15 January 2010

Nigeria: Turai Yar'Adua - a Silent But Influential First Lady

She is one First Lady that is seen but hardly heard.

Yet, she is perceived to be very influential in government and over her husband, President Umaru Musa Yar' Adua.

Part of the speculations about her was that certain decisions believed to be taken by President Yar'Adua were indeed taken by her.

It is believed in several quatres that because of President Yar' Adua's failing health, his wife Turai holds sway on his behalf on many issues. For instance, during the last cabinet reshuffle, it was reported that ministers who were desperate to retain their portfolios lobbied the first lady.

She is believed to be very influential in the appointment of the former Director-General of the National Action Committee on AIDS, Prof. Babatunde Osotimehin, as the Minister of Health.

Before this time, Oshotimehim was said to be contending for the post of Director-General of National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration.

Turai Yar'Adua whose pet project is cancer eradication was said to be interested in Osotimehin's appointment to the health ministry because of the way he handled NACA anti-HIV/AIDS campaigns held in the six geo-political zones of the country.

The First Lady who married Umaru Yar'Adua in 1975, and they have five daughters and two sons is also perceived to have influenced the President in several decisions although the President denied same when asked during a media pally whether his wife influences him.

The President's denial that his wife influences him has not however changed the common opinion about her. In the Villa , the First Lady is perceived to be fully in charge of many of the decisions being taken. She is perceived to be the President's closest adviser and in the present era of his absence, she is said to be fully in charge.

In the event of Yar'Adua's inability to continue in office, the former Kebbi State governor Senator Adamu Aliero, who is now the Minister of Federal Capital Territory is listed as a likely vice-president. Turai was reported to have played a role in his emergence as the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory.

It was also reported that the First Lady was responsible for the deployment of a long-serving minister, Dr. Hassan Lawal, to the Ministry of Works and Housing from his previous Labour portfolio.

Lawal, a Minister of Labour in the last administration, combined his portfolio with the supervision of the Ministry of Health, when Prof. Adenike Grange and her deputy, Mr. Gabriel Adiuku, were made to resign on allegation of financial misappropriation.

State governors also allegedly courted her friendship in their bid to remain close to the President.

Sources alleged that these governors used their wives to court Turai's friendship by advising them to initiate some projects that would demand inviting the First Lady to their states. Apart from President Yar'Adua denying the allegation of his wife's influence, her spokesman, Mr. Lawan Bakori also dismissed them as mere rumours which were never substantiated.

Turai Yar' Adua was born in the Katsina Metropolis in July 1957, and she spent her formative years at the Government Girls Secondary School, Kankiya.

Later on, she enrolled at the Katsina College of Arts, Science and Technology, Zaria, where she reportedly emerged as the best student in 1980.

She obtained a Bachelor of Arts (Education) in Language from the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, in 1983. She had previously worked as a teacher before she became Katsina State First Lady when Yar"Adua was elected governor in 1999.

She came into national reckoning in 2007 when her husband was elected president of the federal republic of Nigeria. Her antecedents affirm that she is committed to family life, love, charity and a strong faith in the Almighty God.

Hajiya Turai Umar Musa Yar' Adua, was later made the National Goodwill Ambassador for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (MNCH) in Nigeria.

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