Umaru Musa Yar'Adua won the presidential election in 2007 on an anti-corruption campaign.
Entering the private sector, he served as a director of many companies, including Habib Nigeria Bank Ltd. 1995-1999; Lodigiani Nigeria Ltd. 1987-1999, Hamada Holdings, 1983-1999; and Madara Ltd. Vom, Jos, 1987-1999. He was also Chairman of Nation House Press Ltd, Kaduna between 1995-1999.
In 1999, Yar'Adua ran for the Governorship election in Katsina and won. After winning the position he immediately declared his assets, becoming the first governor to publicly do so. He was re-elected in 2003. In 2000, during his administration as governor, Katsina became the fifth northern Nigerian state to adopt sharia, or Islamic law. In 2002 Amina Lawal, a woman from Katsina, was sentenced to death by stoning by a sharia court in the town of Bakori for committing adultery. The story attracted international attention.
In December, 2006, Yar'Adua was chosen as the presidential candidate of the ruling PDP for the April 2007 election, receiving 3,024 votes from party delegates; his closest rival trailed at only 372 votes. Yar'Adua's success in the primary was attributed to the support of incumbent President Olusegun Obasanjo, though this support sparked rumors of Yar'Adua being a "puppet" of Obasanjo who could not have won the nomination fairly. Others have claimed however, that it is Yar'Adua's spotless record, devoid of charges of corruption, that won him the nomination.
The presidential election, held on April 21, 2007, Yar'Adua won with 70% of the vote (24.6 million votes) according to official results released on April 23. The election was highly controversial and was strongly criticized by observers. The two primary opposition candidates, Muhammadu Buhari of the All Nigeria People's Party (ANPP), and Atiku Abubakar of the Action Congress (AC), rejected the results, believing the election to have been rigged in Yar'Adua's favor.
After the election, Yar'Adua proposed a government of national unity, bringing together two oppositin parties in 2007 (ANPP and PPA) to join his government. In a further campaign against corruption, Yar'Adua publicly revealed his declaration of assets, becoming the first Nigerian Leader to do so. This disclosure, which fulfilled a pre-election promise he made, was intended to set an example for other Nigerian politicians and discourage corruption.
His health has been a persistent issue however, as the president has been hospitalized for kidney problems, and a suspected heart attack.
President Yar'Adua left Nigeria on 23 November 2009, and was reported to be receiving treatment for pericarditis at a clinic in Saudi Arabia. He had not been seen in public since, and his absence created a dangerous power vacuum in Nigeria.
In December 2009 Oluwarotimi Odunayo Akeredolu, president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), stated that Yar'Adua should have handed over power to Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan in an acting capacity during his illness, a statement that was backed up by the NBA national executive committee. On 22 January 2010, the Supreme Court of Nigeria ruled that the Federal Ministries of Nigeria had 14 days to decide on a resolution about whether he "is incapable of discharging the functions of his office". The ruling also stated that the Federal Ministries should hear testimony of five doctors, one of whom should be Yar'Adua's personal physician.
On 9 February 2010, the Senate determined that presidential power be transferred to Vice President Goodluck Jonathan, and that he would serve as Acting President, with all the accompanied powers, until Yar'Adua returned to full health. The power transfer has been called a "coup without the word" by opposition lawyers and lawmakers. However, there are others that felt the power vacuum would lead to instability and a possible military takeover.
On 24 February 2010, Yar'Adua returned to Abuja. His state of health was unclear, but there was speculation that he was still on a life support machine. Various political and religious figures in Nigeria had visited him during his illness saying he would make a recovery.
On 5 May 2010, it was reported that Yar'Adua had died at 9 p.m. local time at the Aso Rock presidential villa. The Federal Government of Nigeria declared a seven-day mourning period.US President Barack Obama offered condolences, stating: "He was committed to creating lasting peace and prosperity within Nigeria's own borders, and continuing that work will be an important part of honoring his legacy." An Islamic burial will be held on 6 May 2010.
Umaru Musa Yar'Adua was born in 1951 into an aristocratic and prominent political Fulani family in Katsina. His father is a former Minister for Lagos during the First Republic, and his late elder brother served as an army general under Obasanjo. Yar'Adua went through extensive schooling and worked as a chemistry teacher until he went into business, and then politics in the 1980's.