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Last Updated: Friday, 6 April 2007, 09:59 GMT 10:59 UK
Achebe fears for Nigeria's polls
Chinua Achebe
Mr Achebe says Nigeria is "as low as she has ever gone"
Renowned Nigerian author Chinua Achebe has told the BBC he does not believe Nigeria's national elections, due later this month, will be credible.

"Democracy has not progressed in Nigeria - corruption has not diminished," he said about President Olusegun Obasanjo's time in office.

But the electoral commission's Ibrahim Biyu said the US-based writer was not aware of developments on the ground.

Reforms had been put in place to minimise rigging and fraud, he said.

Elections should not be a time for a war
Chinua Achebe

Mr Achebe's most famous book, Things Fall Apart, has sold some 11 million copies around the world.

President Obasanjo is stepping down after two terms in office.

The polls should become the first transfer of power in Africa's most populous country from one elected leader to another since independence in 1960.

'Ready'

"Elections should not be a time for a war," Mr Achebe told the BBC's Network Africa programme.

The arming and mobilising of gangs by politicians to harass and intimidate has already happened
HRW's Georgette Gagnon

"We thought Nigeria was already passed that stage but we have been dragged back now to a situation which every election becomes an occasion for struggle and violence."

US-based campaign group Human Rights Watch (HRW) concurred with Mr Achebe's comments saying the government had a complacent attitude to election-related violence.

"The arming and mobilising of gangs by politicians to harass opponents and intimidate the voting public has already happened and there seem to be no effort to address that," HRW's Georgette Gagnon told the BBC.

But Mr Biyu, director of voter education at the Independent National Electoral Commission (Inec), said as far as the electoral system was concerned much had been done to stop rigging.

"With what we have done all is now set to conduct the election peacefully," he told the BBC.

"He [Achebe] is living over there in the United States. He doesn't know what's going on in Nigeria."

Corruption excuse

Mr Biyu also dismissed criticism that Inec was being used to disqualify opponents of the government.

Olusegun Obasanjo
Mr Obasanjo has sought to curb corruption

Mr Achebe had said potential candidates had been unfairly prevented from standing for governor in his own state, Anambra, and in other parts of Nigeria.

Electoral officials are attempting to bar Vice-President Atiku Abubakar from running for president saying corruption charges against him would have to be dropped for him to be eligible.

"Fighting corruption is often used as an excuse for going after people who disagree with the president," Mr Achebe said.

The vice-president became a leading opposition candidate after falling out with former ally Mr Obasanjo

Two contradictory court judgements mean Mr Abubakar's fate, with two weeks to go till the presidential poll, has yet to be decided.

"The electoral body is abiding by the law. It remains for the courts of Nigeria to determine and interpret the law," Mr Biyu said.




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