Discordant tunes have followed yesterday's suggestion that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) favoured a five-party system in Nigeria.
INEC resident electoral commissioner in River State, Mr Aniedi Ikoiwak, who made the suggestion in Port Harcourt yesterday, said that the nation's electoral system needed to be sanitised and that a five-party system would strengthen the electoral process.
While the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) welcomes the idea, the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) described it as a slap on democratic freedom of choice. On its part, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) said it was still undecided on the matter.
Mr. Ikiowak had contended that a five-party system was the best for the country to overcome electoral irregularities and shake off corruption among political parties.
"We don't want unserious political associations whose members stay at home with their wives to demand money from government. Many of them are registered to disappear during elections," he said.
According to him, a five-party structure will raise the standard of Nigeria's electoral process because all the parties would be serious in the contest for power.
The commissioner urged the country to strive towards better electoral process which could be attained through a five-party system or less.
He explained that such system would usher in an unprecedented grassroots mobilisation and participation in the electoral process, as well as ensure accountability.
He emphasised the importance of grassroots inclusiveness in the nation's electoral process, saying that it was the foundation of any viable democracy.
He decried the misconduct of some political parties which nominated fraudulent candidates, adding that it would be eliminated through the system, if adopted.
Ikoiwak explained that some unserious party candidates had developed the habit of playing the role of "spoilers" if they were not settled by serious opponents, a conduct, he said, was common under the current multi-party system.
He also expressed optimism in the ability of the commission to flush out corrupt politicians if the right party system was adopted.
This is just as he defended the constitutional right of the commission to register and also de-register parties, according to the Electoral Act.
Ikoiwak said that political parties that could not satisfy the basics expected of them as provided in the Act were the ones being de-registered, and advised any aggrieved party to seek redress in court.
We're still consulting - ACN
The Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) said it would not react until it consulted widely on the proposal.
According to Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the national publicity secretary of the ACN, the party's top hierarchy will deliberate and consult properly before forming an opinion on the proposal by INEC. "Give us more time," Mohammed said.
It is anti-democratic - CPC
However, the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) has described frowned at the proposal, describing it as anti-democratic.
Reacting to the development, the party's National Publicity Secretary, Rotimi Fashakin, said the proposal cannot stand the test of time. Democracy, he said, is about the freedom of choice.
As such, he said: "You should not hand down the sledge hammer of the authorities on us. Are they taking us back to the time of the Abacha era? Why the number 5, trying to impose the number of parties on us? Is it not trying to do democracy by statute to conscript us into a particular mould?
"Jega represents INEC, and in a nation like this when governance is personalised, how did he come about the number 5? People toy with the future of the people. We should come out with a well thought out policy that ushers freedom of choice."
It is a welcome development - ANPP
The ANPP yesterday described INEC's plan to peg the number of political parties in Nigeria to only five as a welcome development.
Speaking to LEADERSHIP last night, the party's national publicity secretary, Emma Eneukwu, said the plan, if carried out, was very commendable and marked a significant development in the political process.
According to him, the proliferation of political parties had tended to weaken the opposition and had rather strengthened the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), adding that the proliferation of parties was nothing but a replication existing opposition political parties, which had the effect of breaking their ranks.
According to him, "the 64 political parties, or so, were mere replication of political parties. For example, the Democratic Peoples Party (DPP) and the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) and one other 'mushroom' party all broke away from the ANPP. You can see that it is the opposition that is being replicated. If these small parties can bring their strengths together, then PDP will be defeated."
He further noted that there was a healthy political debate during the aborted Third Republic there were only two parties, the National Republican Convention (NRC) and the Social Democratic Party (SDP), saying that the voters had clear choice to make.
"So, to us, it is a healthy idea to prune the number of parties. Afterall, it was our honourable member, Ali Ndume, when he was in the House of Representatives, that championed the idea of pruning the number of political parties. So, by inference, it is an ANPP idea. We welcome it", said Enekwu.