Tucked in Yar’Adua quarters in the ancient city of Katsina is a house that has seen more prominent visitors than perhaps any other in the country. Inside the house, which is hardly distinguishable from others surrounding it, lives 100-year-old Hajiya Aya Dada Yar’Adua who has been the centre of the visits.
Dada holds a unique position in the political arena of Nigeria. She is the wife and mother to political heavyweights who played key roles in Nigeria’s politics from independence to date.
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She was the wife of Musa Yar’Adua, Mutawallen Katsina and Minister of Lagos Affairs in the First Republic. She is also the mother of Shehu Musa Yar’Adua, the second in command in the Obasanjo-led military regime and Umar Musa Yar’Adua a former president of Nigeria.
Hajiya Dada is also the mother of Col. Abdulaziz Musa Yar’Adua, the current Mutawallen Katsina and an aspirant to the Senate in the forthcoming 2023 general elections. Also, one of her grandchildren, Murtala Shehu Musa Yar’Adua, was a former minister under the Goodluck Jonathan administration.
She also has three granddaughters married to prominent politicians in the country.
Thus over the years, the house has become a must-visit for political gladiators who visit the state capital for political activities. So far, since the beginning of this month, the centenarian has played host to at least five presidential aspirants from the two major political parties who were in the state to seek for endorsement of their respective parties’ delegates.
Among those who have visited her was Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike and former Anambra State governor, Peter Obi.
We feel honoured, but it’s not something new – Family members
While in partial agreement with the suggestion that most of the visits were political, some of the family members who spoke with Daily Trust said for them it is much more than that.
A family member, who craved for anonymity, said such visits were not new to the family as they could be traced to the time of the late Sardauna of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello, Premier of Northern Nigeria.
“Well, let me give glory to Allah who made our family this prominent. It is neither our making nor any other person’s, but it is Allah’s making.
“Secondly, such visits are not new to our family but perhaps the way they are reported now, and with the advent of social media, it is made to appear as something phenomenal.’’
He said what the visitors do usually was to pray for the late Mutawalle and his children, then solicit for prayers and blessings from Hajiya Aya Dada.
“The Yar’Adua political dynasty was started by our late father, Alhaji Musa Yar’Adua during the First Republic and our two prominent brothers, Shehu and Umaru came and built upon that.
“Historically, the then ruling political party – the Northern Peoples Congress (NPC) – never won in Katsina, until the time that our father contested and won the federal parliamentary seat. The late Sardauna of Sokoto was very happy about that. So when he visited Katsina, he came directly to our house before going to any other place. That did not go down well with the emirate then, but that was what happened and from then on, there is no president that will come to Katsina without visiting our family. That was the foundation.
“When Shehu came of age, apart from his military influence and connections as a person who rose to the rank of second-in-command in the whole country, he was also very instrumental in the formation of political parties that cut across ethnic, religious and geographical divides.
“He built a network of political associates in every part of the country and that is why they called him a bridge builder. So from the People’s Front (PF) to Social Democratic Party (SDP), which won the annulled 1993 election, to DPM and up to the PDP that won the 1999 election, you will discover that all the major political actors are Shehu’s allies and even boys,” he said.
According to him, Shehu Yar’Adua was a gifted politician. His grassroots politics was devoid of ethnic bias and religious or regional sentiments. His organisations, whether PF, SDP or PDM, dominated the political landscape of the country, breaking what he dubbed the “siege mentality” which had dogged politics since 1914.
The source said for late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, the composition of his cabinet, which was mandatory to be formed from all states of the federation, gave him that connection and respect.
He said, however, that the major factor that gave the family such prominence was the way all the three prominent members of the family interacted with the people.
He said they related with honesty and integrity and in a very peaceful and cordial way.
He said one could not take away some political reasons from the visits. Many of the visitors, according to him, wanted to tap from the goodwill that the family enjoys not only in the North but in other parts of the country.
He, however, added that the family viewed those visits beyond that.
Another family member, Ibrahim Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, said “We see these visits as a way of honouring the family, as most of them are close political associates.
“Some of them, like Vice President Atiku Abubakar, President Goodluck Jonathan and former Senate President Bukola Saraki, visit the house whenever they are in Katsina, but for some others, we can say, it is more or less because it is the political season and they have high regard for the family. That’s the way we see it,” he said.
However, some political observers said the Yar’Adua family is considered as one of the major political power brokers in northern Nigeria and beyond and, therefore, a visit their centenarian mother is considered by many as a master stroke ahead of the 2023 elections.
Speaking on the visits, the Head of Department of Political Science, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua University (UMYU), Katsina, Dr Kabir Musa Yandaki, said they undoubtedly have political reasons underlying them.
“That house is now a centre of politics in Nigeria. If you have observed, even those who are not contesting for anything, like former presidents, do pay homage to that woman (Dada) whenever they are in town.
“So, any political aspirant who visits the house, will snap pictures with her and it will be shared, and all those that have respect for her and the political associates of the children of the woman will see that aspirant in a positive light.
“Remember Shehu Musa sacrificed his life for the return of Nigeria to democratic rule and his brother, late President Umaru Musa, died when the country needed him most.
“So, it’s really hard to get a woman with such a pedigree like Hajiya Dada and that’s why everyone is seeking her blessing and they try to align themselves with the family,” he said.
A Member of the ruling APC in Katsina, Alhaji Jamilu Ahmad Sabuwar Unguwa, said even though majority of those who paid homage to the Yar’adua family were members of the PDP, political associates of the family cut across all parties.
“As we speak, some members of the family belong to APC, others to PDP and maybe some other parties. There are even some of them that don’t participate in politics at all. And when talk about the mother, you know as old as she is, she has nothing to do with politics.
“The only thing I see is that the reputation and prominence of the family is what is attracting them, and some of them may even say since everybody is going let me go as well, while others have worked with the members of the family in one way or the other,” he said.