Former Head of State, Abdulsalami Abubakar Celebrates His 79th Birthday

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Former head of state, Abdulsalami Abubakar (born June 13, 1942) is a Nigerian elder statesman and retired Nigerian Army general who served as the de facto President of Nigeria from 1998 to 1999.

He was also Chief of Defence Staff between 1993 and 1998. He succeeded General Sani Abacha upon his death.

During his leadership, Nigeria adopted a modified version of the 1979 constitution, which provided for multiparty elections.

He transferred power to president-elect Olusegun Obasanjo on 29 May 1999. He is the current Chairman of the National Peace Committee.

Abubakar from the Hausa ethnic group was born on 13 June 1942 to his father Abubakar Jibrin and his mother Fatikande Mohammed, in Minna, Niger State, Nigeria.

From 1950 to 1956 he attended Minna Native Authority Primary school. From 1957 to 1962, he had his secondary school education at Government College, Bida, Niger State. From January to October 1963 he studied at Kaduna Technical College.

Presidency

Nigeria had been ruled by military leaders since Muhammadu Buhari seized power from Shehu Shagari in a 1983 coup.

Although democratic elections had been held in 1993, they were annulled by General Ibrahim Babangida.

Reported to have had an initial reluctance to accepting the position, Abubakar was sworn in as president on 9 June 1998 after the unexpected death of Abacha. He declared a weeklong period of national mourning.

A few days after assuming office, Abubakar promised to hold elections within a year and transfer power to an elected president.

He established the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), appointing former Supreme Court Justice Ephraim Akpata as chairman.

The INEC held a series of elections first for Local Government Areas in December 1998, then for State Assemblies and Governors, National Assemblies and finally for the President on 27 February 1999. Although efforts were made to ensure that the elections were free and fair, there were widespread irregularities that drew criticism from foreign observers.

Transfer of power

Surprising some critics of the country’s military, in May 1999 General Abubakar, handed over power to the newly elected civilian president, Olusegun Obasanjo and retired from the army.

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