The former military ruler was whisked away still waving at the crowd after supporters of his All Progressive Congress (APC) rushed the podium at the 28,000 capacity Rwan Pam stadium, tripping over public address system cables in a frenzy to catch a glimpse of him.

Buhari, 76, has brushed off questions about his health to campaign for the February 16 vote in Africa's most populous nation and leading oil producer, which is expected to be a closely fought race.

At the Jos rally Buhari managed to present APC candidates in the state for the governorship and legislative elections before he was ushered out of the stadium through a backdoor, according to an AFP reporter at the scene.

In a statement released after the event, Buhari's office said the president thanked the "ecstatic supporters", but asked for those attending future events to tone down their enthusiasm.

APC supporters had earlier besieged the president's motorcade as it made its way into the stadium, forcing him to stay in his car for 20 minutes while military and police personnel struggled to push back the crowd.

Buhari's security detail then continued to push back fans cheering "sai Baba", a popular campaign slogan, while he waded through the crowd to his seat.

Decades of conflict

Plateau State, of which Jos is the capital, has born the brunt of decades of conflict between settler Muslim Hausa and Fulani herders, and indigenous Christian farmers.

Buhari, a northern Muslim, has come under intense criticism in connection with deadly farmer-herder clashes in central Nigeria.

His critics accuse him of failure to end the violence because Fulani herders are his kinsmen, a charge that could potentially cost him support in the so-called Middle-Belt, a mixed but mostly Christian region that separates the predominantly Muslim north and the largely Christian south.

The conflict, which began over land and grazing rights, has taken on an ethno-religious dimension and entrenched identity politics in which ethnic and religious affiliations determine voting patterns.

Buhari secured the Middle Belt in the 2015 presidential election on the belief he would end the decades old conflict.

The killings have continued however, and political analysts believe Buhari might not do well there in the February polls.

This year's elections will be the fifth time Buhari has stood for the presidency. He lost in 2003, 2007 and 2011, and disputed the results in court.

He was finally successful in 2015 in what was the first victory for an opposition candidate in Nigeria's history.

Buhari is expected to face stiff competition in the vote from former vice-president Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

The pair were set to go head-to-head in a televised debate scheduled in Abuja on Saturday, but Buhari declined to attend, causing Abubakar to storm out in protest.