Alhaji Ramalan Yero
Widow recounts last moments with late gov
Soldiers patrol Kaduna streets
Yakowa’s remains arrive state today
ACN demands probe as Sambo, governors’ forum, PDP mourn
Kaduna, Bayelsa declare mourning period
By Chuks Okocha, Muhammad Bello, Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja, Segun James in Yenagoa and John Shiklam in Kaduna
Former Kaduna State Deputy Governor, Alhaji Ramalan Yero, stepped into the shoes of his late principal yesterday with a promise to build on the good work of Mr. Patrick Yakowa who died on Saturday, along with five others, in a helicopter crash in Bayelsa State.
A new era in the state effectively began at 1.15 pm when the state Chief Judge, Justice Rahila Cudjoe, administered the oath of office on Yero, 44, at an occasion witnessed by thousands of people, including politicians and sympathisers who had trooped to the Government House.
Yero’s swearing-in elicited mixed emotions from the people in a state sharply divided along ethno-religious line.
The political undercurrents of Yakowa’s death, whose remains will be flown into Kaduna today, shaped the reactions of those who witnessed Yero’s inauguration and influenced the mood of the people of the state.
As the swearing-in was going on in the council chambers at the Government House, which is a few metres away from the official residence of the governor, hundreds of sympathisers sang Christian hymns in the residence as they consoled Yakowa’s widow, Amina.
The widow, at a mass, recalled her last moments with the late Yakowa and described their last hour together as a “blessed one”.
Obviously still benumbed by shock over the death of her husband, the former first lady nodded occasionally to acknowledge condolences from sympathisers.
Also, her late husband’s former boss, Vice-President Mohammed Namadi Sambo, his colleagues in the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) and his party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), expressed regrets over Yakowa’s death.
On its part, the Bayelsa State Governor, Hon. Seriake Dickson, yesterday declared a three-day mourning period in the state in honour of Yakowa, former National Security Adviser (NSA), Lt-Gen. Owoye Azazi and four others who died in the chopper crash.
In his acceptance speech shortly after taking the oath of office, Yero said he would build on the foundation laid by the late Yakowa whom he described as humble, fair and dedicated to duty.
He said: “Our amiable governor, Sir Patrick Ibrahim Yakowa, has suddenly left us by answering the call of our creator. Indeed, from Him we all came and to Him we will all, one day, return. In between this period is the privilege we have to serve humanity.
“We are living testimonies of our amiable governor, Sir Patrick Yakowa, who came, did serve humanity in various and diverse capacities well and has suddenly without notice, returned to our creator.
“His humility, dedication to duty and fairness to all and his high sense of humour endeared him to many, near and far irrespective of religious, tribal or sectional inclinations. No wonder he was given the name Nakowa.
“The vision of Sir Patrick Yakowa, Nakowa, was to secure, unite and develop Kaduna State. He invested so much in this and started reaping the fruits of his labour.
“He wished to consolidate and advanced on the achievements so far made and hence tagged Kaduna State’s 2013 Budget, which he presented to the honourable House of Assembly on Thursday 13, December 2012 as the ‘Budget of Consolidation and Advancement.’
“I sincerely desire to build on the good foundation that my boss had laid. I therefore covet your prayers for God’s wisdom, guidance and direction.
“I take this opportunity to commiserate with the wife and immediate family of His Excellency, Sir Patrick Yakowa, in particular, members of the Government of Kaduna State and the entire citizens of the state over the sad moment we have found ourselves in.”
Born in Zaria, Yero attended Government Secondary School, Ikara, Kaduna State, between 1980 and 1985 and later proceeded to the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, where he obtained a Diploma in Banking and a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting.
He did the mandatory national youth service in Ogun State between 1991 and 1992. On completion of his youth service, he worked with the defunct Nigeria Universal Bank Limited until 1993 when he left the bank. In 1997, he joined Nalado Nigeria Ltd, a company owned by the vice-president, as the company’s chief accountant.
Yero’s first time of holding political office was in 2007, when Sambo, who was governor of Kaduna State at the time, appointed him Commissioner for Finance.
Seen largely as the vice-president’s “boy”, Yero was appointed deputy to the late Yakowa in 2010 when on the death of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, President Goodluck Jonathan, who succeeded Yar’Adua, picked Sambo as vice-president.
Meanwhile, the remains of the late governor will to be flown in from Port Harcourt to Kaduna today.
Making this known yesterday, the state government also declared today a public holiday in memory of the late governor.
Yero, who announced this in a radio and television broadcast to the people of the state, also declared seven days of mourning in honour of his former boss.
Yero directed all the 23 council chairmen in the state to open condolence registers in the various councils.
The governor did not however say anything about the burial arrangements.
However, owing to the deep schism between Christians and Muslims in Kaduna State, the military deployed troops to its streets yesterday to prevent any outbreak of violence following Yakowa's death.
The army spokesperson in Kaduna, Colonel Sani Usman, confirmed the deployment of troops on the streets of the religiously divided state capital, which has witnessed a spate of clashes between Christian and Muslim residents that have left scores of people dead this year.
"Security is part of the military routine process to secure lives and property and to ensure that people are able to conduct their legal activities without fear," Usman told AFP.
Troops and armoured personnel carriers were seen patrolling Kaduna city, while some major highways were closed to traffic by soldiers manning checkpoints and roadblocks, one journalist said, and the usually bustling streets were deserted.
At a Eucharistic Mass held in honour of her husband at St. Patrick’s Chaplaincy, Government House, Amina described her last moment with him as a “blessed one”.
She recalled that the usual routine for the family was to offer private prayers every morning, before joining the daily celebration of mass at 6 a.m. at the chaplaincy.
She told the congregants that on Saturday, she could not join in the religious ritual because she had a cold, which made her very weak.
She said the late Yakowa woke her up and urged her to get well soon so that she could join him in the thanksgiving service for the First Lady, Mrs. Patience Jonathan, billed for yesterday.
She described her marriage to the late governor as a happy one.
In his sermon, the Archbishop of Kaduna, Matthew Ndagoso, described the late governor as a dedicated man who used his position to promote peace, unity and development in the state.
Ndagoso urged the family and people of the state not to despair but to be positive, as the late governor had lived a good life worthy of emulation.
The archbishop urged Yero to continue with the projects initiated by his predecessor.
Also, the vice-president yesterday described the late governor as a brother, friend and a mentor whose loss would be felt by all.
Sambo made the statement at the Government House, Kaduna, while paying his condolence to the family, the government and the people of the state over the demise of the governor.
In a press release by the spokesperson to the vice-president, Alhaji Umar Sani, Sambo described the late Yakowa as a friend and brother, whose relationship with him dates back to several decades when as Kaduna State Commissioner for Works in 1987, the late Yakowa was posted to the ministry as permanent secretary.
He said from that moment, they had worked closely up to the time they were elected governor and deputy governor of the state.
“We have lost a brother, a friend, a mentor and a patriotic Nigerian who had served Nigeria throughout his life. May the Almighty give him peace and the family and us the fortitude to bear the loss,” the vice-president said.
Sambo, who described Yakowa as a patriot, a nationalist, a highly detribalised Nigerian and someone who loved everyone irrespective of gender, religion or creed, called on all to continue to pray for his soul, for his family and for peace and development of the country.
However, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) has urged the Federal Government to thoroughly investigate the death of Yakowa, Azazi and four others in the accident.
ACN said in a statement yesterday by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, that far from the usual mourning ritual of plane crash victims, there should be a conclusive probe.
“It is said that every plane crash makes flying safer. That assumes that such crashes are properly investigated and the cause or causes found, disclosed and fed into efforts aimed at averting a recurrence. Saturday's crash should not be an exception,” it added.
The party warned the Federal Government against allowing the latest crash to go the way of previous ones where either the investigations were not conclusive or the reports and recommendations not adopted to make flying safer.
ACN also expressed its condolences to the Federal Government, the governments and people of Kaduna and Bayelsa States, as well as the families of all those who died in the crash.
The ACN’s call for a thorough probe of the accident also got the backing of governors of the 36 states of the federation, under the aegis of the NGF.
The governors, who will hold an emergency meeting in Abuja today, called for a detailed probe into the incident to unravel what caused the helicopter to crash barely a few minutes after take-off while conveying personalities who attended the burial of the father of Mr. Oronto Douglas, the president’s Special Adviser on Research and Documentation, from Bayelsa State to Port Harcourt in Rivers State.
The governors further called for the regular service and maintenance of all equipment of the armed forces to avoid similar tragedies in the future.
“We are pleased that the president has ordered an investigation into the accident. While we await the outcome of the investigation, our thoughts and prayers remain with the families, friends and associates of our departed patriots at this trying time.
“We also condole with the people of Kaduna and Bayelsa States over this tragic incidence that has again thrown our country into mourning. It is unfortunate that these six distinguished and remarkable Nigerians passed on at a time our country needed their invaluable services the most. Their exit is no doubt a monumental loss to our nation,” chairman of the governors’ forum, Mr. Chibuike Amaechi of Rivers State, said.
The governors called on the aviation authorities to work harder at making flying safer and easier in the country.
On its part, the PDP expressed utter shock and devastating grief over the death of Yakowa and others and condoled with their families.
The party, in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Olisa Metu, said that it was shocked beyond imagination.
According to Metu, “Our great party is shocked beyond imagination and no words can adequately give expression to the depth of our grief. What a colossal loss!
“The nation has lost a great patriot who in about two years in the saddle as governor of Kaduna State demonstrated an unyielding capacity in wielding together varying fragile interests.”
The Bayelsa State Government, in whose territory the accident occurred, yesterday declared three days of mourning for the victims.
Dickson, who made the declaration soon after he inspected the remains of the victims at the mortuary in company with the Chief of Naval Staff (CNS), Vice Admiral Dele Ezeoba, said during the mourning period, “all flags in the state will fly at half mast”.
Dickson struggled to fight back tears as he emerged from the mortuary to address reporters who were waiting for him.
He described the deaths as tragic and irreparable loss for his state, the government and the people of Kaduna State and expressed condolences on behalf of the state to the people of Kaduna “whose governor came visiting, strengthening and deepening the bonds of brotherhood.”
“As a government, to underscore our profound strength of bereavement, I hereby direct three days of mourning in your memory and in honour of our departed heroes.
“Within this period, all flags in Bayelsa State shall fly at half mast. This state government would work with the families and support organisations,” he added.