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How Yar’Adua ran Nigeria

By Jide Ajani

*A President and his style

The late President Umaru Yar’Adua’s delicate and complicated health status required that he must rest and rest well.  But he did not.  In fact, conscious of his health circumstances, he opted to go and lecture in the university after serving as Katsina State governor for two terms of eight years.

On Tuesday, May 20, 2009, some state governors experienced what it meant to wait to see President Yar’Adua. In the last two weeks, prior to that day, the earliest time the President had closed from office, according to presidency sources was about 8.15pm.  In fact, many governors had to sit all day waiting for him.  After that Tuesday’s National Economic Council, NEC, meeting, presided over by Vice President Goodluck Jonathan, some of the state governors made a push to see President Yar’Adua.  Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State; Peter Obi of Anambra and Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State, wanted to have audience with President Yar’Adua.

But what Yar’Adua did not know was that for each hectic meeting he presided over, he was chipping away at his own longevity.

Yar’Adua was very blunt as President.  At one of his meetings with his Power Minister Lanre Babalola, Yar’Adua was quoted as responding to a statement made by his then deputy, Vice President Goodluck Jonathan about collective guilt:  “No, it is my credibility that is at stake. How many Ministers of Power have we had and who remembers them? If things fail tomorrow, Lanre (Lanre Babalola the minister) is a young man. He will simply dust his CV again and begin to look for another job but Nigerians will remember the promise I made.”

Yar’Adua came to power with a seven-point agenda which became the buzz word of his administration viz:
* Energy: We need to solve the problem of power and energy — National Council on Energy to drive the energy policy and advice on power, energy and gas… energy emergency to be declared.
*. Security: Treating security as a critical Infrastructure.

* Wealth Creation: 70% of all revenue comes from oil; need to keep this focused and extended to other areas.
* Education: Need to address the various problems in the education sector.

* Land Reform: To provide proper ownership and give a chance to take the land to capital market.
*. Mass Transit: To develop capacity for mass movement of goods and people.
* Niger Delta: To implement the master plan already developed.

But now that he’s dead, Nigerians are wondering what became of all the points in the agenda.  Power, today, remains the most disturbing.

In fairness, Yar’Adua got a good hold of the Niger Delta with his novel Amnesty Programme but his health almost turned that exercise into a shambolic endeavour once he was ferried out of Nigeria on Tuesday, November 23, 2009, leaving the programme without no meaningful direction.  He toiled daily to serve Nigeria but his health did not serve him well.

File Photo: Late President Yar'Adua and President Jonathan.

For a man whose daily routine as President was quite hectic, Yar’Adua took his prayers very seriously.  He was said to usually rise from bed any time between 5 a.m. and 5:30 a.m. for his prayers. Sunday Vanguard was informed that it was not unusual for him (Yar’Adua) to wake up in the middle of the night to say some special prayers – both for his family and Nigeria as a nation.
He was said to normally start receiving visitors from around 8 a.m..

And he resumed in office by 9.30 a.m. from whence official work commenced.
His first routine in the office, was to go through the summary of newspaper stories and editorials for the day.  This was the forte of Olusegun Adeniyi; the summary was usually prepared by the office of the Special Adviser on Media and Publicity. After this, there would be briefing by State Chief of Protocol for the assignments of the day and the Principal Secretary for whatever directives President Yar’Adua would want to give.

All these were routine.

What was not routine was the closing time.
There was no fixed time.  There were times when Yar’Adua left office between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m..  There was also what a source described as ‘night-runs’, that is visits, which would begin around 9.30 p.m.
But at some point night visits were cancelled.

But occasionally, there were some people Yar’Adua still received at night.

President Yar’Adua never suffered fools.
Sunday Vanguard was made to understand by another former minister that “it was part of his nature to listen to you and would normally correct you if he thought you were wrong. He gave you the appropriate guidance that you needed to do your work instead of allowing you to beat about the bush. He, however, allowed one a lot of initiatives. He did not give you a job and then followed you around. What he expected were results”.

One minister almost lost her job because Yar’Adua was angry about her attitude to work.
Whereas Yar’Adua may have been a good listener who respected other people’s opinion, it was gathered that President Yar’Adua would politely rebuke officials of state in camera and praise good work in the open.

In fact, during the cabinet reshuffle of 2008, President Yar’Adua was said to have written and personally signed letters of appreciation to some ministers who were retained.

Even those who were shown the way out got their own letters from President Yar’Adua appreciating their contributions to nation building at a time like ‘that’.

Some more discerning observers had concluded that there was nothing abnormal about Yar’Adua’s health. As Yar’Adua himself once said while alive, that he was not superhuman, therefore, he was like any other human being that fell sick and got well.

When he visited Vanguard Newspapers during the campaigns of 2007, the same question was posed.  His response was that it is evil of any individual to wish death upon a fellow human being.  The expression on his face betrayed his anger.

President Yar’Adua was said to be too patient and that constituted a weakness.

Born on August 16, 1951, into an aristocratic Fulani family in the ancient town of Katsina, Yar’Adua had his early education at Rafukka Primary School in 1958.  In 1962, he moved to Dutsinma Primary School and later attended Government College, Keffi (1965-1969). Obtained a Higher School Certificate (HSC) from Barewa College in 1971 and a B.Sc Degreee in Education and Chemistry from the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) Zaria (1972-1975) from where he also pursued an M.Sc degree in Analytical Chemistry.

He later became a teacher of Chemistry at Holy Child College, Lagos (1975-1976), lectured at the College of Arts, Science and Technology, Zaria (1976-1979) and also lectured, College of Arts and Science, (1979-1983).  He later moved into the private sector.

Yar’Adua worked as pioneer General Manager, Sambo Farms in Funtua, Katsina State 1983-1989), Board member, Katsina State Farmers Supply Company (1985-1985), Member, Governing Council of College of Arts, Science and Technology, Zaria and Katsina Polytechnic (1978-1983). He was also Board Chairman, Katsina State Investment and Property Development Company (1994-1996) as well as director of many companies including Habib Nigeria Bank, and NATION House Press Limited, Katsina (1995-1999).

In the realm of politics, Yar’Adua was a member of the late Malam Aminu Kano’s Peoples Redemption Party, PRP, from (1979-1983). During the transition programme of Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, Yar’Adua was a founding member of the Peoples Front, a political group headed by his late elder brother, Major-Gen. Shehu Musa Yar’Adua. The association later fused with others to form the Social Democratic Party, SDP. Yar’Adua was also a member of the 1988 Constituent Assembly.

He contested and lost the 1991 Governorship election in Katsina State, but was to later win the same election in 1999. He was re-elected in 2003.

Yar’Adua was the first state governor to publicly declare his assets.
But in 2001, his administration in Katsina adopted Sharia law.

In December 2006, Yar’Adua was chosen as the PDP’s presidential candidate, winning the April 21, 2007, elections to become president.

He presented to Nigerians a government of national unity.  The move doused political tension in the country.

Yar’Adua, dreamt big but his health almost always militated against this.


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