EDITOR, The Tribune.
Enquiring minds all over this country want to know what’s wrong with the Free National Movement. They ask and then answer their own question. Dr Hubert Minnis is what’s wrong with the once great party.
But Minnis doesn’t shoulder all of the blame for what’s wrong with the party. It was (deliberately past tense) the narrow-minded, self-serving, shortsighted FNM delegates and party elders who held their noses and gave Minnis a mandate to lead the party. Not once, but twice.
As Dr Phil would say, “How’s that working for you?”
The short answer is: it isn’t. The FNM is a party in crisis. A once popular calypso that made the rounds of FNM rallies in the past, was a plaintiff wail: “Captain, the ship is sinking”. At the next council meeting I suggest the members put this song on blast and direct it at their own Captain, Dr Minnis.
Not since Pindling’s heyday has so many been promised the same jobs and patronage as Dr Minnis has doled out to the voting delegates of the FNM, including, surprisingly, some senior members of the party. Even Perry Christie had the good sense to hold his powder on patronage promises until he was actually in position to make good on them.
But not Dr Minnis. There can be only one Governor General, but Minnis has no trouble offering the job to at least three people. Six people want to be Attorney General? No problem; pledge and then prove your blind loyalty to Minnis.
So what if you campaigned hard and worked a constituency for years, if you don’t sign the pledge and drink the cool aid, then Commandant Minnis will snatch it from you. Just ask Monique Gomez.
The Senate has just 16 members in total but I am told Dr Minnis has filled that chamber three times over with his promises.
The trouble is not the fact that he promises patronage. Some great PLPs have gone to their grave waiting for Pindling to deliver promised patronage.
What makes this different now is that the patroness are willing to look the other way, hold their noses and cover their ears as they prop up a failed leader who in all likelihood would never get to wear the crown and the robes of the king.
Many seek the leader’s favour but victory comes from the Bahamian voters.
Usually at this stage the senior members of the party step up to restore sanity and to bring order. We saw this play out in Britain when the senior members of her party forced Margaret Thatcher, a sitting Prime Minister, to resign because they feared she would lead them to defeat at upcoming elections.
Sadly for the FNM, some of the old men and women in grey suits are standing in the same patronage line as the Johnny-come-latelys and the rudderless sycophants who make up the “give-me, give-me” cabal surrounding Dr Minnis.
If you want to know how to do something correctly, ask someone who has done it before. Luckily for the FNM, they do have a strong leader and former Prime Minister that they can turn to for advice. Hubert Ingraham must be chief among the elders in grey suits who must act now to steady the FNM ship, not by offering himself, but by offering advice and guidance.
If the captain is to be changed, then it must be an open, free and fair contest. No one candidate for any office must have his thumb on the scale by doing such chicanery as splashing out his personal funds to “reimburse” voting delegates for their expenses in attending convention. The party must pay for all expenses by its delegates – airfares, hotels, meals and the ever-popular rounds of “refreshments”.
The ultimate prize is not the leadership of the party. The prize on which the delegates must focus is the government of the Bahamas: Who can best deliver that prize and, more importantly, who can govern the country.
If the party cannot articulate good policies and a strategy to execute them, then don’t bother to hold a convention. If the delegates are not prepared to pick talent over gender then let’s call the whole thing off.
If the 478 delegates can afford another five years of the PLP, just remember that there are thousands of Bahamians who simply cannot.
Patronage will never go away. It keeps Perry Christie swimming with the sharks in the PLP. He has elevated the doling of goodies to an art form. Few can do it better.
The next leader of the FNM will have to contend with patronage as well. That leader will need full lower body armour to guard against those wishing to kiss other than their ring. The temptation to accept these unsolicited flatterers will be great.
But it is in this crucible that a leader’s mettle is formed and tested. Fresh from a win at convention the leader of the FNM must first galvanize and keep the party together while expanding the big tent to independents and disillusioned PLPs.
Dr Minnis’ strategy of purging the party of all but his own loyalists only works in a totalitarian, one-party state. Nevertheless he indicated just what he was about when he gleefully announced “the end of the Ingraham era”.
Instead of praising and thanking his predecessor and former leader and reaching out to the so-called Ingrahamites (more than half the party) he proceeded to harass them. Then he seeks to blame others for the mess he made of the party.
By contrast, when Ingraham defeated Tommy Turnquest and his supporters in the FNM leadership fight, he did not purge them, he did not try to deny them nominations. He pulled them in, won their support, won the election and made Turnquest a Minister.
The voters want to see integrity, honesty, empathy, emotional intelligence, vision, judgment, courage and passion. The qualities we saw in Hubert Ingraham, and once saw in Sir Lynden, and thought we saw in Perry Christie.
February 8, 2016.