He was a graduate of Rumfa College, Kano. In July 1966 Lieutenant Datti Abubakar, Recce, was at the Abeokuta Garrison when most of the Igbo officers were killed, playing an active role in the coup that overthrew Major-General Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi.
Abubakar was appointed Military Governor of Anambra State in July 1978, holding the position until October 1979. He placed the schools firmly under his control through a supervisory commission with broad powers over policy and staffing. Following major religious riots in Kano State in 1980, he was a member of the Kano Disturbances Tribunal of Inquiry to investigate causes and make recommendations.