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Little Time For Loretta

EDITOR, The Tribune.

The Loretta Butler-Turner faction of the Free National Movement has finally got what it has been clamouring for well over a year for, a definitive date set for a national convention. The FNM executive council’s announcement that a one day convention will be held this coming November 21 has caught many completely off-guard, seeing that the group had earlier given the tentative timeframe of the first quarter of 2015 for a much anticipated convention to be held.

The November 21 date means that Butler-Turner has approximately 44 days till convention to mount a campaign to topple Dr Hubert Minnis as FNM leader. The ball is now in her court. She has yet to make a formal announcement as to whether or not she will challenge Minnis. She did say in June that she is considering running for the top post, which has only served to fuel speculation among FNM grassroots.

Interestingly, it was also in June during a meeting of the FNM’s National Central Council that tempers flared over the issue of a convention date. It was reported in the dailies that Minnis and former FNM senator Frederick McAlpine got into a verbal altercation as some FNMs badgered Minnis to call a convention in the next few months. Apparently McAlpine, who is alleged to be a Butler-Turner backer, was among those upset that the convention was deferred to early 2015. McAlpine was not the only one upset.

Many of those whom I perceive to be Butler-Turner backers were also up in arms at the 2015 convention date announcement, and accused Minnis of stalling for time.

Butler-Turner will obviously disavow responsibility for this faction of FNMs who are anxious to oust Minnis as leader. After all, it is this group which has been a thorn in Minnis’ side and have been uncommonly relentless in its opposition to Minnis. Butler-Turner continues to deny that there is rift between her and Minnis even though she has become an increasingly polarising figure in the eyes of many FNM grassroots, including the writer. Incredibly, she has admitted that she did not allow Minnis to speak at a function in September which was held in her honour in North Abaco by a group of FNMs who are her supporters. She said that the event was a part of her campaign to gauge support among FNMs around the country as she considers vying for the top post of the party.

Notwithstanding repeated denials, her refusal to allow the leader of the FNM to address FNMs at the event was a snub. Her recent declaration that Minnis didn’t want her as his deputy in 2012 was superfluous and untimely and may have been an artful strategy to score brownie points. Her calls for activists and struggling homeowners to join her and the FNM in a demonstration outside Parliament in protest against Prime Minister for halting the repossession of former VAT co-ordinator Ishmael Lightbourne’s home without authorisation from Minnis appeared to have been a calculated attempt to upstage Minnis. I find it absolutely incredulous that Butler-Turner’s backers didn’t see the inappropriateness of her attempting to mobilise the party for a march without first discussing the matter with her leader.

Rather than take a pragmatic view of Minnis’ decision to distance the FNM from the demonstration for obvious reasons, they decided to ridicule him. In their irrational opposition to Minnis, it is almost as if they expect him to put up with any nonsense without even voicing his disapproval as FNM leader.

Based on the above antics of Butler-Turner, one can understand why Minnis had reservations of her being his deputy in 2012. Butler-Turner and her backers have over 40 days to state their case with FNM delegates as to why she should replace Minnis as their leader, if she decides to run. If she wins, there’s a minute possibility that she could end up becoming the first female prime minister of The Bahamas in the event the FNM wins the election in 2017. Based on what I’ve seen so far from her, I am highly sceptical that she can galvanise FNMs, let alone swing voters or disgruntled PLPs, seeing that she has morphed into such a deeply divisive political figure. It is hard to envisage the FNM winning with her at the helm. Yes, she is a highly accomplished professional woman who comes from an illustrious family. But FNMs should be wary of electing a woman to lead their organisation just for the sake of electing a woman. The issue here should not come down to gender, but whether or not the prospective candidate, whether male or female, has the vision and the leadership skills to lead the party and country forward.

If Butler-Turner is such a leader, then by all means the party should back her; if she isn’t, then the party should reject her leadership bid.

But castigating FNMs who don’t support Butler-Turner as misogynists, as some of her backers have resorted to doing, is nothing more than a sleazy and desperate form of political campaigning. As is the case with Minnis, her political resume must stand or fall on its own merits. In the event Minnis holds on to his leadership post, as one recent Guardian Radio poll seems to suggest that he will most definitely do, it will be intriguing to see how Butler-Turner and her backers would respond.

Will they circle the wagon around Minnis, as they would no doubt expect Minnis and his supporters to do for Butler-Turner, or will they continue to sow destructive discord among other FNMs, with the view of derailing Minnis? I think the November 21 convention will answer the question once and for all. Among other things, the convention might also reveal to the Butler-Turner faction that they have made a grave miscalculation in underestimating Minnis’ political prowess and popularity among FNM grassroots.

KEVIN EVANS

Freeport, Grand Bahama,

October 9, 2014.

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