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Friday, December 4, 1998 Published at 22:37 GMT

World: Africa

Abubakar's eve of election address

General Abubakar says he wants a high voter turnout

Nigerian Head of State General Abdulsalami Abubakar addressed the nation from Abuja on 4 December and urged citizens to vote. The text of his speech, as broadcast on Nigerian TV at 1800 GMT, follows:

"Fellow Nigerians, it is my privilege to address you on the eve of the local government elections, which are about to hold throughout the country.

"These elections are the first in the series to be held in the implementation of our democratisation programme. Tomorrow's election provides Nigerians with the opportunity to elect local government chairmen and councillors throughout the country, who will provide leadership at the grassroots level.

"These elections are also unique in the annals of Nigerian political development because for the first time, Nigerians will determine through the electoral process the political parties that will be registered.

"It will be recalled that the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, merely gave provisional recognition to nine political associations. The real litmus test for them is to achieve full registration based upon their performance in tomorrow's elections."

Plea for high turnout

"The local government election which we are about to witness is a takeoff point for the political aspects of the three-part democratisation programme of this administration.

"The other two equally important aspects of the economic and social restructuring must be addressed with the same vigour and determination because the future of a stable and virile polity depends on a conscientious implementation of all three.

"I, therefore, urge all Nigerians to seize this opportunity offered them in the true spirit of democracy to come out en masse to participate fully in the elections.

"I would like to appeal to the politicians and the political parties to play the game by the rules. They must learn to believe in the principle that the end does not justify the means. Those who win should learn to be magnanimous in victory, while losers should be gallant in defeat. The political class should strive to build bridges of friendship, create bonds of understanding, and foster harmony."

Election commitment

"Fellow Nigerians, at the commencement of this administration, when I unfolded the current democratisation programme, I made a commitment to handover to an elected government on 29 May, 1999.

"We remain firm on this commitment. In furtherance of this objective, we have created a level-plain field for all participants and have set up an electoral commission with full autonomy.

"Government has provided adequate resources and wherewithal for smooth and successful conduct of the elections.

"Fellow countrymen, we have made a solemn commitment to leave a legacy of enduring democracy based on fairness, equity, and justice.

"Democracy will thrive best in an atmosphere of peace and economic growth. With the current developments in the international crude oil market, our country faces grave economic and social challenges. We, therefore, need to elect leaders who will be aware of these challenges so that they can begin to address the socio-economic problems of the country."

Monitors welcomed

"I will like to acknowledge the wonderful response so far shown by the international community for the transition programme. Quite a good number of international observers have arrived in the country to monitor the conduct of the election. We should all welcome and cooperate fully with them by allowing them full and free access.

"Fellow Nigerians, I want to reiterate the need for us all to take our destiny in our hands by trooping out to vote according to our conscience. This will undoubtedly lay a solid foundation for the rest of the elections in the transition programme.

"In this context, I will like to warn that our liberal disposition should not be mistaken for a lack of resolve to maintain law and order. We will not condone any attempt to breach the laws or undermine the democratisation programme.

"Thank you and God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria."

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