Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday criticized fellow leaders who extend term limits to hang on to power, saying it had a “corrosive” effect, and promised free and fair elections when the country chooses 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 Equatorial Guinea’s Teodoro Obiang who has ruled the small Central African country for 43 years.
Buhari, 79, who took office after defeating an incumbent president in 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 prone to coups.
Nigeria ended decades of military rule in 1999.
Speaking at his last United Nations 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 adhered to it in Nigeria. We have seen the corrosive impact on values when leaders elsewhere try to change the rules to stay in power,” said Buhari.
“As president, I have set the goal that one of the lasting legacies I want to leave behind is to strengthen a process of free, fair and transparent and credible elections where Nigerians elect leaders of their choice.”
Official election campaign starts next week and ruling party candidate Bola Tinubu and main opposition flag bearer Atiku Abubakar are seen as leading candidates.