9 Years After: The Rise And Fall Of The Yar’Adua Political Dynasty + How Atiku, Tinubu Benefited

The Yar’Aduas are the only Nigerian political family to ever produced a president and deputy head of state – the late Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and late Shehu Musa Yar Adua.

The highly respected family from Katsina has always been around since the first republic, when the produced the first and only Minister of Lagos Affairs, Alhaji Musa Yar’Adua.


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The elder Yar’Adua, was a teacher before joining the public service to become a Federal Minister from 1957 to 1966. He held the traditional title of Mutawallin Katsina (keeper of the treasury) among several others. Among his children were Shehu Musa Yar Adua, who was Nigeria’s Chief of Staff, Supreme Military Headquarters and deputy head of states in 1976-79, and former President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, who was Nigeria’s President between 2007 and 2010.


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Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Biography, Early Education

Shehu Musa Yar’Adua ( Born March 5, 1943 – December 8, 1997) was a retired Nigerian Army major general who served as the Chief of Staff, Supreme Headquarters under General Olusegun Obasanjo’s 1976 – 1979 military government.



Yar’Adua attended Katsina Middle School and then Katsina Provincial School (now Government College, Katsina) for his secondary education; at the provincial school, he was classmates with current Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari. At the urging of his father and his father’s friend, the defense minister Muhammadu Ribadu, Yar’Adua took the entrance exam of the Nigerian Military Training College. He passed and was enlisted in the army in 1962 as part of the course 5 intake of the Nigerian military training school. Yar’Adua was selected for further training at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in Sandhurst, England.


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Military Career

In 1964, after he returned from Sandhurst, Yar’Adua was posted to the first infantry battalion of the Nigerian Army in Enugu under the command of Col Adekunle Fajuyi as second lieutenant. From 1964 to the end of the Nigerian Civil War, he held various positions including platoon commander in 1964, and from 1965 to 1966 adjutant of the First Infantry Battalion in Enugu. He was a battalion commander in 1967, and in 1968 became a Brigade Commander. During the civil war, he commanded the 6th infantry brigade under the leadership of Murtala Mohammed, commander of the second division.


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In October 1967, Yar’Adua was given the responsibility for the capture of Onitsha after two (2) unsuccessful attempts by the Nigerian troops.

Yar’Adua became a Lt Col in 1972. In 1975, he was an active participant in the coup that deposed Yakubu Gowon as Nigeria’s Head of State. After the success of the coup, he served as Transport Minister in General Murtala Mohammad’s regime.


Chief of Staff, Supreme Headquarters

In 1976, Yar’Adua became the Chief of Staff, Supreme Headquarters after the assassination of Murtala Mohammed in an abortive coup. His office was assigned the task of managing operations of Operation Feed the Nation, a self-reliant agricultural policy of the new Obasanjo regime.


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Yar’Adua also guided the Supreme Military Council’s initiatives on local government reforms which led to the conduct of local government elections in 1976. The local government reforms excluded traditional rulers from certain governance issues and limited their control over property rights. The reforms also granted recognition to local government as a third tier arm of government.


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After retiring from the military, he established a holding company called Hamada Holdings. He was an investor in the Nigerian branch of Habib Bank(Bank PHB). He also started a publishing house called the NationHouse Press and published a now defunct daily newspaper called the Reporter.


Political Career

President Babangida started his political transition program in 1987 with the establishment of a Political Bureau, and a Constituent Assembly was later inaugurated to deliberate on a proposed draft constitution. Though Yar’Adua was not a member of the assembly and a law had proscribed certain old breed politicians from political activities, his associates who represented his political leanings at the forum and was active in the formation of political associations during the transitional period, Yar’Adua and his group formed the People’s Front of Nigeria. Members included Babagana Kingibe, Atiku Abubakar, Bola Tinubu, Magaji Abdullahi, Ango Abdullahi, Ahmadu Rufa’i, Yahaya Kwande, Abdullahi Aliyu Sumaila, Wada Abubakar, Babalola Borishade, Sabo Bakin Zuwo, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, M.S.Buhari and Farouk Abdulazeez. The organization later merged with other groups to form the Social Democratic Party of Nigeria. People’s Front and PSP, became the two dominant factions within SDP. However, Yar’Adua’s group was very organized and able to win the majority of the elective posts within SDP. During the Governorship and House of Assembly elections, SDP had a slight numerical edge over NRC.


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In January 1992, Yar’Adua spent a short stint in detention, jailed for contravening a law banning certain persons from active politics. However, the law was repealed and Yar’Adua subsequently announced his presidential election. His campaign political structure covered the country; he had a national campaign directorate, and each state had its own campaign coordinator and ward mobilizers. Members of his campaign group included former PDP chairman Anthony Anenih, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, former minister Dapo Sarumi, Bola Tinubu and Sunday Afolabi. Yar’Adua was leading the SDP presidential field before results were annulled. A new election was later conducted on June 12, 1993 which was won by M.K.O. Abiola.


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After the June 12 elections were annulled, the Yar’Adua faction negotiated an arrangement for the inauguration of an interim government. In November 1993, the interim government of Ernest Shonekan was booted out and Sani Abacha became the new military Head of State.


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In 1994, Yar’Adua won a seat representing Katsina to a new National Constitutional Conference. He was an outspoken delegate and in early 1994 organized a political conference at the Nigerian Union of Journalist office in Lagos that earned the attention of the military leadership who detained him for four days.

Yar’Adua, Obasanjo, Lawan Gwadabe and others were arrested in March 1995 on allegations of plotting a coup to overthrow the Abacha regime. He was sentenced to death by a military tribunal in 1995, after calling on the Nigerian military government of Gen. Sani Abacha and his Provisional Ruling Council to reestablish civilian rule. The sentence was commuted to life in prison but died in captivity on 8 December 1997.


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History was, however, made on May 29, 2007, when the younger Yar’Adua, Umaru, bacame the 13th president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.


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Umaru Musa Yar’Adua (16 August 1951 – 5 May 2010) started his education at Rafukka Primary School in 1958, and moved to Dutsinma Boarding Primary School in 1962. He attended the Government College at Keffi from 1965 until 1969. In 1971 he received a Higher School Certificate from Barewa College. He attended Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria from 1972 to 1975, where he obtained a B.Sc. degree in Education and Chemistry, and then returned in 1978 to pursue an M.Sc. degree in Analytical Chemistry.


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During the Second Republic (1979–83), Yar’Adua was a member of the leftist People’s Redemption Party, while his father was briefly the National Vice chairman of the National Party of Nigeria. During the Transition Programme of President Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, Yar’Adua was one of the foundation members of the Peoples Front, a political association under the leadership of his elder brother, the late Major-General Shehu Musa Yar’Adua. That association later fused to form the Social Democratic Party. Yar’Adua was a member of the 1988 Constituent Assembly. He was a member of the party’s National Caucus and the SDP State Secretary in Katsina and contested the 1991 Governorship election, but lost to Saidu Barda, the candidate of the National Republican Convention and an ally of Babangida. In 1999, he ran for the same position and won. He was re-elected in 2003. He was the first governor to publicly declare his assets.


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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 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, under the cover of darkness. His state of health was unclear, but there was speculation that he was still on a life support machine.

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.


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Sadly, no member of the powerful Yar’Adua family has been able to follow the footsteps of Musa, Shehu or Umaru Yar’Adua, as many have lost interest in the political affairs of the country. Even, their strong base of Katsina has been lost to President Muhammadu Buhari.



Meanwhile, some political heavyweights in the present political dispensation have taken it upon themselves to ensure their legacies last for a lifetime.
Among those who have kept the flag flying is former Vice President Atiku Abubakar.

In a recent interview, he said the late former Chief of Staff, Supreme Headquarters, General Shehu Musa Yar’Adua brought him into politics and he learnt the rudiments of partisan politics from the late elder statesman.


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Abubakar said, “The man who actually ‎brought me into politics, the late Shehu Yar’dua, when he invited me as a young man told us to break the regional siege that every part of this country had been subjected to.

“He asked us to reach out to every Nigerian across the Niger. To him and for him, that was a major objective; so when he died and I decided to build the Yar’ Adua centre in his memory, we got an architect to design the uncompleted bridge.


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“The significance of that bridge was that we had started building bridges of understanding and unity across this country and unfortunately, the man who started building that bridge died. I wish I could complete building that bridge.”


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Another beneficiary of the Yar’Adua political dynasty is Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. The former Lagos governor has been the force behind the emergence of political players since Nigeria returned to democracy in 1999.

*Additional materials from Wikipedia

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