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Leading Nigerian Writer Calls for New Presidential Elections

One of Nigeria's best-known citizens, the writer Wole Soyinka, has given his support to calls for another presidential election. Opposition leaders and international observers have described the April 21 election as fraudulent. Gilbert da Costa has more for VOA from Abuja.

Nigerian-born author Wole Soyinka, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1986, is the latest to add his name to a long list of opposition and civil society groups calling for the cancellation of the disputed polls.

Soyinka says the vote was characterized by such large-scale irregularities and violence it should be cancelled and a re-run organized. The opposition wants fresh elections to be conducted by an interim government led by the current senate president, Ken Nnamani.

The ruling party's candidate and outgoing President Olusegun Obasanjo's anointed successor, Umaru Yar'Adua, easily won the presidential vote.

In addition to charges of widespread fraud, there were reported to be more than 200 election-related killings during the polls, which have been described as the worst in the African nation's recent history.

But the governing Peoples Democratic Party has firmly rejected the idea of an election re-run. Abdulahi Jalloh, an executive member of the ruling party, considers the idea of a re-run an invitation to chaos in the already volatile nation.

"Anybody that is agitating for this cancellation is just inviting anarchy into this country," he said. "The issue is, the election was credible and Yar'Adua was duly elected and the votes he scored were not manufactured. Let us wait for the tribunal to tell us whether there was rigging or not. But as far as the PDP is concerned, there was a clear and reasonable victory which our candidates won."

The main opposition parties have resolved to file a legal challenge to the polls, but analysts say some of the rigging may be difficult to prove in court.

Meanwhile, some areas where elections were cancelled are voting Saturday. Nigeria's electoral commission is conducting elections for the governorship post in the southeastern Imo state as well as more than 100 legislative seats across 27 states.

The polls were postponed because of the exclusion of some candidates' names and party symbols during the recent general elections.

But the exercise has been overshadowed by growing calls for the outright cancellation of the controversial polls.