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The Conference of Nigeria Political Parties (CNPP) on Sunday raised an alarm over what it said were threats and booby-traps on the path of next year's general elections. The CNPP in an apparent reaction to changes in the order of elections said it was the 'final masterstroke to enforce a one party state' and further diminish the chances of a free and fair election.

Accordingly, it said political parties and Nigerians must rise up and reject 'the attempt to use legislation in rigging next year's general elections even before they are conducted.' In a statement by Chief Willy Ezugwu, the secretary-general, the CNPP also canvassed the extension of the date of the election to April next year to allow the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) enough time to conduct a credible election.

The coalition lamented that all its earlier cries over the need to have genuine electoral reforms were ignored by the people and the government. The CNPP regretted that the country was now being forced to again adopt a fire-brigade approach in preparing for elections when it had all the time in the world to do it. 'From the look of things, it is important that the federal lawmakers must again invoke the doctrine of necessity to shift the elections to April next year. This will allow enough time to sort the mess they created through their un-coordinated amendment of the constitution

'The National Assembly must also quickly change the Electoral Act to revert to an order that will not enslave other level of elections to the outcome of the presidential election, the statement said.'

By the new order the presidential election will come up before other categories of elections such as national and states assembly elections as well as the gubernatorial elections.

'There is obvious danger in the domino effect that will follow once the result of presidential election is announced. The People Democratic Party has already shown those in the opposition what it means not to be on the side of government,' Ezugwu, noted in the statement issued in Abuja.

He also added that 'once a particular political party (even if not the PDP) wins the Presidency, the most likely thing is for people to immediately queue up behind that party because no one wants to be in the opposition, especially since our federalism still runs like a unitary government.'

Short of accusing the federal legislators of having been bribed to change the order of the next general elections and describing denials from the National Assembly as laughable, CNPP asked: 'Who does not know that the President is automatically the party leader in the PDP, which presently controls the National Assembly? How many of the lawmakers were bold enough to challenge the President during their meeting with him.And is it not also a curious coincidence that the criminal change to the order of elections came just after the meeting?'

He continued: 'The President usually sounds convincing whenever he recounts how he appointed a radical Professor Attahiru Jega to head INEC but this has now shown that the only improvement being made to the electoral process is the seeming image of the Professor.

'Even now, the INEC Chairman has made it known that we have all been on a delusion trip because there is no voter register in place to conduct the polls,' the statement noted. He alleged that there were plans by the government to cripple INEC by starving it of funds or releasing money to the commission a few days to elections thereby making it impossible to do anything. 'Everything that creates loopholes for rigging must be stopped immediately. The future of Nigeria is too important and sensitive to be toyed with,' said CNPP.