Umaru Musa Yar’Adua (16 August 1951– 5 May 2010) was a Nigerian politician who was the President of Nigeria from 2007 to 2010. He was declared the winner of the controversial Nigerian presidential election held on 21 April 2007, and was sworn in on 29 May 2007.
He previously served as the Governor of Katsina from 1999 to 2007; and was a member of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). In 2009, Yar’Adua left for Saudi Arabia to receive treatment for pericarditis. He returned to Nigeria on 24 February 2010, where he died on 5 May.
President Yar’Adua left Nigeria on 23 November 2009, and was reported to be receiving treatment for pericarditis at a clinic in Saudi Arabia. He was not seen in public again, and his absence created a power vacuum which was usurped by a cabal. On 22 January 2010, the Supreme Court of Nigeria ruled that the Federal Executive Council (FEC) had fourteen days to decide a resolution on whether Yar’Adua was “incapable of discharging the functions of his office”. The ruling also stated that the Federal Executive Council should hear testimony of five doctors, one of whom should be Yar’Adua’s personal physician.
Doctrine of necessity
On 10 February 2010, the Senate controversially used the “doctrine of necessity” to transfer Presidential Powers to Vice President Goodluck Jonathan, and declared him Acting President, with all the accompanying powers, until Yar’Adua returned to full health. The power transfer, considered illegal by some, has been called a “coup without the word” by opposition lawyers and lawmakers. However, there are others that felt the power vacuum would lead to instability and a possible military takeover.
In 2007, Umaru Yar’Adua, who suffered from a kidney condition, challenged his critics to a game of squash in an endeavor to end speculations about his health. On 6 March 2007 he was flown to Germany for medical reasons, further fomenting rumors about his health. His spokesperson said this was due to stress and quoted Yar’Adua as saying he was fine and would soon be back to campaigning. Another report, which was rejected by Yar’Adua’s spokesperson, claims that Yar’Adua collapsed after suffering a possible heart attack.
On 28 June 2007, Yar’Adua publicly revealed his declaration of assets from May (becoming the first Nigerian president to do so), according to which he had ₦856,452,892 (US$5.8 million) in assets, ₦19 million ($0.1 million) of which belonged to his wife. He also had ₦88,793,269.77 ($0.5 million) in liabilities. This disclosure, which fulfilled a pre-election promise he made, was intended to set an example for other Nigerian politicians and discourage corruption.
Death and aftermath
On 24 February 2010, Yar’Adua returned to Abuja under the cover of darkness. His state of health was unclear, but there was speculation that he was still on a life support machine. Various political and religious figures in Nigeria had visited him during his illness saying he would make a recovery. Yar’Adua died on 5 May at the Aso Rock Presidential Villa. An Islamic burial took place on 6 May in his hometown in Katsina.
The Federal Government of Nigeria declared a seven-day mourning period. Acting President Goodluck Jonathan said “Nigeria has lost the jewel on its crown and even the heavens mourn with our nation tonight. As individuals and as a nation we prayed for the recovery of Mr President. But we take solace in the fact that the Almighty is the giver and taker of all life.”
US President Barack Obama offered condolences, stating: “He was committed to creating lasting peace and prosperity within Nigeria’s own borders, and continuing that work will be an important part of honoring his legacy.”