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Wednesday, 2 December, 1998, 08:04 GMT
Profile: How General Abubakar emerged from the shadows
Nigerian military ruler, General Abdusalami Abubakar is a career soldier little known outside military circles before he came to power in June 1998.

A quiet Muslim, aged 55, he has never sought the public eye like some of his colleagues, although he frequently stood in for General Abacha.

While other senior officers in the politicised army came and went, sometimes straight into the regime's prisons, he kept his own senior position in the ruling clique throughout Abacha's tenure.

"He has always kept himself in the shadows. A real dark horse," said one Nigerian politician in Lagos. "Nevertheless his appointment at this time seems the logical one to make, perhaps because of that."

Steady promotion

He was effectively the number three in the regime, after Oladipo Diya, who was put out of the running when he was arrested - and subsequently sentenced to death - for treason.

General Abubakar's roots lie in the same Minna region of northern Nigeria as the former military ruler Ibrahim Babangida, whose annulment of 1993 elections plunged Nigeria into political turmoil and paved the way for Abacha's takeover.

The two men are personally close and Abubakar served as intelligence chief under Babangida. They own homes almost next door to each other in Minna and both men were conspicuous at Abacha's burial at his northern hometown of Kano.

The new head of state has proved himself to be much more in favour of handing over power to a civilian administration than his predecessor.

On 20 July, General Abubakar, in a nationally televised broadcast, said the political parties established under his late predecessor, General Sani Abacha, had been discredited and were being abolished.

A BBC correspondent in Nigeria says the speech struck a chord among many Nigerians, for whom its tone of reconciliation implied a genuine intention to correct the mistakes of the past.

Since coming to power, General Abubakar has repeatedly promised that his tenure in office will be brief, and that the soldiers will soon return to the barracks.

Political parties have been allowed to form, and the transition process is under way.

He has promised to hand over to a democratically elected president in May 1999.

BBC News
BBC Lagos reporter Sola Odunfa: "opposition should be heartened by appointment."
BBC News
BBC West Africa correspondent Mark Doyle on neighbouring countries's fears of instability in Nigeria
See also:

02 Jul 98 | After Abacha
02 Jul 98 | Africa
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