NOSTALGIA: Remembering Umaru Musa Yar’Adua

NOSTALGIA: Remembering Umaru Musa Yar'Adua

Umaru Musa Yar’Adua was a Nigerian politician who was the President of Nigeria from 2007 to 2010. He was declared the winner of the Nigerian presidential election held on 21 April 2007, and was sworn in on 29 May 2007.

He previously served as the governor of Katsina from 1999 to 2007; and was a member of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). In 2009, Yar’Adua left for Saudi Arabia to receive treatment for pericarditis. He returned to Nigeria on 24 February 2010, where he died on 5 May.


Yar’adua was born in Katsina; his father, Musa Yar’Adua, was a Minister for Lagos in the First Republic and held the chieftaincy title of Matawalle (or custodian of the royal treasury) of the Katsina Emirate, a title which Yar’Adua inherited. His paternal grandfather, Malam Umaru, had also held the title of Matawallen Katsina, while his paternal grandmother, Binta, a Fulani from the Sullubawa clan, was a princess of the Katsina Emirate and a sister of Emir Muhammadu Dikko.

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 bachelor’s degree in Education and Chemistry, and then returned in 1978 to pursue a master’s degree in Analytical Chemistry.

Alhaji Umaru Yar’Adua married Turai Umaru Yar’Adua of Katsina in 1975 and they had seven children (five daughters and two sons) and several grandchildren. Their daughter Zainab is married to the former Kebbi State governor Usman Saidu Nasamu Dakingari.

And another one, Nafisa is married to Isa Yuguda the former Governor of Bauchi State; and Maryam is married to Ibrahim Shema the former Governor of Katsina State. Yar’Adua was married to Hauwa Umar Radda from 1992 to 1997, and had two children.


In 1999, Yar’Adua won the state governorship. He was the first governor to publicly declare his assets. Yar’Adua’s administration saw various developments in the state. Katsina became the fifth northern Nigerian state to adopt sharia, or Islamic law. Education was prioritized and several schools were built in local areas. Yar’Adua also delivered on his promise of running an efficient public administration, with corruption significantly hampered. In 2003, he was later re-elected for a second term in office and his successor was Ibrahim Shema.

In the 2007 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. The election was highly controversial. Strongly criticized by observers, as well as the two primary opposition candidates, Muhammadu Buhari of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and Atiku Abubakar of the Action Congress (AC), the result was largely rejected as having been rigged in Yar’Adua’s favour.

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.

Yaradua established a presidential electoral reform committee to look into the legal factors, social and political institutions and security issues that affects 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.

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 offenses commission and a parties registration agency. It also recommended speedy resolution of legal challenges of elections, presumably before the swearing in ceremony of the victor of the seat being challenged.

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 power vacuum which was usurped by a cabal.  On 22 January 2010, the Supreme Court of Nigeria ruled that the Federal Executive Council (FEC) had fourteen days to decide a resolution on whether Yar’Adua was “incapable of discharging the functions of his office”. The ruling also stated that the Federal Executive Council should hear testimony of five doctors, one of whom should be Yar’Adua’s personal physician.

On 10 February 2010, the Senate controversially used the “doctrine of necessity” to transfer Presidential Powers to Vice President Goodluck Jonathan, and declared him Acting President, with all the accompanying powers, until Yar’Adua returned to full health. The power transfer, considered illegal by some, has been called a “coup without the word” by opposition lawyers and lawmakers. However, there are others that felt the power vacuum would lead to instability and a possible military takeover.


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.

The Federal Government of Nigeria declared a seven-day mourning period. Acting President Goodluck Jonathan said

“Nigeria has lost the jewel on its crown and even the heavens mourn with our nation tonight. As individuals and as a nation we prayed for the recovery of Mr President. But we take solace in the fact that the Almighty is the giver and taker of all life.”

US President Barack Obama offered condolences, stating:

“He was committed to creating lasting peace and prosperity within Nigeria’s own borders, and continuing that work will be an important part of honoring his legacy.”

By Oluwamayowa Akinyemi

Oluwamayowa Akinyemi
Oluwamayowa Akinyemi is a digital and web content developer with experience in web content development and management as well as research and writing. He is an avid reader of random subject matters and a sucker for movies and video games. He is also passionate about youth empowerment and is a global affairs analyst and enthusiast.
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