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Thursday, September 24, 1998 Published at 16:46 GMT 17:46 UK

World: Africa

Abubakar plans civilian rule

General Abubakar discussed plans for democracy with Tony Blair

General Abdul Abubakar speaks to the BBC
In an exclusive interview with the BBC, General Abdul Abubakar, Nigeria's new leader, has spoken of the planned transition to democratic rule and of his hopes and fears for the country.

Asked what guarantees there were of the military surrendering power as planned in May 1999, the Nigerian leader said the way he himself had come to power provides some assurance.

[ image: General Abubakar:
General Abubakar: "Everybody should be given a chance to play his role"
"I became the head of state through divine intervention - I never once envisaged being the head of state of my country. I have never planned it or staged a coup," he said.

"So I think this should be indication of my intention to my country that given the chance, we will see the light at the end of the tunnel and hand over our government to an elected government."

In the interview, General Abubakar repeated sentiments expressed in a meeting on Tuesday with the British Prime Minister, Tony Blar.

The general, who has embarked on a programme of major reform in Nigeria, repeated his pledge to hand over to civilian rule next May and said he hoped all international sanctions against Nigeria would soon be lifted.

"So far I think what we have been doing clearly indicates a desire to hand over come May 1999," he said.

He appeared confident that elections in the country would not be suppressed by the military and would give way to lasting civilian rule.

"Everybody one way or another in Nigeria has had a raw deal," he said.

"I would like to see a Nigeria where we use our natural resources to make life more comfortable for our citizens, providing the basic amenities - housing, education, healthcare.

"And everybody should be given a chance to play his role - a sense of having a stake in the country and fulfilment that he is a Nigerian and playing his part."

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