After a long history of kidney ailments and recently suffering from an inflamed heart, Nigerian President Umaru Yar’Adua died at the presidential villa on May 5, according to multiple news sources. He was 58.
He was buried on May 6 before sundown in accordance with his Muslim beliefs, leaving behind a wife and nine children.
Yar’Adua’s election in 2007 marked the first peaceful transition of power in the nation of 150 million people, which was once disturbed by military coups. Vice President Goodluck Jonathan took over when the president began ailing three months ago and will become the head of state until reelections are held next April.
“Nigeria has lost the jewel on its crown and even the heavens mourn with our nation tonight,” Jonathan said in a statement.
Yar’Adua was born in 1951 into one of Nigeria’s most well-known political families but pursued a career as a chemistry professor before becoming governor of the state of Katsina, according to the London Daily Telegraph. He then became the favorite among the Peoples’ Democratic Party, run by then president and military dictator Olusegun Obasanjo.
Yar’Adua took office during a time of corruption and was rumored to have won the race through a rigged election. He addressed the accusation during his inaugural speech, saying “We acknowledge that our elections were not perfect and had lapses and shortcomings. I also believe that our experiences represent an opportunity to learn from our mistakes.”
However, his popularity dwindled when government corruption continued to prevail. He was also unable to curb the religious violence between the Muslim-dominated North and Christian-dominated South, and while he traveled to Saudi Arabia and Germany for the best treatment of his own chronic kidney problems, Nigeria experienced little improvement in its health care system. But President Barack Obama said Yar’Adua was a man of “profound personal decency and integrity.”
“President Yar’Adua worked to promote peace and stability in Africa through his support of Nigerian peacekeeping efforts as well as his strong criticism of undemocratic actions in the region,” Obama said in a statement.