Abdulsalam Abubakar is a retired Nigerian Army General who was a military head of state from June 9, 1998, to May 29, 1999. He was Chief of Defence Staff during General Abacha’s regime and ruled the nation after the death of General Sani Abacha. He handed over power to the democratically elected president, Olusegun Obasanjo.
Early life and education of Abdulsalam Abubakar
Abdulsalam Abubakar was born on June 13, 1942, in Minna, Niger State. He is from the Hausa ethnic group. His father is Alhaji Abubakar Jibril and his mother is Fatikande Muhammed.
Abdulsalam Abubakar attended secondary school in the native authority primary school in Minna and the Provincial Secondary School in Bida (1957-1952).
Abdulsalam was known as a brave child who was not afraid to do what others thought impossible.
After his secondary education, he enrolled at the Kaduna Technical College in 1963. In the same year, he joined the officers training program of the Nigerian Air Force.
Going further, he received training in a flight school in Germany and got commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant in 1967.
From 1969-1979, Abdulsalam Abubakar was the commander of the 3rd Mechanized Brigade in Kano, and after then, he served as united-nations peace-keeping force in Lebanon in 1981.
In 1984, he was made a Colonel, and later, the General Officer Commanding (GOC) in Enugu and joined the Armed Forces Ruling Council (AFRC).
In 1990, Abdulsalam Abubakar transferred from Enugu to Kaduna as the general officer commanding the strategic one mechanized Division. In 1991, he rose to the rank of Major-General.
In 1993, he was promoted to Chief of Defence Staff and remained so until he became the head of state after General Abacha’s death.
General Abdulsalam Abubakar as Head of States.
General Abdulsalam was sworn in as the president of Nigeria on June 9, 1993. Abdulsalam promised a government transition from military government to a civilian government, similar to the promises of the past military leaders. But this time, Abdulsalam surprised everyone and kept to his promise.
He dissolved all the political parties established by General Abacha (Abacha was a presidential candidate for each party), set up a plan for multiparty elections, and fixed the swearing-in date for the new civilian government for May 29, 1999.
During this time, Wole Soyinka returned to Nigeria from exile and his presence brought more hope and strength to Abdulsalam’s plan.
During the anniversary of the June 12 elections, the military reacted as usual by arresting supporters of Moshood Abiola, but Abdulsalam freed the prisoners within a week.
He also held a meeting with the groups agitating for the restoration of democracy to discuss the possible transition of government. Abdulsalam wanted to ensure that the civilian government would not take revenge on the military government for their wrongdoings in the past five years.
An unexpected event happened not too long after Abdulsalam became the president when Abiola collapsed in his cell. He was rushed to the hospital but didn’t survive it and died the next day. His death caused an uproar among his supporters as they suspected that he was murdered. Riots ensued in several cities and things were getting out of control.
Abdulsalam quickly managed the situation by declaring that an independent autopsy will be carried out. An autopsy was conducted, and it confirmed Abiola died of a heart attack.
Abdulsalam kept making decisions that took Nigerians by surprise, as they were used to tyranny and abuse of power. He released twenty activists who had been imprisoned with Saro-Wiwa and appeared on national television to outline a schedule for government transition.
to quote him, he said that:
“Nigerians want nothing less than true democracy in a united and peaceful country,”
“This administration has no desire to succeed itself, and is steadfastly committed to hand over to a democratically elected government,”
Abdulsalam’s government managed to recover $750 million stolen from the national treasury by General Abacha.
Abdulsalam also established the independent national electoral commission (INEC).
In January 1999, presidential elections were held, in which Olusegun Obasanjo emerged as the winner of the polls. On May 29, 1999, Abdulsalam kept his promise and stepped down from the government.
General Abdulsalam’s personal, family life, and Net worth
General Abdulsalam is married to Fati Lami Abubakar (a high court judge), and they have six children. He authored a book titled: Nigeria, a new beginning and has since stayed away from the political limelight.
Most of General Abdulsalam’s wealth comes from being a successful world leader, and his net worth is estimated to be around $1 million.
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