Umaru Musa Yar’Adua: Remembering a Great Statesman

Nine years ago today, Nigeria lost a great president. Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. Compassionate. Genteel. Unassuming. He was loved.

Yar’Adua brought himself to transcend the barriers of ethnicity and religion. He was everything a complex Nigeria needed in a leader.

By acknowledging that the election that brought him to power was flawed, and making genuine efforts to improve Nigeria’s electoral process, Yar’Adua truly reflected the virtue of integrity.

Paradoxically, one of the greatest tributes paid to late Yar’Adua came from Gov. Adams Oshiomole. Said he in 2010; “In confronting the key challenges of the nation, he demonstrated great statesmanship, which helped to re-focus the nation. Among this was the imperative of electoral reform, over which he took significant practical measures…”

Yar’Adua, as I remember him, had his shortcomings. Discrimination was not one of them. He would not use his exalted office to promote ethnic or sectarian agenda. His commitment to a better, united and prosperous Nigeria was never in doubt. Nepotism and incompetence, now elevated to statecraft, was far from him. He had people he could trust from all parts of the country. He didn’t claim it, but he belonged to everybody.

As cloudy as they were, the issues surrounding Yar’Adua’s last days on earth did not diminish him one bit. If anything, it is the people who saw an opportunity to exploit that got diminished. I remember Yar’Adua’s queenly wife Turai and the famed “cabals.” Of a truth, power is transient.

Yar’Adua was loved. He still is. To this day, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua occupies a prominent place in the minds and hearts of many Nigerians. Arguably though, no Nigerian President, dead or alive, has enjoyed that amount of goodwill.

Critics say his frail health and his passing away contributed in part to this status. They contend that he would have been unraveled or vilified had fate not come to his rescue.

Though not to be waved off entirely, such arguments casually overlook the fact that Yar’Adua was not the first number one citizen to pass on while in office. While the nation mourned him, it couldn’t bring itself to do same for the other. It is also instructive to note that the same people that prayed for Yar’Adua’s recovery are today offering dissimilar prayers for another.

Yar’Adua was a good man. He was a great statesman. History will be kind to him. It is already.

Though Yar’Adua is of a different persuasion, this hymn written by Dr. Horatius Bonar, of Edinburgh, and sang by Ira D. Sankey as a solo in London, at the funeral of the great preacher, C. H. Spurgeon, is befitting;

1. Fading away like the stars of the morning,
Losing their light in the glorious sun
Thus would we pass from the earth and its toiling,
Only remembered by what we have done.


Only remembered, only remembered,
Only remembered by what we have done;
Thus would we pass from the earth and its toiling,
Only remembered by what we have done.

2. Shall we be missed though by others succeeded,
Reaping the fields we in springtime have sown?
No, for the sowers may pass from their labors,
Only remembered by what they have done.

3. Only the truth that in life we have spoken,
Only the seed that on earth we have sown;
These shall pass onward when we are forgotten,
Fruits of the harvest and what we have done.

Sleep on dearly beloved Umaru Musa Yar’Adua.

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