Shehu Musa Yar'Adua

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Shehu Musa Yar'Adua
Chief of Staff, Supreme Headquarters
President Olusegun Obasanjo as Military Head of State
Preceded by Olusegun Obasanjo
Succeeded by Alex Ekwueme as 1st elected Vice President of Nigeria
Personal details
Born (1943-03-05)5 March 1943
Katsina, British Nigeria
Died 8 December 1997(1997-12-08) (aged 54)
Nationality Nigerian
Alma mater Nigerian Military Training College
Royal Military Academy Sandhurst
Religion Sunni Islam[1]
Military service
Allegiance  Nigeria
Service/branch Flag of the Nigerian Army Headquarters.svg Nigerian Army
Years of service 1961–1979
Rank Major General

Shehu Musa Yar'Adua (March 5, 1943 – December 8, 1997) was a retired Nigerian Army major general who served as the Chief of Staff, Supreme Headquarters, a position equivalent to position of Vice President under General Olusegun Obasanjo's military regime.

Early life and education[edit]

Yar'Adua was born in Katsina into a titled Fulani family. His father, Musa Yar'Adua, was a teacher who later became the Minister for Lagos Affairs from 1957 to 1966[2] during Nigeria's First Republic. His father held the traditional title of Mutawallin Katsina (keeper of the treasury).[3] Yar'Adua's grandfather, Mallam Umaru, was also the Mutawallin, and his younger brother, Umaru Yar'Adua, became the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in 2007.

Yar'Adua attended Katsina Middle School and then went to the Katsina Provincial School (now Government College, Katsina) for secondary education; at the provincial school, he was classmates with current Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari.[4] At the urging of his father and his father's friend, the defense minister Muhammadu Ribadu, Yaradua took the entrance exam of the Nigerian Military Training College.[5] He passed and was enlisted in the army in 1962. He joined the army with Buhari as part of the course 5 intake of the Nigerian military training school. He was selected for further training at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in Sandhurst, England.

Military career[edit]

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. He was platoon commander in 1964, and from 1965 to 1966, he was the adjutant of the First Infantry Battalion in Enugu. He was a battalion commander in 1967, and in 1968, he became a brigade commander. During the civil war, he commanded the 6th infantry brigade under the leadership of Murtala Mohammed, the commander of the second division.[6]

In October 1967, buoyed by the success of dispossessing Biafran troops from the Midwest, Yar'Adua was among the Nigerian troops that unsuccessfully tried to attack Onitsha by crossing the Niger river after the Niger Bridge was blown. Onitsha was strategically important to the Federal troops and its capture would be a significant victory for the troops. However, during the first attempt, the troops were outgunned by the Biafran soldiers and Yaradua was lucky to make it out alive.[7] Another onslaught on Onitsha was carried out in early January 1967 and the troops were able to cross the Niger at Idah.[8]

After the end of the Civil War, 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.[9] After the success of the coup, Shehu Yaradua served as Transport Minister in General Murtala Mohammad's regime. As Transport Minister, his major task was to decongest the Lagos port. Prior to the coup, officials of the previous regime had ordered 16 million tonnes of cement to build military barracks around the country. However, the berthing facilities of the port were inadequate for the volume. The financial implications became more striking because the Nigerian government was liable to pay demurrage fees by the shippers. The Mohammed regime decided to transfer some of the cargoes to neighboring ports, introduce three four cement management firms to clear and sell the cement at the port and build the new Tin Can Island Port.[10]

Chief of Staff, Supreme Headquarters[edit]

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.[11] Operation Feed the Nation, known as OFN, was an initiative to boost local production of agricultural produce, especially staple crops such as rice and wheat, so as to improve self-sufficiency of food crops and reduce growing food deficits. Mechanisms used to promote the objective included the distribution of heavily subsidized fertilizers and seeds to farmers,[12] loans to small scale farmers to enable the farmers purchase equipment, and an educational outreach programme manned by Corpers to teach peasant farmers how to use modern agricultural equipment. However, by 1979, the policy had not achieved its primary goal of self-reliance and self-sufficiency.[13]

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.[14] The reforms also granted recognition to local government as a third tier arm of government.

Political career[edit]

President Babangida started his 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, he had associates who represented his political leanings at the forum. He was active in the formation of political associations during the transitional period; he and Ibrahim Dasuki led a group known as the consensus/democrat group in the constituent assembly of 1987.[15] However, Yar'Adua and his group broke away from the consensus group to form the People's Front.[16] Members of the People's Front included Babagana Kingibe, Atiku Abubakar, Bola Tinubu,Magaji Abdullahi, Ango Abdullahi, Ahmadu Rufa'i, Yahaya Kwande, Abdullahi Aliyu Sumaila, Wada Abubakar, Sabo Bakin Zuwo, Babalola Borishade, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso,M.S.Buhari,Bala Ahmed Gwaram and Abdulazeez Farouk. The organization later merged with a few other groups to form the Social Democratic Party of Nigeria. People's Front and another group, PSP, became the two dominant factions within SDP. However, Yar'Adua's group was very organized and they were able to win the majority of the elective posts within SDP.[17] During the Governorship and House of Assembly elections, SDP had a slight numerical edge over NRC.[18]

In January 1992, Yar'Adua spent a short stint in detention. He was 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 coordinators and ward mobilizers. Some members of his campaign group were former PDP chairman Anthony Anenih, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, former minister Dapo Sarumi, Bola Tinubu Sunday Afolabi and Omololu Olunloyo. Yar'Adua was leading the SDP presidential field before the results were annulled. A new election was later conducted on June 12, 1993 which was won by M.K.O. Abiola. The June 12 elections were annulled but the Yar'Adua faction did not protest the annulment but accepted 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.

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

Yaradua, Obasanjo, Lawan Gwadabe and a few others were arrested in February 1995 on allegations of plotting a coup to overthrow the Abacha regime. He was sentenced to life in prison 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. He died in captivity on 8 December 1997.

Personal and business life[edit]

Shehu Yar'adua married Hajia Binta in 1965, and they have five children, including Murtala Yar'Adua, former Nigerian Minister of State for Defence.

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


  1. ^ Rowland Croucher. "John Mark Ministries | Nigeria: Muslim Muscle In The North". Retrieved 2011-04-23. 
  2. ^ Bayode Ogunmupe (2011). Nigerian Politics in the Age of Yar'Adua. Strategic Insight Publishing. p. 30. ISBN 9781908064011. 
  3. ^ Biography, Yaradua Center, retrieved August 1, 2015 
  4. ^ "UPDATE: I graduated alongside Yar'Adua, had Grade II –Buhari". The Punch. January 21, 2015. Retrieved August 1, 2015. 
  5. ^ Farris, J. W, & Bomoi, M. (2004). Shehu Musa Yar'Adua: a life of service. Abuja, Nigeria: Shehu Musa Yar'Adua Foundation. p27
  6. ^ Europa Publications (2003). The International Who's Who 2004. Europa Publications. p. 1851. ISBN 9781857432176. 
  7. ^ Siollun, M. (2009). Oil, politics and violence: Nigeria's military coup culture (1966–1976). New York: Algora Pub. p164
  8. ^
  9. ^ Siollun, p. 176-180.
  10. ^ Farris, p. 102-103.
  11. ^ Toyin Falola; Ann Genova (2009). Historical Dictionary of Nigeria. Scarecrow Press. 
  12. ^ John Iliffe (2011). Obasanjo, Nigeria and the World. Boydell & Brewer. 
  13. ^ E.O. Arua. "Achieving food sufficiency in Nigeria through the operation 'feed the nation' programme". Agricultural Administration Volume 9, Issue 2, February 1982, Pages 91–101
  14. ^ A. Carl LeVan (2004). Dictators and Democracy in African Development. Cambridge University Press. 
  15. ^ Larry Diamond, 1997, p. 173
  16. ^ Larry Diamond, 1997, p. 173
  17. ^ Marcus G. Ajibade. Shehu Musa Yar'adua: The Recurring Decimal in Contemporary Politics, p8. 1999
  18. ^ Larry Diamond; Anthony Kirk-Greene (1997). Transition without End: Nigerian Politics and Civil Society under Babangida. Lynne Rienner. pp. 235–237. 

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