In this piece, octogenarian and All Progressives Congress (APC) stalwart in Lagos State Pa Remi Williams examines the implication of carpet crossing for the polity.
Carpet crossing as a phenomenon has eaten deep into Nigeria?s political system. That is why it deserves special attention to root it out. But it is not new in Nigeria. The only dimension is that it is now done with ulterior motive and impunity.
For example, one can loot the government?s treasury and take refuge by crossing to the party in power. Painfully, there is no evidence of party discipline. The slogan: ?No permanent friend, no permanent enemy. Only permanent interest? has become the order of the day.
Let me go back memory lane. In the First Republic, Nigeria adopted the Westminster system of government, also known as bicameralism. In the Second Republic, it fell in love with the American presidential system of government, which has remained with us since. But now we are veering towards a two-party system.
The reason is not far-fetched. Because we operate winner-takes all system, once your party is not in the government, you will not partake in the sharing in the allocation of values ? appointments and projects.
Yet, the idea of a two-party system is not so. It is that the opposition keeps the government in power on its toes by giving out constructive criticisms. That is their responsibility. So much so that they too could one day take over the government, if the one in power does not live up to the expectation of the people.
In pre-Independence Nigeria under Regional governments, the election was free and fair by all standards. It was this system of government that massive carpet crossing was experienced, especially in the Western Region. Two-party system also dominated then. The Action Group (AG) and the National Convention of Nigerian Citizens (NCNC) were in alliance. The ruling party was the NPC, the AG and some parties voted along ethnic lines. The NPC led by Northerner got its votes mainly from the North, AG from the West and NCNC from the East, after a failed attempt by the party leader Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe to rally support from the West failed as the AG leaders saw through their plan to remove the seat of power from under them.
On the basis of this, Dr Azikiwe led the Igbo-dominated Eastern Region as premier; Chief Obafemi Awolowo became premier of the Western Region; while the Sarduana of Sokoto, Alhaji Ahmadu Bello, became the Northern Region premier. This was the beginning of carpet crossing in Nigeria. However, today?s carpet crossing is different from what happened in the 50s. Today?s own is aimed at evading prosecution. It appears those in the opposing camp enjoy freedom from persecution hence the carpet crossing.