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Reflection on the 20th anniversary of Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Foundation, By Atiku Abubakar, GCON

Thursday March 24, 2022 marked the 20th anniversary of the founding of Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Foundation. Former Vice President of Nigeria and Vice Chairman, Board of Trustees of the Center, Atiku Abubakar, shares his REFLECTION at an event titled: 20 Years of Achievement, celebrating the commissioning of the Center. 

H.E. Atiku Abubakar, GCON

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, it is my honour and privilege to welcome you all this morning. My former boss, His Excellency, President Olusegun Obasanjo, and Professor John Palfrey, President, MacArthur Foundation. I would like to especially thank our Special Guest of Honour, His Excellency, Nana Akufo-Addo, President of Ghana. We thank you very much indeed for gracing us with your presence and for honouring Nigeria.

We are here today to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the commissioning of the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Centre. Over the years, the Centre has continued to uphold Late Tafida’s vision of national unity, good governance, and social justice by serving as a hub for policy advocacy, social and civic engagements in Nigeria. I believe we have indeed succeeded in building a Centre worthy of Shehu Yar’Adua’s noble spirit.

Many of us had the pleasure of knowing Shehu Yar’Adua; his patriotism and commitment to Nigeria’s unity and peaceful coexistence were some of the remarkable virtues that attracted me to him. I recall my first time meeting the late Major-General. He had come to my office to make enquiries about how to obtain an import license. I told him he would have to write an application to His Excellency, Ibrahim Babangida. He wrote the application as I had advised, thanked me, and left. I could only describe him in two words: simple and humble.

We became friends and later discovered we had a lot in common: we had both been farmers; we both had interest in the maritime business; and shared a common vision for Nigeria – a democratic Nigeria. His political orientation was always very clear. As Chief of Staff, Supreme Headquarters, his devotion to the smooth hand-over of power to civilians in 1979 contributed to the foundation of democracy. We face many challenges today, but we enjoy a democratic Nigeria.

As a young man, he invited me to join his effort to break the regional siege that every part of this country had been subjected to. For him that was a major objective. So, when he died, we conceived the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Foundation to honour his legacy. We also discussed building the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Centre and the need to establish programmes and projects to continue many of Shehu’s important initiatives for democracy and bridge building.

Late Shehu Yar’Adua was known as a bridge builder.  He constructed bridges of understanding based on equity and social justice to dissuade mistrust amongst the people of this nation. The unfinished bridge here at the Yar’Adua Centre stands as a testament for the need to continue what he started: building bridges of understanding and unity across this country.

Shehu believed in good governance, transparency, accountability, and social justice. He was not a timid democrat who abandoned his beliefs because of fear or opportunistic political survival. He believed in this country and never doubted that Nigeria is destined for greatness. During the 1994/95 National Constitutional Conference, the late Tafida was among the few voices that told General Sani Abacha to prepare a transition programme within the shortest time frame.

Shehu’s greatest gift was his capacity to get things done by bringing people together from diverse backgrounds and ideological persuasions. He was a fantastic listener and a strong believer in dialogue. He was an extraordinary man with an extraordinary capacity for selflessness, tolerance, patience and large heartedness.

Our work remains undone, but we must stand firm, united and determined to realize his vision for the nation. We must continue to ensure that the ideals Shehu lived and died for are not in vain.

We trust that the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Centre will continue to stand as a symbol of unity in Nigeria; and that the Unfinished Bridge will continue to serve as a reminder for the need to continue his work to build bridges across the various divides. We hope you will continue to support the Centre and gain inspiration from Tafida’s life of service.

Thank you and God bless.

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