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Umaru Yar’adua and corruption in Nigeria-3

                                              By Nasir El-Rufai  

Read part One here:

Read part two here :
5. Employment and Professional CareerOn completion of the compulsory National Youth Service Scheme, Umaru joined the services of the College of Arts, Science and Technology (CAST), Zaria as a Chemistry lecturer. He earned his M.Sc in Chemistry while still teaching at CAST.


He remained in the employment of CAST, which later became the Katsina College of Arts, Science and Technology (KCAST) and then Katsina Polytechnic until 1983 when he resigned to work for his brother, Major General Shehu Yar´Adua, then retired. (Note – CAST Zaria/KCAST Zaria –




 This was a senior high school which replaced the British-style “A Levels” in the Northern States, and served to accelerate the preparation of high school graduates to move on to University.Coincidentally, my cousin and adopted father – Yahaya Hamza was the Principal of the College who interviewed and employed Umaru. During his years at CAST, KCAST and the Polytechnic, Umaru became fascinated with socialism, and had great admiration for the Soviet economic and political system.


He was the Patron of the students´ socialist movement, the Movement for Progressive Nigeria during the period. He admired the works of Frantz Fanon, Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, and read most of them.It was at this point that Yar´Adua also discovered Lobsang Rampa – the Tibetan mystic and author of the bestseller “The Third Eye”, introducing him to oriental thinking, superstition and myticism.Upon retirement in 1979, Umaru´s elder brother and General Obasanjo´s deputy – Major General Shehu Yar´Adua had gone into the private sector in a big way – causing many people to wonder where all the money came from .


The elder Yar´Adua´s farming venture – Sambo Farms Ltd., located near Daudawa (Umaru´s birthplace) was one of the ventures.Umaru became its pioneer General Manager in 1983 and remained there until the Company reportedly filed for bankruptcy in 1989.


 During the period, Umaru served on the Boards of several State-owned enterprises and agencies and on several private boards as a nominee of the Yar´Adua family:o Katsina College of Arts, Science and Technology (1979-83)
o Kaduna State Farmers Supply Company (1984-85)
o Katsina Investment and Property Development Company (1994-96)
o Habib Nigeria Bank Ltd. (1995-99)

o Lodigiani Construction Nigeria Ltd. (1987-1999)
o Hamada Holdings (1983-1999)
o Madara Ltd, Jos (1987-99)
o Nationhouse Press Ltd. (1995-99)

Umaru Yar´Adua never had any formal training in business or economics but through these boards got exposed to corporate practices prevalent in Nigeria at a time of rapid economic change – the years of Structural Adjustment Program and the endless political transitions of the successive military juntas of the mid-1980s to the late 1990s in Nigeria.

6. Political Career

During their employment as lecturers at the CAST Zaria, Umaru Yar´Adua along with Lawal Batagarawa joined the leftist Peoples´ Redemption Party (PRP).


Umaru Yar´Adua´s father was at that time, the State Chairman of the rival, right-wing National Party of Nigeria (NPN). (Note – Lawal Batagarawa was a schoolmate and friend of Umaru Yar´Adua. He also hails from Katsina and attended Government College Keffi. He studied Electrical Engineering at Ahmadu Bello University. He taught Mathematics at the CAST Zaria at the same time as Umaru Yar´Adua. Later in life,

Lawal went on to be Minister of State – Education and Defense in the Obasanjo Administration. He was Special Adviser to Obasanjo between 2003 and 2007).However, when the PRP´s candidate was surprisingly elected the Governor of Kaduna State, Umaru Yar´Adua declined to accept a position in the government ‘for family reasons’ . Lawal Batagrawa left CAST taking up appointment as a Permanent Secretary in the Kaduna State executive branch.


The Second Republic was terminated by a military coup in 1983, and by then Umaru had left public service to work for his brother, Shehu Yar Adua – who was mixing business with sporadic forays into politics by then.

When the Babangida Administration announced its Transition to Civil Rule program in 1988, Umaru joined his brother´s right-of-center political association, the Peoples´ Front (PF) in an act of final separation from leftist politics.He was elected, in 1988, on non-party basis, a member of the Constituent Assembly whose deliberations led to the enactment of 1989 Constitution by the Babangida junta.


When the military junta decreed a two-party system for the country in 1991, the Peoples´ Front opted to merge into the left-of-center Social Democratic Party (SDP) rather than the right-of-center National Republican Convention (NRC).Umaru Yar´Adua was an active member of the SDP at national and state levels. He was Katsina State Secretary of SDP and member of the party´s National Caucus. He contested the Governorship of Katsina State in 1991 but lost to Saidu Barda of the NRC, in what many saw as rejection of what looked as monarchical rule in Nigeria – Shehu Yar´Adua was contesting the Nigerian Presidency while his kid brother wished to run his home state of Katsina!

From then on, things took turns for the worse for the Yar´Adua family. Shehu was arrested and detained by the Babangida junta, released and then disqualified from running for office. He was re-arrested and tried for treason, along with his former boss – Olusegun Obasanjo – by the Abacha junta in 1996. Umaru was compelled by circumstances to assume the supervision of Shehu´s vast political and business empire.


Shehu died in prison under very questionable circumstances. (Note – While in prison, Shehu Yar´Adua sent a note to his supporters that he had been invited to the office of the prison warden where he met Major Hamza Al-Mustapha, then Chief Security Officer to General Abacha, and two others he did not know.

 He was forcefully injected with a colorless liquid by the three persons.Shehu´ s note added that he was not ill and has not had even a headache since the incident happened – a few days before he sent the note. Shehu died in Abakaliki Prison in 1997 – less than two years after the incidence. Many of his supporters believe he was injected with HIV or Hepatitis virus or both.)When General Abdulsalami Abubakar assumed the leadership of the military junta after the sudden death of General Abacha in 1998, Umaru Yar´Adua teamed up with Shehu´s allies and formed the Peoples´ Democratic Movement (PDM).


This movement merged with other disparate political groups to form the People´s Democratic Party (PDP) in 1998. Even though Umaru was not the most popular aspirant for the governorship, there was near -unanimous consensus, with General Aliyu Mohammed Gusau as main advocate that the Yar´Adua family ought to be compensated for Shehu´s efforts and ultimate sacrifice for Nigeria´s democracy.This he argued will only be achieved by getting Umaru elected Governor of Katsina State. This led to several angry defections from the party by aspirants Kanti Bello, Nura Khalil and others to the rival All People´s Party (APP now ANPP).


In a pattern that will repeat itself again and again in his political life, Umaru got the PDP ticket virtually without any effort due to the advocacy and sacrifice of others.

He was elected in 1999 and re-elected in 2003 as Governor of Katsina State. (Note – Lt-Gen Aliyu Mohammed Gusau has been a regular figure in all of Nigeria´s military juntas.He was at various times the Director of Military Intelligence to the Buhari regime, National Security Adviser to Babangida, and Obasanjo, and Chief of Army Staff to the Shonekan and Abacha Administrations.


 He contested against Umaru Yar´Adua in the 2007 presidential primaries and lost. He remains an influential power broker in Nigeria and respected by the intelligence community worldwide).

Read part four: