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Nigeria's Political Leaders Assess State Elections

Nigeria's ruling Peoples Democratic Party has taken an unassailable lead in results from Saturday's state polls. Gilbert da Costa reports for VOA from Abuja on how Nigeria's political leaders are reacting to the elections.

Opposition party leaders have strongly denounced the results from last Saturday's flawed state elections.

More than 50 people were reportedly killed in elections which were overshadowed by rigging and intimidation.

Maxi Okwu, the presidential candidate of Citizens Popular Party, one of 50-odd political parties, monitored the elections in the southeast and says it was an outright sham and a contrived exercise.

"It was a complete disaster. When I arrived by 1.30 [pm], I called INEC [Independent National Electoral Commission] in Abuja and told them nothing happened here, and until I left by 5.30 [pm], nothing happened," said Okwu. "And that was the same story in two other local governments I monitored. In Ebonyi, it was just another issue of staying somewhere and manufacturing results."

The ruling party now controls 30 of the 36 states, with a handful of opposition parties in charge of the rest.

Opposition groups have consistently accused the PDP of seeking to undermine the electoral process through rigging. PDP national secretary Ojo Maduekwe rejects such accusations and blames the opposition for the irregularities observed last Saturday.

"We didn't need to rig. Why will you rig when you are in a very comfortable majority. Let me tell you the tactics of the opposition," said Maduekwe. "Because they were planning for massive rigging they did not campaign. They are the people committing the crime but they want to the complainant. If there is any party that is totally committed to rigging-free, an election that is fre and fair, it is the ruling party."

Nigeria, Africa's most populous country, returned to democracy in 1999 after three decades of military rule.

The presidential ballot is billed for Saturday, and should lead to the first civilian-to-civilian transition since independence in 1960.