Nigeria’s Wole Soyinka rejects presidential frontrunners

Soyinka, who won the 1986 Nobel Prize in Literature, asked Nigerians to find a consensus candidate to defeat President Muhammadu Buhari and Atiku Abubakar.

Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari on an election campaign visit in the Abia State. Picture: @MBuhari/Twitter

LAGOS - Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka has urged Nigerians to reject President Muhammadu Buhari and his main challenger in this month’s presidential election, saying it was time for a “totally new direction.”

Buhari, 76, came to power in 2015 and is seeking a second term in the 16 February vote. His main challenger is 72-year-old Atiku Abubakar, a former vice president.

“For the avoidance of doubt, let me make my position quite clear because I don’t want any ambiguity; I, Wole Soyinka, will not be voting for either,” he was quoted in local media as saying on Thursday at a forum in Lagos.

“I find both of them worthy of absolute rejection. For a number of reasons, I will not go into that and I am not interested in comparative assessment, it is too late for that,” he said.

Soyinka, who won the 1986 Nobel Prize in Literature, asked Nigerians to find a consensus candidate to defeat Buhari and Abubakar.

It was not immediately clear who among the new breed of presidential candidates Soyinka would support.

“My position is simply that it is time for a totally new direction. Obviously, I am not the only one, otherwise there will not be so many opposition parties wanting to take over the reins of government,” he said.

Apart from Buhari and Abubakar, 71 other candidates are contesting the presidential vote.

Buhari and Abubakar are among a number of ageing politicians to have politics for decades in a country where around 60% of the population of more than 180 million is aged under 30.

Corruption is a major problem in Africa’s leading crude producer and exporter with hundreds of millions of dollars from state funds and assets syphoned away every year.

Prominent among the new candidates are Kingsley Moghalu, a 56-year-old former central bank deputy governor and Fela Durotoye, 47 and a motivational speaker.

There is Omoyele Sowore who publishes the influential online Sahara Reporters.

Oby Ezekwesili, the only leading female contender pulled out of the race last week to allow for a common coalition to oust Buhari.