By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
OBIE Wilchcombe says he will “absolutely” continue to vie for the Progressive Liberal Party’s nomination in West Grand Bahama and Bimini despite losing the chairmanship race to Fred Mitchell on Friday.
He told The Tribune the PLP must now work with leader Philip “Brave” Davis and help him assemble a team that can win the next election.
PLP officials have said they do not want to run former losing candidates in the next election, and some in the party believe that Mr Wilchcombe destroyed his prospects of getting a nomination in 2022 by challenging Mr Mitchell.
Asked about this, the former tourism minister said: “It’s the people’s call. I’m going to stay faithful but it’s the people’s call.”
Sources told The Tribune Mr Davis discouraged the former tourism minister from running over the course of three meetings this year.
The two met for lunch several months ago and when the former West Grand Bahama and Bimini MP revealed he was considering another chairmanship run, Mr Davis told him not to and that he could not count on his support. Sources said the pair met a third time this month where Mr Davis discouraged Mr Wilchcombe from running. But Mr Wilchcombe decided to still run.
In a bid to get him to stand down, Mr Wilchcombe was made an attractive offer related to the next general election.
212 total votes.
Yesterday, Mr Wilchombe said: “Whatever discussions I had with Mr Davis I wish to remain confidential. I’m from the school where I believe it’s imperative that the leader of our party can talk to someone and they can protect whatever was discussed.”
He continued: “I think by my running democracy was made to live in our organization. That’s imperative because we have to at all times send the right message to the country. Internal democracy is fundamental for the growth and further development of our party and for the inclusion of more and more of the people.
“I’m a PLP. Where I go from here is very simple, to help my party win the next general election. The PLP must win. It’s time now for us to present to the nation a new paradigm and I want to be a part of scripting that. The PLP cannot simply criticize the FNM. The FNM is doing a good job working for the PLP. They’re helping us win the next election but what we have to do is, we have to show the Bahaman people why we deserve the chance to be the next government and that’s predicated on the reality that Bahamians have told this nation every five years, look here, we’re dissatisfied, your’e not fulfilling our obligations.
“No matter what you’re talking about we’re not satisfied and we keep changing governments look for that moment, that gross national happiness, when we can see that appear but it’s not there yet, so the PLP has an opportunity. The leader of the party, we must work with, we must stand behind him, we must have him put behind a team to help them create that message, what do you want, how are you going to govern, where are you going to take me, how will you make my life better and give me more opportunities in my country. That’s what we have to be focusing on and that’s what I want to help on.”
Mr Mitchell received 802 votes while Mr Wilchcombe received 338 votes last week. Mr Wilchcombe received fewer votes than he did in 2017 when Mr Mitchell won by 208 votes.
Former cabinet minister George Smith said Mr Wilchcombe’s challenge was “ill-advised”.
From the beginning Mr Davis and his allies saw the race as a test of his strength and embraced a strategy of putting himself at the centre of the contest, repeatedly reminding his base of his confidence in his team.
“The PLP has always, always reposed great faith in the leader of the party because they understand that the leader, despite all the assistance he may have, is who must be looked to for guidance and direction,” Mr Smith said yesterday.
“Bahamians repose great confidence in leaders in church and civil society so when Philip Davis indicated he was comfortable with the principle officers he had, unless you have an overriding reason to tell him ‘for this reason no,’ the convention would always go with him. Obie was ill-advised and I think that he misread his popularity. Bahamians never like to tell you ‘I prefer Harry to you,’ they will encourage you verbally but you must know how to read the signs.”
Nonetheless, Mr Smith believes Mr Mitchell would have won without Mr Davis’ full-fledged endorsement.
“He certainly would not have won with the overwhelming majority and as convincingly as he did,” he said, “but Fred would have pulled it out because he did perform in a satisfactory way as chairman.” Some delegates who spoke to The Tribune on the convention floor agreed.
“I voted for this team which we have here now because I believe this is a strong team and I don’t believe at this point in time we should show the public that we are divided,” said Janet Johnson. “Regardless of what the leader said about Mr Mitchell, I don’t see why you would try to fix something that is not broken. Mr Mitchell has done an awesome job holding this government’s feet to the fire.”
As for what the convention means for Mr Davis and the PLP, Mr Smith said: “The convention proves he is unquestionably, indisputably the leader of the PLP. His job now is to formulate platforms or programmes that we can articulate and promote throughout society.”