By ADRIAN GIBSON
AS I read about the happenings across the world and leadership of various countries, I wondered about the age of leaders in various nations when they are first elected to office.
Here in The Bahamas, we are discussing the leadership within the PLP and the FNM and the possible successors for the current leaders in each party.
But here’s the thing: all of the contenders I have heard so far – with few exceptions – will be pensionable or almost pensionable by the 2017 general elections. We are losing a generation of leaders because we have elected leaders who simply don’t know when to leave the political stage and we have not sought to change our constitution to limit any future Prime Minister to serving only two terms.
I note that FNM leader Dr Hubert Minnis has indicated that there would be constitutional change that he hopes to oversee but I have longed to see that for some time. Without such a change, certain persons who fancy themselves as being entitled to hold the post of Prime Minister will run over and over and over. And, if given a chance, die in office!
As it stands, we have not seen a generational shift in leadership in The Bahamas. The possible contenders for leadership leave much to be desired.
If Prime Minister Christie hangs on to the PLP leadership, he will be 74 by 2017. Phew!
If Deputy Prime Minister “Brave” Davis mounts a successful challenge for the leadership, he would be 66 in 2017.
If Minister of Tourism Obie Wilchcombe becomes leader, he will be 59 in 2017. Mr Wilchcombe would be the youngest of the pack who currently serves in the Cabinet.
If Minister of Foreign Affairs and Immigration Fred Mitchell becomes PLP leader, he will be 64 in 2017.
By contrast, Raynard Rigby would still be in his 40s, as would people such as Michael Halkitis, Khaalis Rolle, Renward Wells, etc. In several other jurisdictions, these “new generation” PLPs would be next in line for the leadership. However, it appears that the leadership is likely to shift from a 70-plus year old to someone aged 60-plus. So much for a generational change!
Within the FNM, Dr Minnis will be 63 by 2017 and his deputy, Peter Turnquest, would be in his mid-fifties. By contrast, the FNM does present a younger slate than the current PLP leadership team. However, here again we see that there hasn’t been a generational shift in leadership in The Bahamas.
When we compare ourselves to the UK, we would note that since our independence in 1973, there have been eight English Prime Ministers. By contrast, we have had three.
Jamaica has been independent for 55 years. They have had nine Prime Ministers.
When I talk about generational shifts, other countries have long embraced younger leaders whilst honouring our elder statesmen and seeing them as luminaries who could offer sage advice. We once elected young people. We don’t seem to believe that younger generation leaders have the capacity to serve, that younger leaders should sit small until power is handed to them. This only delays our national progress.
When we talk about leaders being elected to serve as prime minister for the first time, I remind our current leaders that former PLP leader Sir Lynden Pindling was 37 when he first became PM in 1967. Mr Ingraham was 42 in 1992.
When we look at other jurisdictions, younger leaders are being elected to serve as Prime Ministers and Presidents.
United States President Barack Obama was 46 when he was first elected to the US Presidency.
Current UK Prime Minister David Cameron was 44 when he was first elected in 2010.
Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair was 43 when he was voted in in 1997.
Current Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper was 47 when he won the election in 2006.
Current German Chancellor Angela Merkel was 51 when she became Germany’s leader in 2005.
Vladimir Putin was 48 when he was elected as President of Russia in 2000.
Former Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness was 40 when he first became PM.
Disgraced former Chief Minister of the Turks and Caicos Michael Misick was 37 when he was first elected in 2003.
Former Bermudan Premier Craig Cannonier was 49 when elected in 2012 before he resigned following a scandal and was replaced by 56-year-old Michael Dunkley in 2014.
If one was to look at the history of English Prime Ministers, we have not seen a first-time UK PM elected – over the last few decades – who wasn’t in their early to late 40s and, in the case of Margaret Thatcher, early 50s.
We have to change our approach to governance. Yes, power is sweet. And yes, the natural inclination is to hang on to power forever. But, we must begin to place our country, its development and bright and young minds at the fore.