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Turai Yar'adua Seen As the New Andy Uba

March 28, 2008
Turai Yar’adua, first wife of current usurper of Aso Rock, Umar Yar'adua, has emerged as the most powerful and feared personality in her husband’s lack-luster regime.

Saharareporters has carried out a month-long and extensive investigation into the “First Lady’s” shady deals, her evolution into a dominant and domineering figure, and her rapacity. We spoke to ministers and other government appointees, officials of the Peoples Democratic Party, sources within the oil sector, some associates of the Yar’aduas in Katsina, and diplomatic contacts.

Several reliable sources within Aso Rock, Nigeria’s State House, as well as outside painted a portrait of the “First Lady” as a woman whose greed for self-enrichment and fascination with power have put her firmly in control of her husband’s notoriously colorless cabinet.

“You could say that Turai is the real ruler of Nigeria,” said one of our sources, one of the ministers who quietly despise the “First Lady” for her overbearing power but admit they dare not openly express their concerns. Several other sources echoed that view. “She is the Andy Uba of this dispensation,” said another source, also a minister.

Mr. Nnamdi Uba, former domestic aide to former President Olusegun Obasanjo, was widely seen as the most powerful figure during the Obasanjo Presidency. Uba practically ran the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, helping Obasanjo and his associates to siphon away billions of dollars of the nation’s crude oil earnings. In the process, Uba, whose illegal bid to become Anambra Governor was forestalled by the Supreme Court, also amassed a personal fortune that make him one of the richest Nigerians today.

When asked to assess the evaluation of Mrs. Yar’adua as the new Uba, one former top PDP official paused to weigh his words. Then he said, “She is far more than what Uba was to Obasanjo. She is Uba, Mariam Babangida and Miriam Abacha thrown together. She not only wants power, she is pursuing wealth as if there is no tomorrow.” Most of our sources in government acknowledged that Turai Yar’adua is widely despised for her meddlesomeness, but said nobody has ever mustered the courage to ask Umar Yar’adua to restrain his wife. “Everybody knows her husband has no control over her. And we know that if she doesn’t like any official, that official’s days in office are numbered. If you cross her, you’re done with.”

In fact, one minister revealed that the secret to longevity in the cabinet may well lie in ingratiating oneself to the “First Lady.” Added the minister, “She looks harmless in public, but she is a fiery tigress within the power circles.”

The analogy with Uba speaks volumes about the sheer amount of financial control and political power wielded by the wife of the Aso Rock’s current occupant.

Turai Yar'adua’s ambition for power has been fed by her husband’s feeble health and retiring personality. “Umar Yar’adua is in bed latest by 9 p.m., leaving a vacuum in the running of this country,” said one of our sources. “On the other hand, Turai stays up till late into the night—and sometimes till the wee hours of the morning. After 9 p.m. each day, Turai enthrones herself as the ruler of this country. And her decisions stick even when her husband wakes up.”

Turai Yar’adua is known to have a daily schedule far more busy and popular than that of her husband. Umar Yar'adua, who has a history of kidney disease, is religious about conserving his energy by cutting back on his daily and weekly activities. Described by one source as a bundle of energy, Turai handles most of the business of patronage dispensation by her husband’s regime. “She decides who gets what—it’s as simple as that,” said another minister. He attributed the much-criticized ineptitude of most ministers to Turai Yar’adua’s intrusiveness. “She wants to oversee every kobo that exchanges hands in this government. And if possible, she wants all of it to come to her or her immediate family and friends.”

Like Uba, Turai Yar’adua has taken effective control over the affairs of the NNPC, Nigeria’s cash cow. Our sources said she was behind the appointment of Abubakar Lawal Yar'adua as the Group Managing Director of the NNPC. In a move that revealed more of her naked grab for power and riches, she also engineered the appointment of her blood brother, Bashir Abdullahi, to the position of Managing Director of Port Harcourt Refinery Company (PHRC). In effect, she ensured that her minions now hold two of the most powerful positions in the nation's oil industry.

Turai Yar’adua’s desire to handpick candidates for several offices extends also to traditional offices. The Leadership newspaper recently reported that Turai Yar’adua was trying to influence the appointment of the Magajin Gari by the newly installed Emir of Katsina, Alhaji Abdulmumini Kabir Usman. Turai is reported to be interested in imposing her son-in-law, 39-year old Badamasi Kabir Usman, in the traditional post.

There is also a whiff of salacious scandal around Turai Yar’adua. Several sources told us that the woman has been known to carry on an affair with Ibrahim Shema, her husband’s successor as Katsina Governor. “She single-handedly tipped him for the position of governor. That’s how powerful she is,” said one source.

Several sources also told Saharareporters that the “First Lady” even dabbles in diplomatic business. “Not only is she courted by businessmen, many diplomats also prefer to talk to her rather than to meet her husband.” A Nigerian with a top position in one of the European embassies in Abuja confided in us that several diplomats describe Umar Yar’adua as boring and taciturn. “He hardly makes comments at meetings, a direct opposite of Turai, who is described as chatty and sociable.”

Turai is known as the go-to-person for all Aso Rock-based requests that may be delayed by her husband’s sluggish bureaucracy. Corporate executives, including bankers with one favor or another to ask, have found out that things become quicker once they have paid courtesy visits to Turai Yar’adua.

“In banking circles, she’s called Madam President,” said a top executive of a bank. “If you make her happy, your bank stands to reap a windfall.”

Turai Yar’adua is said to demand absolute loyalty from government officials outside of and beyond their loyalty to her husband. It is an open secret in government circles that Attorney General Michael Aondoakaa and the Inspector General of Police Mike Okiro report primarily to her. Early this year, she saved Okiro’s job after the IG got into trouble with Umar Yar’adua over some financial dealings with some interests who worked to remove Nuhu Ribadu from the post of chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission. After Turai’s intercession, a grateful Okiro proclaimed that he was “ready to die for Yar’adua.”

Turai Yar’adua’s distribution of patronage came in handy when she anchored the massive bribes handed out to members of the Presidential Elections Petitions Tribunal to induce their controversial favorable judgment for Umar Yar'adua. Our sources disclosed that she played a central role in raising the bribes, estimated at $100 million, for the tribunal judges.

She arranged a substantial part of the bribe through the GMD of the NNPC, Abubakar Lawal Yar'adua. Her brother, S.B. Abdullahi, supplied some of the cash while the rest were provided by Emeka Offor and Tanimu. Governor Shema of Katsina State provided a huge chunk as well. Both Abubakar Yar'adua and S.B Abdullahi are from the same local government in Katsina State.

Saharareporters exclusively reported a phone call Turai Yar’adua placed to AGF Aondoakaa as the latter reveled in a “victory party” at the Abuja home of controversial London-based businessman, Terry Waya. Mrs. Yar’adua thanked Aondoakaa for delivering on his promise to facilitate a favorable judgment.

Turai Yar’adua’s Amazonian habit extends to her domestic life where she is described as a fierce control freak. Though Turai is Yar'adua's first wife, and the mother of their five daughters, she was not always his only wife. Umar Yar’adua took a second wife, Hajiya Hauwa Umar Radda, who now lives with his two sons in Kaduna. Hauwa Radda's short-lived marriage to Yar'adua ended as a result of Turai's power and muscle flexing.

Hauwa met Umar Yar'adua in 1992 and they got married shortly afterwards and had two kids. But Turai soon kicked Hauwa out of Yar'adua's family house in Katsina. In 1997, Turai Yar’adua engineered her husband’s formal divorce from Hauwa just as he prepared to run for governorship of Katsina State. Sources told Saharareporters that Turai, still suspicious that Yar'adua was not truly divorced from Hauwa, relocated herself to Kaduna. She lived in that city until she was convinced that the divorce was sealed through her single-minded enforcement.

Several sources in Katsina and Abuja spoke to Saharareporters about Turai Yar’adua’s obsession with fetish. Turai reportedly sent marabouts after Hauwa to secure her commitment never to ask to be re-united with Umar, their husband. Our sources say she has been inviting marabouts to Aso Rock with a frequency reminiscent of the days of the late dictator, Sani Abacha.

The “First Lady’s” other passion lies in collecting jewelry. She and the wife of “Vice President” Jonathan Goodluck have struck a strong cord on account of their shared love for jewelries and expensive frippery.

During foreign trips with her self-effacing husband, Turai Yar'adua is shown to stand confidently, radiating confidence. Our sources say she uses those foreign trips to push her pet projects as well as seek foreign partners for her burgeoning business interests.

Mrs. Yar’adua was in the U.S. all of this week supposedly to receive an award in Houston, TX. But sources knowledgeable about her movements said she was in Texas to seal some private oil deals between herself (using yet-to-be identified fronts) and foreign partners. Her itinerary included meetings with several oil executives in the Texas area.

Asked to weigh in on the description of Turai Yar’adua as a combination of Uba, Mariam Babangida and Miriam Abacha, one associate who has known the Yar’aduas for a long time said Turai is likely to be her husband’s undoing. “Umar does not do much. Hajia Turai is the only person coordinating [Aso Rock]. At least Babangida was interested in power and pretended to be doing something. Here, Turai is left to run the show. And she is doing a few things that may explode in her husband’s face.”

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