SEVEN YEARS AGO — His battle against a terminal illness ended in Aso Rock Presidential Villa. Friends and enemies, politicians and non-politicians from every corner of the globe expressed shock and sadness, as the news travelled by cell phones and airwaves. Many didn’t believe it’s true until the state-owned radio station broke the news: President Yar’Adua was dead.
That was on May 5, 2010.
Umaru Musa Yar’Adua (1951—2010) thus became the first elected Nigerian leader to die in office. He had been in and out of hospital several times during his two-year presidency over a health condition. Sickness never gave him a chance to run the country well. He himself had said he had a kidney problem as far back as 1990. He was however elected governor of his state of Katsina in 1999 and re-elected in 2003.
Olusegun Obasanjo, who was president during the same period, imposed Yar’Adua on his party PDP and the nation during the race for president in 2007. Many believed it was Obasanjo’s punishment for a nation that denied him a third term or life presidency that he plotted to get but failed in 2006.
The president’s sickness got worse when he was flown out of the country on November 23, 2009, to a destination only a few knew. Since he did not transmit a letter to the National Assembly nor hand over to his deputy Goodluck Jonathan, there was a power vacuum. A cabal took over, issuing statements and signing documents on the president’s behalf. Someone even organised a fake radio interview.
As the nation tottered on the brink, the Senate relied on the “doctrine of necessity” to make Jonathan acting president on February 9, 2010. Two weeks later, Yar’Adua was smuggled into the country, in the dead of night, and camped in Aso Villa. Nobody was allowed to see him. Not even Jonathan. It’s believed he was on life support then.
In the evening of May 5, the end came. His body was taken to Katsina for burial the next day and Jonathan was sworn in as substantive president.