By ADRIAN GIBSON
As we march towards yet another hotly contested general election, it is clear that The Bahamas needs measured, resolute and insightful leadership.
We need leaders who are prepared to tackle difficult problems in ways that are not inflammatory but that will force our people to engage and think about the societal and economic issues we face. So-called leaders who are mere window dressers and sweet mouth willies are not welcome; we have a country to uplift. Political tinmen and thinly gilded jokers have been at the fore of our political establishment for far too long and, with the exception of a few, have contributed to the stagnation we see today.
We cannot propel people to the fore who are unwilling or unable to reach out to the public, attain feedback and input and, hand-in-hand, move the Bahamas towards a higher plane.
Of late, it is clear that we have been wallowing in muck. When one looks at the puerile, petulant and regressive conduct of our so-called leaders in the House of Assembly, it is clear that there is much to be desired. A 2016 and beyond leader is one who can take our people forward without being politically partisan, hateful, divisive, parochial and pejorative.
This week’s biggest stories were the announcement by former Attorney General Alfred Sears that he would challenge Prime Minister Perry Christie for leadership of the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) at the governing party’s national convention in November and the flip-flopping by Long Island MP Loretta Butler-Turner who - days after saying she “can’t be bought” by the Free National Movement (FNM) - suddenly urged her supporters to back Dr Minnis and his executive team.
Firstly, Mrs Butler-Turner’s about-face, after her blistering attacks on Minnis and caustic comments before and after the convention, is astounding and appears to be insincere and meant to save face politically. How does one suddenly go from stating that they cannot be bought and writing to supporters with claims that Dr Minnis is engaging in “organised corruption” and “intimidation” to - one week later - ledging support? I think that the statement was self-serving.
I don’t often agree with PLP chairman Bradley Roberts but his statement calling upon Mrs Butler-Turner to clarify whether her claims of corruption in the FNM under Dr Minnis’ leadership were true or if she merely made them up because she saw “the agony of defeat” warrants a response. He asked questions that we all want to know the answer to.
Given her previous statements, Mrs Butler-Turner’s credibility comes into question.
Before the convention, Mrs Butler-Turner took to Facebook and accused Dr Minnis of doing everything possible to “silence” her voice and “steal” the party’s convention.
Early on the morning of the last day of the FNM’s convention, in another message to her supporters, Mrs Butler-Turner purportedly wrote:
Please DO NOT participate in this process. Please advise all of our supporters to refrain. We propose to have a press conference at 11 am this morning. Please understand that this corruption and intimidation cannot be validated. I thank you and love you. I simply believe we must expose the level of organised corruption and crime there is in the party under Hubert Minnis.”
How does Mrs Butler-Turner explain this message? It was widely circulated from a text account belonging to her.
When I read that Mrs Butler-Turner was making an announcement on Sunday, I thought that she was announcing her resignation from the FNM. I read her statement with dropped jaw.
Mrs Butler-Turner abandoned her soldiers on the battlefield. The captain abandoned her political Titanic the moment it began taking on water, leaving her supporters to scramble for political lifeboats or drown in the Minnis tidal wave.
I think that statements such as the above were over-the-top, too aggressive and simply out of order. Her comments could have been more measured. She damaged her political stock with such remarks. After the convention, the best approach Mrs Butler-Turner could have taken would have been to excuse herself from the scene for a while, regrouping and working behind the scenes rather than make such comments.
There are many who now view Mrs Butler-Turner’s sudden change of heart as another facet to a plan to disrupt FNM leader Dr Minnis. I have been told by people within the party that the first step was to unseat Dr Minnis at the convention; however they withdrew. The second prong was to undermine a newly-elected Minnis, casting him as incompetent and openly challenging him. However, her statement about not being “bought” backfired and Bahamians turned against her.
Reading the political tea leaves, party insiders now tell me that the third prong is being employed, that being to publicly pretend to support Minnis, secure safe seats going into the general election and destabilise him from within, thereby causing the FNM to lose with the dissenters all retaining their seats and bouncing Minnis right after the election, leaving Butler-Turner as the chosen one for leadership.
We shall see.
However, I do not believe that Mrs Butler-Turner’s utterances are representative of the leadership and direction that we would like to see in the Bahamas. One cannot become a political train wreck before our very eyes and be considered for leadership. One cannot - and ought not to - be perceived, politically, as temperamental or a loose cannon.
There should be a line that people in leadership should not cross. Ever.
Alfred Sears, who announced his candidacy for leadership this week, presents a starkly different narrative. He has cross-section appeal and will attract independents, FNMs and others if he becomes PLP leader. He is the PLP’s best hope.
As I said a few weeks ago, Mr Sears’ ascension to the PLP’s leadership will, I believe, go a long way to rebranding the governing party. He is a progressive thinker and he has adopted a fresh look at the Bahamas, demonstrating that he is not trapped in the glare of parochialism.
I read a quote yesterday that was attributed to Mr Sears: “I bring leadership that is inclusive, focused and all about servant leadership.”
For far too long, governance has been along partisan lines; contracts have been meted out along such lines; elected individuals decided to view Bahamians, in their decision making, as FNMs and PLPs rather than Bahamians, just Bahamians.
Rather than engaging in nasty attacks on the current leader of the PLP, Mr Sears has instead stated that he would present comprehensive plans for the country in the coming months, plans that would also enhance government transparency and accountability. He said that he wants to “reform our governance process, better incentivise Bahamian entrepreneurship and extend private public partnerships.” I respect that. That is what I look for in our leaders, not political cannibalism.
It is often said that the PLP’s election process is stacked in favour of the party’s leader. There are many stalwart councillors in the party who are of advanced age and have the ability to vote in the convention.
I believe that Alfred Sears has an invaluable contribution to make. He speaks about culture, economy, the repatriation of capital for even locally produced trinkets and souvenirs, judicial reform and so on.
He is a gentleman. Mr Sears wants to blow up the status quo. I think he brings a refreshing perspective to the PLP and Bahamian politics.
That said, it is a tragedy that based on the incestuous, inbred, provincial set up of our political organisations, political stalwarts and others could sacrifice their party’s progression and our national development on the altar of expediency.
Unfortunately, intellectual conversations and progressive thinking in this country is often drowned out by hyper-religious, anti-intellectual sentiment. There are those among us who seemingly prefer to drag our national conversations deeper into the depths of depravity as opposed to elevating our national consciousness.
Forty three years after independence, we have not yet done our utmost to look forward, to look upward, to look onward, together.
I have no doubt that the political dogs of war will be unleashed upon Mr Sears. However, to many within the PLP - especially young people - he is likely to become the Bernie Sanders of the Bahamas, running an inspirational campaign unlike that which has been seen in the PLP in recent years.
It is so unfortunate that before his candidacy is launched, Marathon MP and Minister of Education Jerome Fitzgerald has attacked him, deeming his candidacy as dead on arrival.
Indeed, it is sad to note that the stalwarts are so stacked in the PLP that a political ne’er-do-well could very well retain the leadership.
However, I am reliably informed by high-level PLP insiders that Mr Fitzgerald has become the new blue-eyed boy, gaining favour with Prime Minister Perry Christie and now merely attacking Sears in an effort to ensure that the so-called throne is secure for his ascension, purportedly having already garnered Mr Christie’s blessing as the prime minister in waiting if the PLP wins the next general election.
Sears has gonadal fortitude. I cannot say that about many others within the PLP.
Travelling and vacationing and observing different places really open one’s mind. Good governance has nothing to do with the size of one’s country. It has to do with vision and leadership.
As it stands, there are those living within and looking at The Bahamas today and feeling afraid that we could make a wrong turn and find ourselves irretrievably doomed. We have always maintained an artificial sense of invincibility. We claim to have an abiding faith in God and no matter what we do, it will all work out.
Given that, we have embraced corruption, the disintegration of the family, spending far more than we make and increasing our national debt by hundreds of millions year over year and so on! However, though we keep saying that God will find a way to make it right, even Biblical thinking states that faith without work is dead. We must take hold of our national direction.
I know that there is no perfect solution. However, if we don’t get it right, we will see an intellectual and financial flight from our beloved country … it perhaps has already started.
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