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General Abdulsalam Abubakar (born June 13, 1942) became Nigeria's eighth military Head of State in 1998, after Ironsi, Gowon, Murtala, Obasanjo, Buhari, Babangida and Abacha, since the country's independence from Britain in 1960. He was born in Minna, Niger State in Northern Nigeria. Six out of these eight rulers are soldiers of northern extraction.
Abubakar had his earlier education at the Native Authority Primary School in Minna. Between 1957 and 1962, he attended the Provincial Secondary School, Bida. He also attended the Technical Institute, Kaduna. He enlisted first into the Airforce but quickly switched to the army. Besides other local training, he was in the United States between 1975 and 1977 on a training course. Abdulsalam was appointed commander of the 3rd Mechanized Brigade in Kano between 1969 and 1979. He also served as a Nigerian contingent to the United Nations peacekeeping force in Lebanon between 1981 and 1982, after which he was promoted to colonel in August 1984. Later, he was appointed General Officer Commanding (GOC) 82 Division, Enugu, and became a member of the Armed Forces Ruling Council (AFRC). From Enugu, he was moved to Kaduna, as GOC of the strategic One Mechanized Division. On November 17, 1993, he was appointed chief of Defense staff, the position he held until his appointment as Head of State.
Abubakar is one of the few generals in the Nigerian army who rose to the top without holding political office. He had previously held only command and military positions, and had, in general, stayed out of the political limelight. His wife, Fatima, was a high court judge at the time of his appointment. They together have three daughters and two sons. Abubakar was reportedly ill with some medical condition and prone to neurological seizures at the time of his appointment, just four days before his 56th birthday on June 13.
Strangely enough, former head of state Ibrahim Babangida grew up in the same household with Abubakar. Babangida annulled presidential elections in 1993 and threw the nation in chaos. The chaos led to Abacha's takeover. Abubakar's father adopted Babangida who was orphaned at birth.
Abubakar was appointed head of state upon the sudden death of his predecessor, Sani Abacha. He notably re-established the democratic tradition in Nigeria, arranging for generally corruption-free elections that resulted in the 1999 ascension of Olusegun Obasanjo as the democratically-elected leader of the country, as opposed to his previous rule (1976-1979) as inheritor of the power structure of coup-leader Murtala.
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