On May 5, 2020, Nigeria marked the 10th anniversary of the death of President Umaru Musa Yar’adua. Among the many tributes on his demise, Mr. Olusegun Adeniyi on This Day Newspaper of May 7, 2020 reflected in an article: ‘The Essential Umaru Musa Yar’adua’ on what might have been. Mr. Adeniyi was the late president’s spokesman, and therefore an insider in the administration.
He talked about the attributes which President Yar’adua exhibited which were uncommon with people who held leadership position. The attributes were humility, integrity, and humanity. He further described him as a good man who had lofty dreams for his country. “A man of ideas, who gave the thankless job of building a good society, his very best.” Mr. Adeniyi, concluded that “beyond the crocodile tears and political tributes, there must have been a genuine affection for President Yar’adua by most Nigerians and deep sympathy for his personal travails.”
For most of us who were privileged to work closely with or directly under him, we certainly concurred with Mr. Adeniyi’s tribute and adjectives describing the late President Yar’adua. He was a patient man who listens to other people’s ideas and accept superior argument. He was a stricter for rules and regulations. He believed in meritocracy and has very little patience for nepotism. A family member must equally earn and pay his dues to the society. He was methodical and firm in his opinion. He motivated genuine loyalty and brought new ideas, opinion, innovations and passion into government business. He was a man of industry, competence and honesty. He was a man of ideas and opinion.
The late President Umaru Yar’adua left behind a legacy of commitment and blueprints of a number of concepts for the development of our country. He made an indelible mark in the development of our country. It will not be an exaggeration to postulate that Katsina State and the country were given hope for a better future during his administration. Most of the country’s fault lines were addressed and the economy was turned round for the better.
Here are some ideas and positive contributions made by his administration in our national development:
A. Planning for Katsina State development. As a governor in the state, he had a blueprint of development policies and programs. This was an outcome of deliberations on a ‘Retreat’ with senior civil servants and also on an ‘Economic Forum’ with all stake-holders in the state. The recommendations made available in a bounded hard copy, were religiously adhered to. Agriculture, Education, Health and provision of Infrastructure were the priority. Strict Budget discipline and prudence were the hallmark of his administration. At some point, even ‘Profit margins’ in Procurement of Contracts were regularized to (15%) for Supplies and (25%) for minor construction works. Payment for certified works were made within (28) days.
In his time, Katsina State Works Order become a darling to Contractors. At the end of ‘Eight years’ among others, a ‘State University was established, an Airport with a 3km Runway was constructed, all the 34 LGA’s headquarters were linked with Trunk ‘A’ road and further connected with electricity from the national grid. Yet the proceeding administration inherited about (20BN) to carry over.
B. Planning for National development. Late President Umaru Yar’adua’s administration presented to the country an idea called the Seven-Point Agenda. Mr. Adeniyi described it in the following words “it is not an economic blueprint but a conceptual framework of the critical areas of our national life that the administration considered a priority”. Nevertheless, people of the country were formally presented with a general direction and criteria to judge for themselves, success or failure of the administration.
C. Transparency in personal conduct. Late President Umaru Yar’adua exhibited and raised the bar of transparency by publicly declaring his assets. The law does not require him to do so, nevertheless, he did. As Lincoln put it “He is a public property” and the public has a right to know. In the late president’s humble view, he has a moral duty to disclose beyond the legal expectations.
D. Respect for institutions and constituted authority. Mr. Adeniyi again rightly postulated “for President Yar’adua, the good society is one where impunity is taboo and where the rights of the rich and the poor are equally protected.” The late president was an advocate of the ‘Rule of law’ and his administration was noted among others, for not dabbling into the affairs of National Assembly. His administration obeyed and ratified court orders. It allowed opposition parties to take over Edo, Ondo and Osun on court rulings. Lagos State funds withheld by previous administration were also released. Among others, his administration stayed away from internal affairs of the party (PDP) then in power.
E. Considering the voice of the people. The administration instituted the “Niger-Delta Amnesty Program” as part of the effort to resolve the impasse of agitation by petroleum products host communities on neglect and degradation of their environment. The idea was to bring equity and involvement of host communities in ownership of petroleum assets. The effort brought peace and prosperity not only in Niger-Delta but to the country’s economy.
F. Reform in monetary and fiscal policies. In the late president Yar’adua’s time, two instances on the financial system had impact on the economy.
(i)Most Nigerian Banks were faced with imminent liquidation and collapse from bad debts and abuses of depositors’ funds by unscrupulous management and board members. The Central Bank through its Governor, Emir Sanusi Lamido (an expert in financial risk), rescued the banking system from collapsing through ingenuity and resilience.
(ii)The Treasury Single Account (TSA) was midwifed by the administration. At the end of each financial year, all unutilized funds by MDA’s were warehoused into a Central Bank account. The funds so collected were marked as opening balance in the subsequent budget. Thus, began the journey of the TSA.
G. Strategic provision for critical Infrastructure. The administration’s seven-point agenda was converted to programs with achievable goals. It identified three major constraints to provision of infrastructure ie Land tenure, Inadequate Electricity and Agitation in Niger-Delta. The administration through a number of initiatives made much headway in resolving those constraints to the provision of infrastructure. Some of the following strategic interventions by the administration in the transportation sector are well noted: Solving the traffic gridlock in the capital city (Abuja) by fast tracking the construction of a 10-lane expressway to the City’s central district. It eased traffic flow on exits and entrances from the Northern axis (Zuba Junction) and Southern axis (Giri/Airport Junction).
H. Dredging the River Niger to facilitate Inland Waterways Transportation. The plan was on the nation’s development agenda for over 50 years. It was to deepen the river channel to enable bigger barges haul essential goods from the north to the south and vice versa. Haulage of goods through the country’s natural river channels can impact on the economy in reducing transportation overhead by about 40 percent.
I. Anti-corruption mantra beyond rhetorics. President Yar’adua’s administration also raised the bar on the crusade with a guiding principle of no sacred cows. Some high-profile prosecutions were witnessed including ministers for violation of rules and regulations. In his time, ministers and CEO’s were relieved of their appointments for not conforming with the administration’s principles and policies, in particular violation of Procurement Act.
On the personal level, to many of us younger people around him, he was a role model and mentor. He once shared with us a lesson in relationship of power and the people. He told us three ways to acquire political power: through end of a gun or through rigging of election and/or by mandate of the people. The last can only be acquired by hard work and being truthful to the people. It’s only then the people can give you their mandate to lead them.
The issues raised above are few among the so many ideas President Umaru Yar’adua brought to the table of governance. Many of the ideas not mentioned are equally effective. Among others are the Oronsaye Report on restructuring the civil service and the MDA’s; the Justice Uwais committee on Reform of the Electoral process; the Prof Akin Mobogunje committee on Land reform; the report by Dr. Emmanuel Egbogah on sharing of Petroleum assets etc. It is only apt to mention that subsequent administrations are finding most of the ideas relevant to the quest of our national development.
Yet, President Umaru Yar’adua was not a saint but merely mortal who had his faults and weaknesses. However, he was far from being desperate for power as was unfortunately portrayed by some desperadoes. Those of us privileged to work closely with him have learnt so much: commitment, passion, resilience, discipline, loyalty and most of all, telling the truth at any cost. We and a lot of Nigerians miss him, cherish his memory and pray for his soul, as always.
No leader writes his history. And as in Shakespeare’s Caesar “The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones.” History will not forget the good in President Yar’adua. History will always be kind to late President Umaru Musa Yar’adua for his humility, integrity and humanity and above all for his unquestioned passion for the Nigerian project.
May Allah SWT forgive his sins, Amin.
The tribute was sent in by Arc Ahmed Aminu Yaradua, fnia mni.