Umaru Yar’Adua, from the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) secured victory in the highly disputed presidential election and was inaugurated on May 29. Election observers from the European Union characterized the elections as “the worst they had ever seen anywhere in the world,” citing “rampant vote rigging, violence, theft of ballot boxes, and intimidation.

Prior to the elections, On May 16, 2006, the Nigerian Senate rejected a constitutional amendment that would have permitted the president to serve more than two terms. 

Consequently, President Olusegun Obasanjo was unable to seek a third term, a stance also unsupported by his vice-president, Atiku Abubakar. Presidential contenders were unveiled in late December 2006, coinciding with the ordering of 50,000 assault rifles to bolster the military’s ability to maintain order during the election. 

Photo source: Al jazeera

Umaru Yar’Adua emerged as the candidate for the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP), while Muhammad Buhari represented the opposition All Nigeria Peoples Party (APP). Atiku Abubakar, the incumbent Vice-President, declared his candidacy on November 25, 2006, and subsequently became the presidential nominee for the Action Congress in December.

On April 18, the Nigerian military engaged suspected Islamic militants in Kano, resulting in the deaths of at least 25 individuals, following an attack on a police station the day prior. Just before the voting commenced on April 21, an alleged assassination attempt targeted Goodluck Jonathan, the PDP’s vice-presidential candidate and the governor of Bayelsa State. 

Additionally, there was an unsuccessful effort to bomb the INEC headquarters in Abuja using a truck.

After the gubernatorial and state assembly elections on April 14, 18 political parties, including those of Abubakar and Buhari, demanded on April 17 the postponement of the presidential election, the dissolution of INC, and the annulment of the previous elections. Otherwise, they threatened to consider boycotting the presidential election. 

However, on April 19, both Buhari’s APP and Abubakar’s Action Congress announced that they would not boycott the election. To prevent tampering, the 60 million presidential election ballot papers were stored in South Africa. 

However, last-minute alterations to include Abubakar in the list led to distribution issues, with the papers arriving from South Africa only on Friday evening. Furthermore, the reprinted papers lacked the intended serial numbering.

However, according to official reports released on the 23rd of April, In the presidential election held on 21 April 2007, Yar’Adua won 70% of the votes (24.6 million votes).

On June 28, 2007, Yar’Adua publicly disclosed his assets from May, becoming the first Nigerian president to do so. 

His assets amounted to N856,452,892 (US$5.8 million), with H19 million ($0.1 million) belonging to his wife, and liabilities totaling N88,793,269.77 ($0.5 million). 

This disclosure, fulfilling a pre-election promise, aimed to set an anti-corruption example for other Nigerian politicians.

 President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua acknowledged the deficiencies in the elections that brought him to power and pledged electoral reforms to rectify the system.

 Following the elections, Yar’Adua proposed a government of national unity. In late June 2007, two opposition parties, the APP and the Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA), agreed to join Yar’Adua’s administration. Yar’Adua’s new cabinet was sworn in on 26 July 2007. It included 39 ministers, including two for the APP.

Following the acknowledgment of flaws in the 2007 presidential elections, Yar’Adua established a presidential electoral reform committee tasked with examining legal, social, political, and security factors affecting the quality and credibility of elections in Nigeria. 

Led by Mohammed Uwais, a former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, the committee aimed to make recommendations for enhancing election credibility. 

Among its proposals were constitutional amendments to ensure the independence of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the creation of separate electoral and party registration bodies, and expeditious resolution of election-related legal disputes, ideally before the inauguration of contested officeholders.

Throughout his presidency, Yar’Adua endeavored to enhance foreign relations with other countries, aiming to bolster social justice and national security. 

During discussions with President George W. Bush, he pledged to combat corruption domestically and stimulate economic growth. However, these efforts were largely ineffective, leading to a deterioration in foreign relations. For instance, as more Nigerians traveled abroad, instances of maltreatment of Nigerians in foreign countries increased significantly. 

This period, spanning from 2007 to 2010, witnessed a negative impact on Nigeria’s foreign relations due to globalization. Many Nigerians, seeking to benefit from globalization, became targets of mistreatment during the integration process. Incidents of mistreatment against Nigerians were prevalent across Africa, Europe, and Asia. 

In May 2008, xenophobic attacks in South Africa resulted in significant loss and distress for many Nigerians. Prior to these attacks, Nigeria and Nigerians were subjected to hostile campaigns, including the burglary of the Nigerian embassy in South Africa.

The Niger Delta Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP) has undergone significant evolution, yielding positive outcomes in quelling unrest in the volatile oil-producing region and subsequently improving the nation’s economy. 

The PAP has notably transformed the Niger Delta, significantly reducing attacks and sabotage on oil facilities, thereby restoring peace to the region. 

This facilitated increased oil production, enabling Nigeria to meet its OPEC quota of 2.2 million barrels per day, compared to the pre-2009 production level of 700,000 barrels per day. 

In terms of training and education, the program has according to reports benefitted over 30,000 individuals who chose to disarm. 

Notably, more than 1,050 former agitators have graduated from the program, with thirteen attaining PhDs. Additionally, the program has trained numerous professionals, including pilots, lawyers, engineers, and welders.

In 2007, Yar’Adua, afflicted with a kidney condition, confronted his critics by inviting them to a game of squash in an attempt to dispel speculation about his health. 

On March 6, 2007, he was airlifted to Germany for medical treatment, fueling further rumors regarding his health. His spokesperson attributed this to stress and quoted Yar’Adua affirming his well-being and imminent return to campaigning. 

However, another report, dismissed by Yar’Adua’s spokesperson, alleged that he had collapsed following a potential heart attack. In November 2009, Yar’Adua departed Nigeria for Saudi Arabia to undergo treatment for kidney and heart-related ailments. 

He remained abroad for four months until February 2010, during which he never fully recovered and remained absent from public view. During his prolonged absence, Yar’Adua neglected to formally delegate his powers to his vice-president, Goodluck Jonathan. 

This left Nigeria without a sitting head of state, precipitating a political crisis. Eventually, the National Assembly appointed Jonathan to serve as acting President.

On May 5, 2010, President Umaru Yar’Adua passed away after months of battling health complications. He had served as President of Nigeria from 2007 until his demise and had previously been Governor of Katsina State from 1999 to 2007. He was 58 years old at the time of his death. He was buried the next day in Danmarna Kastina.

The administration introduced a seven point agenda which would serve as the central focus for addressing developmental challenges and achieving the stated objective of positioning Nigeria among the world’s top twenty economies by 2020.

Some believe that if the Yar’adua had not died he would have been the best president Nigeria has ever had.

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