Wednesday, July 8, 1998 Published at 22:05 GMT 23:05 UK
Full text of Abubakar's address
General Abubakar on Nigerian TV
Nigerian military ruler Abdulsalam Abubakar spoke to the nation about the death of political detainee Chief Moshood Abiola.
The text of General Abubakar's address on Nigerian TV follows:
Fellow Nigerians: It is with a very heavy heart that I address you for the second time since destiny bestowed upon me the mantle of leadership of our beloved nation.
Exactly one month ago, we were shocked by the sudden passing-away of our late head of state, General Sani Abacha. As we conclude the official 30 days mourning of this great loss, we are now challenged by another national tragedy. The passing-away yesterday of Chief Moshood Abiola was as sudden as it was tragic, particularly as he died on the brink of his release from detention. For me personally, and for the nation at large, this must be one of the saddest moments of our lives. I never envisaged that I will be faced with such momentous tragedies within the space of one month.
'Critical and trying times'
When I accepted the burden of leadership on the 8th June, I was conscious of the fact that these are critical and trying times in the history of our nation. I was clearly aware of the imperatives of national reconciliation and restoration of democracy to our troubled nation in an atmosphere of peace and stability. I was also determined to re-establish the professional image and the integrity of the armed forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to enable them to play their traditional role in the coming democratic order. I have resolved to address these challenges in an organised, deliberate, and orderly fashion, always putting the highest national interest before all else. Chief Abiola would have contributed his own quota to this process.
It was in recognition of this inescapable fact that, after a series of consultations between Chief Abiola and government on the one hand, and between him and representatives of the international community, as well as members of his family, that a meeting with the Provisional Ruling Council was convened for today to decide on his release.
'We mourn his loss'
Alas, God willed otherwise, and today, we mourn his loss. The government has already ordered a full autopsy to establish the actual cause of his death. The autopsy is being undertaken in cooperation with Abiola's family and the participation of expert pathologists from the United States, United Kingdom, and Canada, as requested by his family. The government has noted the preliminary diagnosis of cardiac arrest as the cause of death, and the result of the autopsy will be made known.
In the meantime, I appeal to you all to remain calm despite your understandable grief. Our national grief cannot be assuaged by recourse to lawlessness, threat to lives, and the wanton destruction of innocent people's property. I personally knew Chief Abiola. We must all determine to give him a dignified burial in an atmosphere of appropriate solemnity and peace as he would have wished. In the coming critical weeks and months, we shall mourn and miss him.
On behalf of myself, government and people of Nigeria, I extend heart-felt condolences to the Abiola family, his numerous friends and associates, and to the many young men and women for whom he held out hope. As true believers, we must bow before the will of the Almighty.
Fellow Nigerians, I will address you on the general character of this administration in due course. Meanwhile, I pray for the peaceful repose of the gentle soul of Chief Moshood Abiola.
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