Nigeria’s president, Umaru Yar’Adua died yesterday evening after a prolonged battle with a debilitating heart disease. Mr Yar’Adua, 58, died around 9pm surrounded by his wife, Turai, his mother and several members of his family.
The presidential spokesperson, Segun Adeniyi, confirmed that Mr Yar’Adua’s body is in the presidential villa in Abuja and will be buried at 2pm today in his home town of Katsina according to Islamic rites. The Acting President, Goodluck Jonathan, who had been expected to travel to Rivers State today, will be sworn in as substantive president at 8am today as mandated by the constitution.
Mr Jonathan has also declared Thursday a public holiday and said Nigerians should embark on a week of mourning for the departed president. He expressed great sadness after being informed of the news by Aliyu Gusau, the national security adviser.
He said: “Nigeria has lost the jewel on its crown, and even the heavens mourn with our nation tonight” Mr. Jonathan described the death of the president as sad, unfortunate and regrettable. “As individuals and as a nation we prayed for the recovery of Mr. President. But we take solace in the fact that the Almighty is the giver and taker of all life,” he said.
Attempts by NEXT to gain entry into the premises of the Aso Rock villa were met by hostile opposition. Security forces surrounded the pilot gate which leads directly into the villa and barred anyone from entering or approaching. Beyond the gate, there did not seem to be a great deal of activity although Mr. Yar’Adua’s mother and aide-de-camp had been seen earlier leaving the compound.
Nearby, at the Acting President’s residence, Theophilus Danjuma, Mr Gusau and Tony Anenih were all seen wearing grave expressions on their faces. All the men declined to comment.
Problem with health
Mr. Yar’Adua had experienced constant health issues since he assumed office in 2007. This culminated in a medical visit to Saudi Arabia in November last year which resulted in him being away from the country for over three months. At the time, the president’s personal physician diagnosed his ailment as acute pericarditis, an inflammation of the linings surrounding the heart. However, investigations by NEXT revealed that Mr. Yar’Adua was also suffering from Churg-Strauss syndrome and that his primary organs were severely weakened as a result.
After mounting pressure, both domestically and internationally, Mr. Yar’Adua finally returned to Nigeria on February 24. However his return was shrouded in secrecy and he was never again seen in public until his death, by which time, the late president had not been seen in public for almost 6 months.
Bayelsa State governor, Timpreye Sylva described the death of Mr Yar’Adua as a ‘national tragedy.’ Mr Sylva, according to his press secretary, Doifie Ola, said Mr Yar’Adua was a great Nigerian leader who had the best intentions for the country at heart. “Yar’Adua was a straight and honest politician. There are not many of his kind. It is unfortunate that due to his sickness, he could not implement his well thought out programmes and policies,” Mr Sylva said.
Mr. Yar’Adua is survived by two wives and 9 children. The council of ministers, security chiefs and the leadership of the National Assembly met with Mr Jonathan early this morning to discuss modalities for his swearing in.