Yar-Adua: Legacy after death

By Arms free Ajanaku
After the resounding defeat at the National Assembly and the subsequent
national repudiation of the infamous Third Term Agenda , President
Olusegun Obasanjo who had tried to outfox the entire nation came to terms
with reality . It was in 2006 , and with the failure to stretch his tenure
beyond the constitutionally allowed two terms, a hurried succession plan
had to be put in place . The General from Ota must have been banking on
calculations that the bid would sail through. However , as reality dawned
that Nigerians could not be railroaded to assuage the ambitions of a ruler
who appeared bent on installing a life Presidency in the world ’ s most
populous black nation , quick steps had to be taken to find a replacement .
Not minding the Third Term misadventure , the aces were still with the
General . Since Obasanjo could not keep himself in power , he sought to
install a protégé , someone who would most likely be pliant . There was
equally the thesis from the Obasanjo camp about the need to put the
Presidency in the hands of a capable technocratic leader who would
continue the economic reforms and political agenda of the departing
President .
By the time the dust settled , the outcome of the search for Obasanjo ’ s
successor was a big surprise in the political space . As the front runners in
the race for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP ) Presidential ticket for the
2007 elections jostled for the big prize , the eventual winner of the prize put
a lie to all of the calculations of those who thought they were the favoured
gladiators . From a Presidential field , which included the 2007 set of second
term governors who were about finishing their tenures , the reclusive and
taciturn Governor of Katsina State , Umaru Musa Yar ’ Adua was surprisingly
picked as Obasanjo ’ s anointed one . Being the heir to the throne to be
vacated by Obasanjo meant Yar ’ Adua would not need to do much to win
the Presidency. Obasanjo , who had engineered the Yar ’ Adua candidacy was
not someone to do things in half measures. The civil war icon literally drew
from his battle field experience and fired on all cylinders to achieve the
objective of installing his hurriedly recruited successor . On the campaign
trail in the build up to 2007 general elections, Obasanjo stomped for his
protégé as if he was campaigning for himself . Many close watchers of the
unfolding political drama assessed the Ota General ’ s exertions on behalf of
his political godson in the context of self - preservation .
On behalf of Yar ’ Adua , therefore , messages were crafted to the effect that
the reforms initiated from 1999 to 2007 would suffer serious reversals , if
someone of like mind, and with integrity was not put in the saddle . As
these debates played out in the polity , Yar ’ Adua was silent for most of the
campaign . It was apparently a silence of assessment driven mainly by the
sordid realities of governance . Unlike the average pack of Nigeria ’ s noisy
and garrulous politicians , who have little content to give beyond divisive
ethnic and sectarian posturing, Yar ’ Adua was dignified in his silence . For
the most, he looked bemused by the high powered political drama playing
out around him. On campaign stages, he walked meekly behind his
benefactor who commandeered the pitching process giving little room to
the candidate himself to say what he would do if elected . Yar ’ Adua did not
object to his godfather ’ s tendency of always wanting to suck in all the
attention and oxygen at every occasion ; the candidate merely deployed his
taciturnity as a strategic asset , leaving his opponents to argue with
themselves. In the course of the electioneering , he made no empty
promises; neither did he hurl any vitriol at his opponents. With keen eyes,
he observed what went on around him without any apparent interest in
gloating in the spotlight.
This posture meant much of the work would be done and dusted by the
Obasanjo / PDP political machine , with its hard knuckles proclivities, as it
defied the odds to ensure the anointed one was elected to the most
powerful office in the land . However , knowing that there would be some
booty to be shared down the line , other interests positioned themselves as
the front men and women of the Yar ’ Adua Presidency . By the time the
electoral verdict of the 2007 Presidential contest was announced , the
interests which promoted the Yar ’ Adua / Jonathan ticket had inflicted a
moral quagmire on the would - be President . These interests went out of
their way to ensure a crooked win , and they did it to the point that the
2007 elections have gone down in Nigeria ’ s history as the most brazenly
rigged ever.
To his credit , one of the very first things Yar ’ Adua did was to set himself
free from the burden of that electoral heist by owning up to his flawed
mandate . For a country where citizens had become so accustomed to
impunity by those in the highest echelons of governance , President
Yar ’ Adua ’ s moment of truth fired imaginations. Many reckoned that a man
who could come to terms with , and admit that his own mandate was
tainted by the subversion of the democratic process could as well lead the
process of cleaning up the corrupt electoral system . President Yar ’ Adua did
not only lament; although he was derisively called Baba Go Slow by
longsuffering citizens who wanted to see quick action , he moved decisively
to set up a framework for electoral reforms . The Justice Uwais Panel on
Electoral Reform made up of the best minds in the field of electoral
democracy deliberated and came up with far reaching legal and
administrative changes. These proposed reforms serve as the basis for
which the semblance of sanity being enjoyed in the electoral space today is
Beyond his legacy on electoral reform, Yar ’ Adua had a pan Nigerian
outlook in the way he governed all through his Presidency . Unlike in the
current times, when several sections of the country feel left out or
marginalized , the Yar ’ Adua government took several practical steps to
assuage feelings of alienation . One of such big steps was the way he
reached out to the agitators in the Niger Delta . Understanding the diverse
character of Nigeria , and the need for tact in resolving some of the
lingering national questions, President Yar ’ Adua explore soft power
channels to reach out to the agitators in the region . Gradually , he dialogued
with the agitators to the point that a template was created for confidence
building. President Yar ’ Adua then followed up to reap the gains of the
confidence built by instituting the Presidential Amnesty Programme , which
became the framework for the current fragile peace being enjoyed in the
region . Again to his credit , the Amnesty Programme was designed not just
to silence the booming guns of the agitators in the creeks . There were
components of the programme , which sought to address the age - long issues
of marginalization and alienation in the Niger- Delta through massive
personnel development and the creation of sustainable livelihoods to
address poverty in the oil - bearing region . Unfortunately , when he passed
away , those other critical components ironically got lost with the focus
being on just the skill acquisition for ex - agitators .
Notwithstanding the challenge posed by his frail health , the Yar ’ Adua
Presidency remains a beacon for other administrations , when it comes to
the critical issue of the rule of law . Within a few weeks of his ascension of
the Presidency, Yar ’ Adua wasted no time in ordering the release of Local
Government funds belonging to Lagos State, which were arbitrarily seized
during the imperial Presidency of Obasanjo . In taking that well applauded
step , President Yar ’ Adua put the national and collective interests of
Nigerian citizens above partisan consideration. He acted statesmanlike ,
especially against the back of the verdict of the Supreme Court, which ruled
the seizure of the funds an illegality by the Obasanjo regime. Again , that
symbolic step sent a clear message about the primacy of the rule of law and
the sanctity of the judicial institutions as arbiters in the democratic space .
On the whole , the Yar ’ Adua Presidency sought to promote the notion that
the law of Nigeria should be supreme , and no one should be treated as a
sacred cow .
On the administrative front, the Yar ’ Adua Presidency also won hearts by
being the first to reduce the pump price of fuel . In June 2007 , the Federal
Government reduced the pump price of petro from N 75 to N 65 . The
empathy he demonstrated in the face of the suffering of citizens was
refreshingly different from previous and subsequent administrations ,
which took steps to further emasculate citizens without any corresponding
safety nets . Still on the oil and gas sector , President Yar ’ Adua took a hard
look at the sale of Nigeria ’ s refineries to private investors and reached the
conclusion that the sale was a rip off . Considering what was paid for major
national assets like the refineries , the President did not waste time in
reversing the sale . It is therefore to his credit that Nigeria still has
refineries as parts of its assets, which could have gone the way of the power
sector assets , which were sold to private hands without delivering improved
service to citizens.
Nonetheless , like all humans , Yar ’ Adua was not perfect ; there were some
inherent contradictions within his government , which let down the country .
The closeness of some corruption- tainted politicians to the government was
a major source of credibility deficit for the government . The hounding of
the then Chair of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC )
Nuhu Ribadu and the appointment of Farida Waziri painted the Yar ’ Adua
Presidency in unflattering light at home and abroad . Yar ’ Adua also suffered
the misfortune of having characters in the ministry of Justice who courted
credibility crisis for the government through their various verbal and
administrative mishaps .
Although President Yar ’ Adua was responsible for the appointees and aides
he brought on board , it is one of the lessons of leadership in the Nigerian
context that those appointees failed their principal when it mattered most.
When the President ’ s health challenges became a full blown national crises ,
it could be argued that at the time he was flown out of the country, he was
not in a position to transmit power to his Vice President , Goodluck
Jonathan . But instead of letting the Constitution prevail and save the nation
the ordeal of unelected persons exercising power , the President ’ s
appointees should have simply followed their principal ’ s well - known
adherence to the rule of law. Instead, majority of those appointees , except a
few like the late Dora Akunyili, put their vested interests above the
Constitution. Through various crude and dubious schemes , the small -
minded characters around President Yar ’ Adua eroded public sympathy for
the ailing leader . The blame for how his illness was mishandled will be
shared by the unpatriotic elements who did not have the courage to put the
nation above their crude politics .
In the minds of Nigerians remembering President Yar ’ Adua , nine years on,
the dominant memories would be of a patriot who preached the importance
of the rule of law and national cohesion . President Yar ’ Adua ,
notwithstanding the challenges posed by his ill health was a man who
believed in democracy and he did his best to ensure it thrives in Nigeria

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