By Law Mefor

Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, the President of Nigeria from 2007 to 2010, would have turned 73 this May if he were still alive. But regrettably, he was taken by the icy hands of death and dropped from sight just when Nigeria most needed him. We cannot question God. As Epicurus once said, it is possible to guarantee security against all odds. But against death, all men, mortals alike, dwell in an unprotected place.

President Yar’Adua was a model democrat and leader, and he could have finished as one of the most successful presidents Nigeria has ever had. That was not to be, though.

From 2007 to 2010, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua GCFR led the country as president after he was proclaimed the victor of the Nigerian presidential election, and on May 29, 2007, he took office.

In the past, he was a member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the governor of Katsina State from 1999 until 2007. Yar’Adua travelled to Saudi Arabia in 2009 to get treatment for pericarditis. On February 24, 2010, he left Nigeria again for the same reason. His return took a long time, and on May 5, he passed away.

A scion of the Yar’Adua political family, the Katsina-born Umaru Yar’Adua had a very unique personality. After studying education and chemistry for his bachelor’s degree at Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria from 1972 to 1975, he returned in 1978 to complete his master’s degree in analytical chemistry. Yar’Adua inherited his father Musa Yar’Adua’s chieftaincy title of Matawalle, which means caretaker of the royal treasury, from the Katsina Emirate. The father served as a minister for Lagos during the First Republic. His paternal grandmother, Binta, was a princess of the Katsina Emirate and the sister of Emir Muhammadu Dikko.

Several policies pursued by Yar’Adua set the course for his presidency toward resetting Nigeria. He was the first and only president of Nigeria to reject the election that gave him the position, where his predecessor had declared his own to be “a do-or-die affair.”

Yar’Adua set up a government of national unity as a means of fostering unity after winning the presidency. The Progressive People’s Alliance (PPA) and the All Nigeria People’s Party (ANPP) decided to join Yar’Adua’s cabinet towards the end of June 2007.

Yar’Adua formed a presidential electoral reform committee to examine the legal aspects, social and political institutions, and other relevant aspects to reset the country’s electoral system and prepare the way for free, fair, and credible elections in Nigeria. The electoral reform committee also examined security concerns that impacted the nation’s election credibility and quality, as well as the mandate to offer suggestions for enhancing election credibility.

A former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Mohammed Uwais, led the electoral reform committee. The committee’s proposals included amending the constitution to remove some of the functions of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and establishing an electoral commission and party registration agency. Additionally, it suggested that judicial challenges to elections be resolved quickly, before the swearing-in ceremony of the candidate for the seat in question.

The Yar’Adua administration published a seven-point agenda in August 2007 to use as the centerpiece for addressing developmental issues and advancing Nigeria’s economy to rank among the top twenty in the world by 2020. The seven-point agenda covered land reforms, transportation, wealth creation, infrastructure, power and energy, food security, security, and education.

Sadly, Yar’Adua fell gravely ill a little over a year after taking office and was soon bedridden. Because his principal, Yar’Adua, failed to transmit power to him before his last trip to Saudi Arabia, from which he returned unable to resume office and died soon later, the country struggled for long over how his deputy, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, would assume power as acting president. This led to the Doctrine of Necessity under the David Mark’s Senate presidency. Yar’Adua was just 59 years old.

The Nigerian people would have had complete control over who they chose to elect if Yar’Adua had lived long enough to see through his earnest electoral reforms. Nigeria was deprived of that chance by death.

Yar’Adua was a symbol of peace and unity; if anyone could be considered detribalized, it was him. He was an advocate of merit and a united, indissoluble, and indivisible Nigeria. He led by example. He was a tough, fair leader who brooked no nonsense. Regarding the backing he had from then-President Olusegun Obasanjo to become Nigeria’s president, the prevailing opinion is that Yar’Adua was one or two of the governors in office at the time with a perfect record, free of any allegations or suspicions of corruption. Yar’Adua had impeccable records.

As governor, he objected to the notion that the Katsina Government House would always be run on a generator any time that the PHCN failed to provide electricity. He wanted the government house to be equally without light when Katsina State experienced a blackout.

Yar’Adua had very integrative and inclusive economic policies and plans while serving as president. He had plans and ideas to establish and grow six regional economies in Nigeria based on the geopolitics of the country. He intended to concentrate on one state in each of the six geopolitical zones, turning it into an economic hub and a gateway to the zone. His true motivation for supporting Professor Chukwuma Soludo to go for the position of governor of Anambra State in 2010 was to turn the state into an economic hub and the gateway to the east, concurrently with the other five anchor states for the rest of the five zones.

Regretfully, Yar’Adua’s death also prevented him from building an equitable Nigeria based on their comparative economic advantage (Riccardo’s economics). The presidents that came before and after him lacked a sense of social fairness and equity, and they showed little concern for the requirements that each zone needed to integrate economically and competitively.

His pro-masses style of administration was peerless compared to any other Nigerian leader, demonstrating his exceptional humanness. Yar’Adua, inspired by the misery of Nigerians, cut the price of fuel as soon as he took office, whereas past and present Nigerian presidents were busy removing fuel subsidies and raising the price of fuel regardless of the prevailing crushing weight of poverty. Yar’Adua was the only head of state or president to reduce fuel prices since the fuel subsidy turned into a national nightmare.

With that mindset and plan, Yar’Adua’s presidency was emerging as possibly the best that the country could have had. Sadly, death stole Nigeria’s finest, leaving her with leaders and henchmen who had no morality and would only plunder and make fun of the people after they had captured the state.

Yar’Adua was a very experienced politician. He belonged to the leftist People’s Redemption Party during the Second Republic (1979–1983), and his father served as the National Party of Nigeria’s National Vice Chairman for a brief period. Yar’Adua was one of the founding members of the Peoples Front of Nigeria during General Ibrahim Babangida’s transition programme to the Third Republic, along with members like President Bola Tinubu, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, Baba Gana Kingibe, Sabo Bakin Zuwo, Wada Abubakar, Abdullahi Aliyu Sumaila, Abubakar Koko, and Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, a political organisation headed by the late Major-General Shehu Musa Yar’Adua, his elder brother.

Later on, the group gave rise to the Social Democratic Party. Yar’Adua participated in the Constituent Assembly of 1988. He was the state secretary of the Nigerian Social Democratic Party (SDP) in Katsina and a member of the party’s National Caucus. In the 1991 election, he ran for governor but was defeated by Saidu Barda, an ally of Ibrahim Babangida and the National Republican Convention candidate.

Indeed, Nigeria lost a rare gen of a leader to the cold hands of death in His Excellency Umaru Musa Yar’Adua.
Patriotic Nigerians wish you a happy (posthumous) birthday and ask God to send someone like you to Nigeria sooner than later so that the nation might experience true peace, unity, and growth.

Rest on, the great, patriotic, and visionary leader of all time.

· Dr. Law Mefor, an Abuja-based forensic and social psychologist, is a fellow of The Abuja School of Social and Political Thoughts; drlawmefor@gmail.com; Twitter: @Drlawsonmefor.

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