Former military head of state General Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday announced his bid to run for president in next year’s elections, the fourth time he has sought the job since being ousted in a 1985 coup.
Buhari told supporters in the capital Abuja that he plans to seek the presidential nomination of the All Progressives Congress (APC), the new opposition party he helped set up.
“The task before us today is wide ranging and very great,” the ex-dictator said. “The first and most important is to take away power from those who have been misusing it.”
Buhari, 71, is among the most prominent critics of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and President Goodluck Jonathan, who is expected to declare his re-election bid in the coming weeks.
A former general from the mainly Muslim north of religiously divided Nigeria, Buhari came to power after a 1983 coup, ruling Africa’s most populous country with an iron fist for less than two years before he was toppled.
Rights groups at the time were critical of his rule, including over his public execution of drug dealers, but some in Nigeria recall his brief tenure fondly, especially for its apparent crackdown on corruption.
He has run in Nigeria’s past three presidential polls under two different parties, which were later merged to form the APC.
Buhari helped found the APC last year, grouping several of Nigeria’s top opposition parties seeking to forge a mega-coalition capable of taking on the PDP, which has led the country since democracy was restored in 1999.
Buhari told supporters the PDP had offered “purposeless leadership” over the last 15 years.
He urged his loyalists to support whoever gets the APC nomination.
“If I get the party nomination, I expect you will redouble your effort and commitment until we clinch the presidency.
“But in the event that it happens to be one of the other aspirants who wins, I will expect you as good party men to extend to him your total support,” he said.
Voting in the APC primary is scheduled to take place on December 2, with the presidential poll set for February 14.
Buhari said he would make a formal announcement on October 8.
Former vice president Atiku Abubakar, a one-time PDP stalwart, is also seeking the APC nomination, with other candidates expected to emerge in the coming weeks, possibly including Governor Rabiu Kwankwaso of Kano state, a key area in the north.