Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday criticized fellow leaders for extending terms to cling to power, saying it had a “corrosive” effect, and promised free and fair elections when the country elects his successor in February.
Some of Buhari’s African counterparts are among the longest-serving leaders in the world. President Paul Biya of neighboring Cameroon has held power for nearly four decades, ranking behind Teodoro Obiang of Equatorial Guinea who ruled the small central African country for 43 years.
Buhari, 79, who took office after defeating a sitting president in the 2015 elections, will make way for a new leader in what would be another peaceful transfer of power, helping to cement Nigeria’s democratic credentials in a region subject to coups.
Nigeria ended decades of military rule in 1999.
Speaking at his last UN General Assembly, Buhari said Africa’s most populous nation had invested heavily to ensure free and fair elections.
“We believe in the sanctity of constitutional term limits and we have firmly adhered to them in Nigeria. We have seen the corrosive impact on values when leaders elsewhere seek to change the rules to stay in power,” Buhari said.
“As President, I have made it my goal that one of the lasting legacies I would like to leave is to anchor a process of free, fair, transparent and credible elections through which Nigerians elect leaders of their choice. ”
The official election campaign begins next week and ruling party candidate Bola Tinubu and main opposition standard bearer Atiku Abubakar are seen as the main contenders.