I used the occasion of the ninth year anniversary of the death of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua to make some introspections. Like many other Nigerians, the day would have slipped by without my notice save for a tweet I read from Goodluck Jonathan-vice president under Yar’Adua and his eventual successor. There were two tweets from Jonathan. One consoled the Yar’Adua family and wished the departed president eternal rest and the other celebrated him as “a great democrat and servant-leader, whose leadership Nigeria was blessed to have if even for a period.”
My comment was only to thank Jonathan for making me remember the late President Yar’Adua again and for bringing my memories of him back in me, yet I knew that it ought not be a tweet from Jonathan or anybody for that matter that should awaken me and I believe, many more Nigerians to the event of Yar’Adua’s death on May 5, 2010. For all he did and was, it should have been the media publicity of a memorial lecture in his honour.
I understand that a low budget memorial lecture was planned in his native Katsina on Saturday, May 5, at the Conference Hall of Katsina State, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) headquarters by a coalition of the party’s support group in the state, themed: “Sixteen Years of PDP Administration in Katsina State”: Reflection and Assessment,’ to be addressed by Dr Muttaqha Rabe Darma, Mal Kabir Maiwada Daudawa and Hon Ibrahim Lawal Dankaba, but it never held.
Not just this year, even in the preceding years, our society leaders, as well as successive governments in Katsina State, are not keen on ensuring that Nigerians’ memories of the late President Umaru Yar’Adua flood back in us, just once a year by way of a remembrance lecture. Whenever it held, it turned out an obscure and scabby package that can hardly afford those who should learn from Yar’Adua’s leadership examples and the characteristics that endeared him to many and aided him in his political conquests to meaningfully do so.
For all his shortcomings as a human being, Yar’Adua had a pull as a politician, which not only made Katsina people crown him their governor for eight years, but also Nigerians as their president. As president, I can recall the frenzy with which governors in the North scrambled to have his daughters’ hands in marriage, with three-Ibrahim Shema, (Katsina), Usman Dakingari, (Kebbi) and Isa Yuguda, (Bauchi) snapping up Maryam, Zainab and Nafisa Yar’Adua respectively in a record time of under two years of Yar’Adua’s presidency.
He was not the first Nigerian leader to pass on while in office, General Sani Abacha went the same way, while Muritala Muhammed and Tafawa Balewa were killed, but we must concede that Yar’Adua was too much of a part of our today’s story, national conversation and the present democracy to brush aside and move on, especially when there is so much future leaders can learn from his examples and the paths he treaded.
We can’t bring him back to life but he can live on in our consciousness through a reasonable activity of immortalisation, perhaps through a synergy of his friends, family, political party and associates because the humility and broad-mindedness he exuded and his governance by diplomacy, present valuable leadership lessons.
His period was comparatively brief, but his government left gold-standards footprints in respect for rule of law, respect for national character, prioritising of public interest and in tackling the Niger Delta question.
I have not forgotten that he introduced the policy of returning unspent budgetary allocations by MDAs to national treasury at the end of the fiscal year; also that he was the first Nigerian president to publicly declare his assets before assuming office, and the only one so far.
As governor, record shows that across all parties, he left one of the fattest state treasuries upon leaving government house in 2007.
As president, he did away with loyalty to former President Obasanjo, his benefactor and reversed in the interest of the nation, the fraudulent sales of national assets, which Obasanjo authorised for his cronies at marked-down prices.
Without indicting his predecessor or any of successors, Yar’Adua stood among just two leaders since 1999 whom the choices they made in political appointments cannot be assailed on the basis of either religious or ethnic considerations.
He was forthright and a leader who was willing to accept shortcomings and take actions to remedy them. Against all expectations on his inauguration day, he acknowledged that the 2007 presidential election that enthroned him and Jonathan was less than credible and an experience that presented him an opportunity to learn from mistakes. He promised to set up a panel to examine the country’s electoral process with a view to ensuring that the quality and standard of Nigeria’s general elections were raised in order to strengthen the country’s democracy. Such a public self-indictment can only come from a leader who is willing to make amends or to take responsibility for his governance outcomes.
He delivered on the promise to rework the nation’s electoral process, three months after with the inauguration of a 21-member Electoral Reform Panel, headed by retired Justice Muhammed Uwais.
I used the occasion of the ninth anniversary of Yar’Adua’s death to remember a president who offered himself as a “servant-leader,” who will be “a listener and doer, and serve with humility,” and who urged every political office holder in his time to “act at all times with humility, courage, and forthrightness.”
One of his promises was to set worthy personal examples and I can recall that in the about three years of his presidency, there was no court ruling, no matter how painful, that his government did not obey, thus treading the path of the rule of law that his predecessor found obnoxious.
Yar’Adua, promised that he would address the Niger Delta crisis “in a spirit of fairness, justice, and cooperation,” and he did. We all can testify that before his Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP), no other approach had succeeded in producing results, necessary for peace in the oil bearing delta region and for the economic stability of the country. Yar’Adua came up with PAP that became the game-changer in the history of Niger Delta militancy that reaches back to the days of Adaka Boro.
The PAP and Ministry of Niger Delta he created, today work like a magic wand in complementing the efforts of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) in addressing the issues of infrastructure and human capital neglect in the country’s oil-bearing belt. He could have blazed many more trails.
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