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Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, was born on the August 16, 1951, in Katsina, Nigeria. Yar’Adua was born to an elite Fulani family, and his birthplace was an important centre of Islamic learning. Yar’Adua was born into an aristocratic Fulani family in Katsina; his father, a Minister for Lagos during the First Republic, held the chieftaincy title of Matawalle (or custodian of the royal treasury) of the Katsina Emirate, a title which Yar’Adua inherited. He started his education at Rafukka Primary School in 1958 and moved to Dutsinma Boarding Primary School in 1962. He attended the Government College at Keffi from 1965 until 1969. In 1971 he received a Higher School Certificate from Barewa College. He attended Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria from 1972 to 1975, where he obtained a B.Sc. degree in Education and Chemistry, and then returned in 1978 to pursue an M.Sc. degree in Analytical Chemistry.

Yar’Adua: Professional career

Yar’Adua’s first employment was at Holy Child College in Lagos (1975–76). He later served as a lecturer at the College of Arts, Science, and Technology in Zaria, Kaduna State, between 1976 and 1979. In 1979, he began working as a lecturer at College of Art Science, remaining in this position until 1983, when he began working in the corporate sector. Yar’Adua worked at Sambo Farms Ltd in Funtua, Katsina State, as its pioneer General Manager between 1983 and 1989. He served as a Board Member of Katsina State Farmers’ Supply Company between 1984 and 1985; Member of the Governing Council of Katsina College of Arts, Science and Technology Zaria and Katsina Polytechnic between 1978 and 1983; Board Chairman of Katsina State Investment and Property Development Company (KIPDECO) between 1994 and 1996. He served as a director of many companies, including Habib Nigeria Bank Ltd, 1995–99; Lodigiani Nigeria Ltd, 1987–99, Hamada Holdings, 1983–99; and Madara Ltd, Vom, Jos, 1987–99. He was Chairman of Nation House Press Ltd, Kaduna, from 1995 to 1999.

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Yar’Adua: Political Years 

Yar’Adua first entered party politics as a mobilizer for the (now defunct) People’s Redemption Party. During the long transition program (1989–93) to restore the Nigerian government to civilian rule, he became a founding member of the Peoples’ Front, a political association led by his elder brother, which eventually became the core of the (now defunct) Social Democratic Party. Yar’Adua began concentrating on state politics in 1991 when he stood as a candidate in the Katsina state gubernatorial election, which he lost. Seven years later Yar’Adua participated in the founding of the K34 political association, which later merged with the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). He again ran for governor, winning the election in 1999 and reelection in 2003. As state governor, he focused on the socio-economic development of his state, with particular attention to the educational and health sectors, and was known for being financially prudent: not only did he pay down the huge state debt that he had inherited, but he also accumulated a $50 million surplus in the treasury. He was the first governor to publicly declare his assets. 

Run for Presidency

With regards to his nomination for the office of the President of Nigeria, it is said that his impeccable record was the major factor. He was regarded as one of few serving governors amongst his contemporaries with a spotless record, devoid of any suspicions or charges of corruption. 

In the presidential election, held on 21 April 2007, Yar’Adua won with 70% of the vote (24.6 million votes) according to official results released on 23 April. After the election, Yar’Adua proposed a government of national unity. In late June 2007, two opposition parties, the ANPP and the Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA), agreed to join Yar’Adua’s government. On 28 June 2007, Yar’Adua publicly revealed his declaration of assets from May (becoming the first Nigerian Leader to do so), according to which he had ₦856,452,892 (US$5.8 million) in assets, ₦19 million ($0.1 million) of which belonged to his wife. He also had ₦88,793,269.77 ($0.5 million) in liabilities. This disclosure, which fulfilled a pre-election promise he made, was intended to set an example for other Nigerian politicians and discourage corruption.

The Seven-Point Agenda

In August 2007, the administration unveiled a seven-point agenda to be the focal point of the administration’s solution to developmental challenges and stated goal of elevating Nigeria to be among the twenty largest economies in the world by 2020. The Seven-Point Agenda were as follows: 

  • Critical infrastructural development in power, energy and transportation
  • Focus on development issues in the Niger Delta. The government created a new ministry for Niger Delta affairs
  • Wealth creation through diversification of the economy and source of government revenue. A movement away from a fossil fuel-dependent economy to a diversified economy.
  • Human capital development
  • Review of land tenure regulations towards a reform-oriented goal
  • Security
  • Food security

Electoral reforms

A few months after his inauguration, the president established a presidential electoral reform committee to look into the legal factors, social and political institutions and security issues that affect the quality and credibility of elections in the country and also, to make recommendations on improving the credibility of elections. The reform committee was headed by Muhammadu Uwais, a former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. The twenty-member committee submitted its report in December 2008, by then Yar’Adua’s health was failing. Among the recommendations of the committee was constitutional measures to make INEC truly independent, removing some of the activities of INEC with the creation of an electoral offences commission and a parties registration agency. It also recommended a speedy resolution of legal challenges of elections, presumably before the swearing-in ceremony of the victor of the seat being challenged.

Illness and death

President Yar’Adua left Nigeria on 23 November 2009 and was reported to be receiving treatment for pericarditis at a clinic in Saudi Arabia. He was not seen in public again, and his absence created a dangerous power vacuum in Nigeria.

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On 24 February 2010, Yar’Adua returned to Abuja under the cover of darkness. His state of health was unclear, but there was speculation that he was still on a life support machine. Various political and religious figures in Nigeria had visited him during his illness saying he would make a recovery.

Yar’Adua died on 5 May at the Aso Rock Presidential Villa. An Islamic burial took place on 6 May in his hometown in Katsina.




Featured Image Source: The Nation Newspaper

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This article was first published on 30th December 2019


Jeremiah is a scholar and a poet. He has a keen eye for studying the world and is passionate about people. He tweets at @jeremiahaluwong.

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