Sunday, September 26, 2010

Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka Launches Party in Nigeria

Nobel laureate launches party in Nigeria

September 26, 2010, 10:35 am

Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka has launched a new political party in Nigeria ahead of upcoming presidential elections, saying he wants to take aim at corruption and give hope to young voters.

The Democratic Front for a People's Federation would be not only a political party, but also at the "forefront of the watchdogs of democracy", Soyinka told a party convention on Saturday.

"I wish to emphasise that function, and it is clearly meant both as a warning and exhortation," the Nobel laureate in literature said. "Above all, the DFPF is a party for frustrated youth and uncomfortable ideas."

He said the movement is intended to pose the question in Nigeria, an oil-rich country long held back by corruption: "Is it really impossible to have a voice unless you are swimming in billions?"

"Institutions are pauperised and degraded," he said. "The gutters run with filth while the legislators run with the money."

Soyinka, whose politically engaged plays and books have earned him wide acclaim, was elected chairman of the party, though the 76-year-old said he would not run for office.

"No, no, no -- candidate my foot," he said when asked about the possibility. "I intend to take a backseat."

Soyinka has been a harsh critic of the military regimes that have ruled the West African country on a number of occasions since independence from Britain in 1960.

One of the subjects of his criticism has been ex-military ruler Ibrahim Babangida, the self-declared "evil genius" who is seeking the ruling party's nomination for president for 2011 elections.

Another ex-military ruler, Muhammadu Buhari, has also said he will run for president.

On Saturday, Soyinka criticised the military's previous hold on national affairs and lashed out at corrupt politicians.

"We are living a nightmare," he said, although he later added that he had detected a will to change the system among younger people.

"I do not give a blanket exoneration to the youth," he said. "Some of them are more corrupt than the most corrupt military or politicians.

"But among them, you have idealistic, committed young people of integrity who would just like a platform, a political platform, away from what this country has been able to offer them so far."

Nigeria will hold presidential, state and legislative elections early next year, but the dates are still being debated.

The country is notorious for election rigging and voter intimidation, though President Goodluck Jonathan has pledged free and fair polls in 2011.

Politics in Nigeria have been dominated by the ruling Peoples Democratic Party since a return to civilian government in 1999.

Soyinka became Africa's first Nobel laureate in literature when he won the prize in 1986.

His book The Man Died recounts his time in jail after being imprisoned following his attempt to broker talks during Nigeria's 1967-1970 civil war.

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