Nigeria presidential hopeful puts insecurity top of campaign bid

Former military dictator and presidential candidate for the APC, retired General Muhammadu Buhari, speaking about elections in Lagos on March 15, 2011 (AFP Photo/Pius Utomi Ekpei)

Abuja (AFP) - Nigeria's former military ruler, Muhammadu Buhari, on Wednesday put fighting insecurity and corruption at the top of his bid to become president, as he formally launched his campaign for leadership.

The 71-year-old announced that he was standing for the presidential ticket of the main opposition All Progressives Congress (APC), which he said was "resolved to bring change to Nigeria".

"Protection of lives and property" was at the heart of the party's agenda, as Boko Haram Islamists, marauding gangs, armed robbers and kidnappers had left communities living in fear, he said.

He also hit out at the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) of President Goodluck Jonathan, which has never been out of power since Nigeria returned to civilian rule 15 years ago.

"Since 1999, (the) PDP has presided over our country's decline. Nigeria, in my experience, has never been so divided, so polarised by an unthinking government hell-bent on ruling and stealing," he said.

Corruption had become "blatant and widespread" while the country had earned the unenviable reputation worldwide as "the home of corruption", he added.

The former army general vowed to improve the performance of Africa's biggest economy, whose over-reliance on oil and gas has blighted other sectors such as manufacturing and agriculture.

Buhari, who came to power in a 1983 military coup, ruled Nigeria with an iron fist and was criticised for rights abuses but is credited for his government's apparent crackdown on corruption. He was ousted in another coup in 1985.

The APC will pick its presidential candidate for the February 14, 2015 vote in December.

Nigeria's former vice-president Atiku Abubakar has already declared his candidacy while Kano State governor Rabiu Kwankwaso is also expected to enter the contest.

PDP governors and the party's national executive committee have unanimously backed Jonathan to run for a second, four-year term of office but he has not publicly announced his candidacy.