IN The Bahamas, the duty of prime minister has become a “one and done” contract with the Bahamian people over the last three general elections. Much goes into what causes the electorate changing leadership every five years. However, Prime Minister Minnis spoke to the media with confidence last week that he will, at the very least, break the trend to become the nation’s first two-term prime minister in the past 20 years.
This is quite a bold assertion given that he scraped into leadership of his very own party prior to entering government. Thus, it can be argued that the only reason Prime Minister Minnis is the nation’s chief executive is because of the bitter disdain the Bahamian people had towards the PLP.
Any evaluation of why the PLP fell so deeply out of favour with the Bahamian people can find myriad reasons of why they were ousted from office. Chief among them may be that the Bahamian people had their fill of former Prime Minister Perry Christie.
This shows that, although we put parties in office, we are a nation that votes for leaders. While there have been grumblings that Bahamian people would like to see a shift, as long as we subscribe to the Westminster system, that most likely will not happen.
That said, just as it has taken place in each general election, the Bahamian people will vote based on who will be prime minister.
This is a point that Prime Minister Minnis should be mindful of, particularly after having such a rocky start with his brand of leadership.
In the event the prime minister believes that he will be the nation’s leader for two terms, he must have something up his sleeve that we’ve not seen as yet. However, we’re not sure what that can be as he has too often has shown us the contrary.
After increasing VAT on the Bahamian people with less than two months’ notice, Deputy Prime Minister Peter Turnquest is currently experiencing the political fallout for doing the heavy lifting. No surprise that the prime minister settled for being the spokesperson on VAT to the smaller family island communities.
In this regard, Turnquest’s political capital is being sacrificed because the prime minister knows that there is no way that he could be remotely anywhere near a microphone at a town hall meeting in New Providence attempting to make a case for increasing VAT.
No doubt, the prime minister’s avoidance of citizens in the nation’s capital, even his constituents, is a move to guard himself politically. However, where he may be deluded is to believe that any political fallout should his party fail to deliver won’t affect him.
The Bahamian people will bring fire and brimstone on Peter Turnquest’s head, but to his benefit, he isn’t the leader of the party. We can look no further than Opposition Leader Philip Brave Davis as an example.
As sick as the Bahamian people were of former Prime Minister Perry Christie, the first sitting prime minister to be voted out of his constituency, Brave Davis still has a job in politics. And aside from a few sparse statements given to the media, nobody knows much of what the former prime minister is doing these days.
We can even postulate that not many people care either. Perhaps it is because the Bahamian people felt wronged by Christie. They felt disregarded.
Is it farfetched that they would currently feel the same under Prime Minister Minnis?
Think about it – regardless of what good the prime minister (the government) may be doing, it never has the same effect as the things that the populace disapproves of. As noble a cause as it may be to want to get the country out of debt, the government’s communication in that regard has been deplorable.
As long as the issues of shantytowns and illegal migration into The Bahamas have been systemic problems, here we have a government making progressive steps toward affecting these issues for the better.
Yet, somehow, the prime minister contradicts himself when speaking to the Haitian community after promulgating a different message in the national arena. Naturally, things become lost in translation and the Bahamian people grow tired of trying to understand which prime minister we are going to get when he talks into a microphone.
The prime minister’s inability to speak cogently with the media is symbolic of the government’s continued missteps with reference to communication. To that end, Prime Minister Minnis is the figurehead to a government whose message continues to resonate less and less with the Bahamian people.
Prime Minister Minnis must develop an understanding of the electorate he serves and be careful not to dismiss our concerns as complaints. He would find that it would be a tragic mistake.
Moreover, well-meaning ideals do not replace effective communication and sound execution of strategies. Both of his living predecessors should be able to attest to that.
Nonetheless, it is not completely outside the realm of possibility based on the alternatives that currently exist. Perhaps this is where the prime minister gains his comfort.
However, if that is the case, that doesn’t automatically translate into what’s best for The Bahamas.
As his role as prime minister continues to take shape, we can only hope that he continues to evolve and aspire to be our leader for more than just being the “lesser evil”.
We want and need a prime minister that earns the title based on level of ability, love for our country and of the Bahamian people.
Much remains to be seen.