that gave Sanusi Lamido Sanusi the green light to carry out the radical reforms in banking sector that lead to the rescue of our economy from recession and corrupt elites.

5) Yar’adua initiated and completed the draining of river Niger in order to boost the hydroelectric power supply to Nigeria especially in the blackout Northern part.
Despite the above achievements, Yar’adua government faces so many challenges. It was during his time that Boko- Haram crisis escalated after killing Muhd Yusuf ( it’s leader). Also, Nigeria entered a diplomatic crises with US after arresting Farouq Mutallab in an airport allegedly trying to detonate a Bomb. His government also faces many corruption cases perpetrated by some of the Cabinet and political associates.
Yar’adua was a doer, a silent achiever, a respected diplomat, and a prudent manager. He was Married to his brave and confidant wife Turai Yar’adua since 1975. Among his 9 children, three were married to 3 Governors at that time ( Isah Yuguda, Sa’idu Dakin-gari, and Ibrahim Shema). His wife said, among Yar’adua favorite food was ‘Kosai da biredi’ ( bread and bean-cake, a popular simple Hausa food). He sometimes wear a wristwatch until it started rusting due to his simplistic life.
His life was cut short on 5th-May- 2010 due to Pericarditis, a complication from underlying Chronic Kidney disease he has for long.

The qualities of humility, honesty, discipline, listening ear, prudence, simplistic life, and hardwork are what attracted Yar’adua to Obasanjo by anointing him as the Presidential aspirant, they are the same characters that helps him to deliver some of the promises he has taken, they are also the same qualities that endear him to millions of Nigerians 13 years after his death.

What lesson have you learn from his life?
What prayer are you doing to this Great Man?

Saifullahi Attahir.

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