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Encomiums for Yar’Adua at NASS valediction

Hon. Hon. Yakubu Umaru Barde (right) signing the late President Umaru Musa Yar’ Adua’s condolence register while other Honorable Members cue up for their turn at the National Assembly Complex, Abuja on Tuesday. Photo by Gbemiga Olamikan

By Ben Agande, Luka Binniyat & Inalegwu Shaibu

ABUJA—AN attempt by the Senate to order the setting up of a judicial panel of enquiry to investigate circumstances surrounding the sickness and subsequent death of late President Umaru Yar’Adua last week, was thwarted by last minute arguments, yesterday.

The Senate resolved to send a delegation to commiserate with President Goodluck Jonathan as well as the family of the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua.

Also, past and present leadership of the House of Representatives tried to outdo each other in eulogising what they all agreed as the “great quality of a great fallen leader” during a valedictory session organized to honour late President.

In all, 23 speeches were delivered, with some of them boring and repetitive, a few sombre and thought-provoking. Just about three of the speeches brought the session alive.

In the end, the Green Chamber pledged full cooperation to the Presidency of Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan.

Senate wants monument named after Yar’Adua

In a motion moved as part of the valedictory session, the Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekwerenmadu said Nigerians needed to know the truth surrounding the sickness and the eventual death of the former president especially given the secrecy that shrouded his movement to Saudi Arabia and the denial of access to him.

In his tribute, the Senate President, Senator David Mark said the late Yar’Adua was a ‘good, noble and humble’ man who had “unfettered access to wealth yet did not plunder it. Not that he had so much in terms of personal wealth and acquisition, but because he had conquered greed and avarice.”

Senator Mark said though the late President “wielded executive powers in all its trappings, yet he did not drink from the chalice of arrogance. He upheld the rule of law as a basis for human progress.

“He did not only restrain himself from directly interfering with activities of the National Assembly, he lived and acted within the ambit of the law. Indeed he would be remembered as one of the ardent apostles of the rule of law, equity and justice in our clime.”

He, however, regretted that though the late President was a public figure, “the nation was not adequately informed about his health status. This unfortunately provided a fertile ground for mischief makers, rumour mongers and spin doctors of all kinds to feed the nation with fairy tales. For example, why was he taken from a hospital in Saudi Arabia to the state House when he had not fully recovered to resume duties?

Who were his medical doctors and handlers? Why were we not briefed on a regular basis on the status of his health? If I know the late Umaru Musa Yar’Adua very well, these controversies, questions and confusions are the exact opposite the late President would have wished.

“We were expectantly waiting for the resumption in office of our dear President having been assured at various times that he was recuperating, only to be confronted with the shocking news of his death. Clearly the Federal Government owes the nation an explanation on the shortcomings surrounding the management and handling of our late President when he took ill.”

Speaking on his motion, the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekwerenmadu said: “President Yar’Adua will be remembered forever for so many reasons some of which are his zero tolerance for an unconstitutional access to power, his articulation and prosecution of the amnesty programme in the Niger Delta which is still confounding the world. His relationship with National Assembly was perfect, his seven-point agenda recorded more successes in the area of respect to the rule of law than any other.

“In spite of his enormous good will, the last days of President Yar’Adua were, to say the least controversial for no fault of his. His illness and hospitalization was badly managed by his aids and close associates.”

Former Minister of Information, Senator Uche Chukwumerije said the good aspect of the late Yar’Adua’s life was tainted by the “lack of political will to turn positive personal conviction into benchmark of public performances.”

He said: “Indeed an evidence of sincerity of profession of personal honesty must include such a strong personal aversion to corruption that should propel a leader to wage ruthless consistent war against this best. Unfortunately, lack of political will compounded by failing health, foreclosed this line of action in Yar’Adua’s Presidency.”

Vote for judicial panel of enquiry

As the Senate President called for the vote on whether the Senate should set up a judicial panel of enquiry to investigate the circumstance surrounding his sickness and death, Senator Maaji Maina Lawan argued that since Yar’Adua had died and had already been buried, every controversy surrounding his death should be ignored.

His position was supported by Senator Nuhu Aliyu who argued that the Senate must “let sleeping dogs lie.” The prayer was suspended.

The delegation to the President would be led by the President of the Senate, David Mark while the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekwerenmadu would lead the delegation to console with the government and people of Katsina State as well as the family of late Yar’Adua.

Reps eulogise Yar’Adua

At the House of Representatives, the Deputy Speaker, Bayero Nafada, who was the first to speak, described the late Yar’Adua as man of great humility and honesty whose contribution to democracy will never be forgotten.

He said: “Despite his eight years as the Governor of Katsina State and his three years as the President of Nigeria, Yar’Adua left behind him only a House in Katsina and two cars.”

He also mentioned how the late President was able to disarm discontented Niger Delta militia; his penchant for rule of law and his commitment to electoral reforms, adding: “He did not pay lips service to the war against corruption but gave the Legislature and the Judiciary their independence.”

Terngu, PDP,Benue, acting Speaker for three days (October 30th to November 2nd, 2007) – in the heat of the $5million crisis surrounding a house renovation contract that brought down Rep Patricia Etteh as Speaker, and saw the emergence of Rep Dimeji Bankole, PDP,Ogun, as Speaker of the Reps, said: “Though the late Yar’Adua had all the powers to form his own company and to make business men to bribe him in turn for sales of government investment to them at a give-away price, he refused to do that.

“Even as powerful as the President and Commander-in-Chief, Yar’Adua had governors who did not like him, but he never arranged for any of their kidnap.

“Yar’Adua did not steal money to make a farm; he did not put any of his daughters or sons or cousins to be Senator. The late Yar’Adua refused to allocate oil field to himself, family members and friends.”

The chamber was electrified, but it was obvious that the leadership was not at ease with the speech. The late Yar’Adua was not interested in accumulating primitive wealth; he did not build a private university and a library with ill-gotten wealth.”

On his part, a former Deputy Minority Leader of the Reps (2003 – 2007), Dr. Haruna Yerima, said: “At a time when some governors of the North were celebrating the illiteracy level and backwardness of their educational sector, Yar’Adua, as governor of Katsina State, was busy renovating and building new schools in Katsina like never seen before.

“Note that, in 2004, Governor Ali Modu-Sherif said he was not bothered by what the papers wrote about him, ‘since 90 per cent of my electorate can not read newspapers.’ He did his best as a Governor to improve on his State, and also did his best for the entire country as President.”

Rep Femi Gbajabiamila, AC,Lagos, who is the Deputy Minority Leader of the House, in his speech, recalled his first meeting with the late President. He said: “For the first time in my life, I was confronted head long with humility when I met our late President at a Budget Meeting he had with the Leadership of the National Assembly in 2008. He was a personification of humility and humanity.”

He noted that during the meeting the President made his observation and objection to some aspects of the budget with almost obsequious politeness, pointing out that the National Assembly exceeded its powers delving into certain parts of the Appropriation bill.

Rep Femi, added: “In my own view, I believed that the President was wrong, so I raised my hands and told the President that I disagreed with him.

“From the murmuring in the room, I knew that the leadership of the National Assembly was very uncomfortable with a Rep arguing with the C-in-C. They wanted me to shut up and sit down, but the President said, ‘no let the man Speak, let’s listen to him.’”

In rounding up the three-hour session of speeches, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole, said: “At this trying moment, the House of Representatives is with the family of the departed President in this irreparable personal and national loss. The House of Representatives is deeply grieved at the passing away of our former President.

“We join President Jonathan in his resolve to uphold the values which our departed leader represented. We are encouraged and motivated by President Jonathan’s inaugural address where he declared: ‘In this regard our total commitment to good governance, electoral reform and the fight against corruption would be pursued with vigour.’ ”


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