The late Nigerian President Umaru Yar’Adua is being remembered as a man whose leadership exemplified humility and prudence in the management of the country’s resources in the midst of corruption.
An announcement on state radio said Mr. Yar'Adua died late Wednesday at the presidential villa. He was 58.
Political science professor Kabiru Mato of the University of Abuja said the death of President Yar’Adua after a long illness is a great loss not only to the late president’s immediate family but to all Nigerians.
“This is a moment of sober reflection for virtually all Nigerians because losing a very important personality like the nation’s number one is a great loss, not only to his family, not only to people within his political formation, but it is a great loss to Nigeria as a whole. It’s a tragedy that has struck the nation with shock and some disbelief. But, as Muslims and Christians, we all know that every living soul shall one day taste death,” he said.
Mato said the late Nigerian leader will be remembered as an honest statesman who was able to restore Nigerians’ confidence in their government after years of corrupt leadership.
Late Nigerian President Umaru Yar'Adua
“In the last several years, we have not had a leader that exemplified humility that exemplified integrity and prudence in the management of resources as much as President Yar’Adua did. We will remember him as a very decent person with a low profile personality,” Mato said.
He praised the late Nigerian leader for his handling of the militant crisis in Nigeria’s volatile oil-rich Niger Delta region.
“We have seen the way he was able to address a very yearning issue of the restiveness in the Niger Delta area, the sincerity with which he approached the amnesty exercise which granted Nigeria the opportunity to continue to produce oil in the region,” Mato said.
Politically, Mato said Nigerians will also remember the late Yar’Adua as a leader who ruled his country with serious democratic paralysis by his handling internal politics within the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
“President Yar’Adua maintained a distant relationship to the extent that a lot of Nigerians are seeing the PDP leadership basically weaker. In my view, that has to do with the failure of the president to get meddlesome on the activities of the party, on the selection of candidates that man the different positions within the ruling party today,” he said.
The ruling PDP has a policy under which the presidency is rotated between the mainly Muslim north and the largely Christian south every two terms.
Former Nigerian President Obasanjo
Some have blamed former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo for pushing the choice of Mr. Yar’Adua as the party’s presidential candidate when, they said, Mr. Obasanjo should have known he was not physically well.
Mato said there will be enough time for Nigerians to analyze the political implications of Mr. Yar’Adua’s ascendency to the presidency, but for now he said the country is in mourning.
“It was a blunder; it was a very deliberate strategy of former President Olusegun Obasanjo who was pushed out of office by the refusal of Nigerians to grant his ambition of extending his rule beyond the mandatory two terms as prescribed in the Nigerian constitution. But, I don’t think this is the proper time to talk about that. I think it’s an issue that we should leave until [after] we bury President Yar’Adua,” Mato said.