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Nigeria’s president rebuffs calls to step aside

ABUJA, Nigeria — Despite calls to step aside and concerns about mysterious health problems, President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria on Monday declared his intention to seek reelection next year, ending months of speculation.

In a closed-door meeting of the National Executive Committee, after national news outlets had left the room, Buhari, 75, announced that he would run again, according to people who were present and briefed reporters afterward.

They said he had told the committee that he was responding to popular demand that he seek another term.

Buhari has faced widespread criticism over his government’s inability to defeat the renewed Boko Haram insurgency in the northeast, or to end violence between herders and farming communities.

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Last year, he spent nearly four months in Britain receiving treatment for an illness that the government has not disclosed, leading to fears that he would never return.

Some voters may see a second term as a steadying force and his supporters have argued that Buhari, a former army general, needs more time to battle Boko Haram, and to defeat corruption and other entrenched economic problems.

Last week, his government made a statement urging Nigerians to “count the blessings that the administration has brought to the country’s economy,” citing a World Bank report ranking the nation as one of the top 10 in the world in making economic overhauls.

But over the past year, calls for him not to run again — or even to step down before his current term ends — have grown steadily. Two former presidents, civic leaders, opposition politicians and even some of Buhari’s former allies have said he should make way for a younger generation of leaders.

Within hours of announcing his intention to run, the president traveled to London to attend a meeting of Commonwealth leaders. His office did not give a date for his return, leading to renewed rumors in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, that Buhari would once again be receiving medical attention in London.

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Buhari enjoyed widespread support after winning the election in 2015, but it dissipated as Nigeria suffered through a recession in 2016 and 2017, and new attacks from Boko Haram, the Islamist rebel group.

In a separate development, a court in Uganda is hearing a case that seeks to overturn a measure that removed an age limit to the long-time president’s rule.

Opposition politicians and the local bar association are challenging the law, passed in December, that allows President Yoweri Museveni to potentially hold power for nearly five decades.

Museveni, a U.S. ally who took power by force in 1986, is 73 and would have been ineligible to run again when his term expires in 2021. The law being challenged removed a measure in the constitution that prevented anyone older than 75 from being president.

Museveni is the latest of a number of African leaders who have tried to prolong their time in office by changing the constitution or other means.

At least 10 countries on the continent have seen term limits dropped, and ‘‘leaders in more than 20 countries effectively do not face restrictions on their time in power,’’ according to the U.S.-funded African Center for Strategic Studies.

Museveni once said he despised African leaders ‘‘who want to overstay in power,’’ but now says he referred to those who ruled without being elected.

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