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Monday, March 8, 1999 Published at 14:51 GMT

World: Africa

Abubakar: 'Democracy here to stay'

Abubakar: No need for a truth commission

Nigeria's outgoing military leader, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, says he is confident of his country's future as a democracy.

Nigeria elections
"I have no doubt democracy has come to stay, and my prayer is that Nigerians will give democracy a chance," the general told the BBC in an interview.

Nigerians voted in February for a new civilian president who is due to take office on 29 May.

General Abubakar: "Democracy is the in-thing in the world now"
In earlier elections they chose a parliament, and local and state authorities.

Asked whether the military was prepared to relinquish the power which it has held for 15 years, the general replied: "Is there any doubt after the conclusion of the elections? Certainly the army is ready and willing to hand over."

On the reports of vote-rigging which cast a shadow over Nigeria's transitional election, the general insisted that the government had done what it could by providing the facilities for the election to take place.

"The government does not participate in rigging," the general declared.

He added that the fraud "isn't in such a big proportion that will make a substantial difference to the result of the election."

No fears of revenge

[ image: Obasanjo: Due to take office in May]
Obasanjo: Due to take office in May
General Abubakar said he did not fear suggestions that President-elect Olusegun Obasanjo would seek revenge against members of the former regime which had imprisoned him.

"Obasanjo has to speak for himself, but from my interaction with him, he does not give me any impression that he is vindictive," General Abubakar said.

"I believe that in order to move the country forward, as leader of the country, he has to have everyone on board and it is let bygones be bygones"

No need to apologise

The general said the government had no need to apologise to Nigerians for the unemployment and economic chaos which blight the country at the moment.

"Even in the world's greatest democracies you find people without work and certainly there are problems - the government does not go about apologising to every citizen for the problems of the country."

He also rejected the suggestion of a South Africa-style truth commission to delve into the abuses of Nigeria's military past.

"Every nation, every society, has its own ways of doing things," he said. "We know what is wrong - it is just a matter of trying to resolve the problems."

'Learned a lesson'

The general said he saw no danger of a further military takeover in a country where previous attempts at democracy have been crushed by military coups.

"I believe Nigerians - both military and civilian - have learned a lesson," the general said

"I don't think any military man in his senses these days will come out and say I want to overthrow the government - because he wouldn't get any support."

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