Yar'Adua, Umaru Musa

▪ 2008
 
born 1951, Katsina, Nigeria

On May 29, 2007, Umaru Musa Yar'Adua of the People's Democratic Party (PDP) was inaugurated as Nigeria's 13th president in the capital of Abuja. The ceremony marked the first time in the country's history that an elected civilian head of state had handed over power to another. Yar'Adua, the governor of Katsina state, was handpicked by outgoing president Olusegun Obasanjo.

      Yar'Adua was born to an elite Fulani family, and his birthplace was an important centre of Islamic learning. His family was prominent in both traditional and modern politics; his father served as a federal minister during the First Republic (1960–66), and his late elder brother, Shehu Musa Yar'Adua, was Obasanjo's deputy in the military government of 1976–79. Yar'Adua received his university education at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. From 1975 to 1983 he taught in various colleges and a polytechnic before becoming a businessman, serving in management and as a director of many companies.

      Yar'Adua first entered party politics as a mobilizer for the (now-defunct) People's Redemption Party. During the long transition program (1989–93) to restore civilian rule, he became a founding member of the Peoples' Front, a political association led by his elder brother, which eventually became the core of the (now-defunct) Social Democratic Party. Yar'Adua began concentrating on state politics in 1991, when he stood as a candidate in the Katsina state gubernatorial election, which he lost. Seven years later, during the transition government of Gen. Abdulsalam Abubakar, Yar'Adua participated in the founding of the K34 political association, which merged with the PDP. Under the PDP banner he successfully contested for the governorship in 1999 and won reelection in 2003 to a second term. As state governor he focused on the socioeconomic development of his state, with particular attention to the educational and health sectors. Not only did he pay down the huge state debt that he had inherited, but he also accumulated a $50 million surplus in the treasury. He became known for his ascetic lifestyle and personal probity and was one of the few governors not investigated for corruption during Obasanjo's regime.

      In the wake of open confrontation in late 2006 between Obasanjo and his vice president, Atiku Abubakar, who became a presidential candidate for the Action Congress, Yar'Adua emerged as a dark-horse PDP presidential candidate.He won a decisive landslide victory with 70% of the vote in the April 21, 2007, election, but it was marred by reports of widespread electoral malpractice. Yar'Adua faced the enormous task of maintaining the development programs begun by his predecessor, establishing peace and reconciliation in the Niger delta, and continuing the war against widespread systemic corruption. More important, he needed to establish his political independence from Obasanjo, who would remain leader of the PDP.

LaRay Denzer

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Universalium. 2010.

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