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OBITUARY: Abba Ruma, key member of Yar’Adua’s ‘cabal’ and advocate of commercial farming

OBITUARY: Abba Ruma, key member of Yar’Adua’s ‘cabal’ and advocate of commercial farming
October 27
19:47 2021

As the power game goes, Abba Sayyadi Ruma was at a time one of the most powerful people in Nigeria. Within the twinkle of an eye — specifically with the death of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua in May 2010 — he lost his place at the table.

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Until his death on Wednesday in a UK hospital, Ruma was never to be seen in the field of politics or public service again.

TheCable understands that he regularly did his annual medicals in the UK and always returned to the country promptly.

However, on this particular trip, he was unusually delayed, spending over three weeks, but was still hoping to return to the country an usual. That was never to be.

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The cause of his death is not yet public knowledge.

MEMBER OF ‘THE CABAL’

Ruma, born on March 13, 1962, was the minister of agriculture and water resources from 2007 to 2010 under Yar’Adua.

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He was a close ally of Yar’Adua and was regarded as a member of the innermost circle, called “the cabal”, in the administration.

Like Yar’Adua, he was also from Katsina state.

He was appointed minister by Yar’Adua in July 2007 and left office in 2010 after the cabinet was dissolved by former president Goodluck Jonathan following the death of Yar’Adua.

Before his appointment as agriculture minister, he was minister of state for education in 2005.

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Ruma also briefly held the position of minister of education when Obiageli Ezekwesili left for the World Bank in 2007.

He was also the secretary to the Katsina state government in 2003, when Yar’Adua was governor.

Although he was best known as Yar’Adua’s ally, the story was different at the beginning.

In 1992, he was special adviser to Saidu Barda — the man who defeated Yar’Adua in the 1991 governorship election in Katsina state.

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Barda was elected on the platform of the National Republican Convention (NRC) while Yar’Adua flew the flag of the Social Democratic Party (SDP).

Yar’Adua would later go on to be elected a two-time governor of the state from 1999 to 2007.

RUMA, THE MAN OF IDEAS

Ruma, an intellectual with a PhD in international relations, emphasised commercial agriculture when he was minister.

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“We must move beyond subsistence farming to commercial farming. We need to develop the value chain in an integrated manner. We have to develop the tripod of production, storage and processing. That is how we came about the Commercial Agriculture Development Programme (CADP),” he said, in an interview.

“The aim is to Raise Agricultural Income Through Sustainable Environment (RAISE).”

According to Ruma, various intervention packages were designed for food security.

The first was called START – “Strengthening Agriculture Through Regulatory Transformation”. This was intended to create a strong regulatory framework for the policies for the sake of continuity.

The second was “robust funding” of the sector through budgetary provisions, subsidies and concessionary loans with single-digit interest.

“It’s called Enhanced Funding for Agricultural Transformation (EFAT),” he said.

“The third is the market projects. This is aimed at focussing on areas of comparative advantage and Maximising Agricultural Revenue in Key Enterprises (MARKETS). There is a Guaranteed Minimum Price (GMP) mechanism with government as the buyer of first and last resorts in order to stabilise market prices and give farmers peace of mind.

“Twenty silo complexes for storage and agro processing are being built all over the country. The fourth package is called WARMIN – Water and Aqua-culture Resources Management in Nigeria. This is critical to production. The fifth is Rural Sector Enhancement Programme (RUSEP) for rural development – through feeder roads, rural telephony, and other community-based programmes. The five chains are in acronyms – START, EFAT, MARKETS, WARMIN and RUSEP.”

After Ruma’s exit from government, some of the policies were redesigned and rebranded.

He was into private business and research at the time of his death.

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