EDITOR, The Tribune.
The conclusion of Dr Minnis’ term as prime minister of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas came on September 16, 2021. He will also be the former leader of the Free National Movement (FNM) when they hold their convention on November 27th. These factors come as no surprise to the masses; the only people who seem to be stunned are a few loyal FNMs and Dr Minnis. Dr Minnis probably never realised that he was feeding his eventual demise through his silly talk and his refusal to properly articulate to the media his government’s policies and decisions. I believe that he mismanaged his opportunity as prime minister. I will explain.
First of all, Dr Minnis did not seek nor was interested in expert help during the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian.
He shunned former Prime Ministers Hubert Ingraham and Perry Christie and didn’t allow them to officially assist him after the greatest hurricane that ever made it to Bahamian landfall devastating Abaco and parts of Grand Bahama. In my view this was a mistake of epic proportions and history will always remember this.
There also appeared to be a logistical issue with getting donated hurricane supplies to affected victims. It’s been two years since the passage of hurricane Dorian and supplies have still not been issued to persons who need them. It is now public knowledge that some of the supplies have rotted or are no longer able to be used.
Secondly, some of the public was of the view that Dr Minnis, who was referred to as the Competent Authority during the emergency orders, was a one man wrecking crew. Leaked information and actions from former ministers clearly showed that some decisions made during the curfew were solely the works of Dr Minnis. I remember one incident when a high ranking minister was asked by reporters about rumours of a pending lockdown. He said that no lockdown was discussed by the Cabinet and then a few hours later The Competent Authority announced an immediate lockdown of New Providence. This caused a major public uproar and this decision was reversed a day or two later.
Additionally, the lack of respect for the media was another important factor in how Dr Minnis mismanaged his opportunity. As Prime Minister, Dr Minnis had a responsibility to properly inform the media about the business his government was conducting on behalf of the Bahamian people. Comments like “I going to eat my stew fish” and “I already answered that question”, greatly damaged his public image and that of the FNM. I think many Bahamians felt disrespected about his personal conduct with the media because his tone was always abrasive and matter of fact and he seldom provided clear answers on matters that affected the public interest. Didn’t Dr Minnis and the FNM in 2017 promise a government of transparency?
Furthermore, Dr Minnis calling an early general election was mind-boggling to many, including political pundits. With record COVID-19 infections and COVID-19 related deaths at the time, this appeared to show that he was completely out of touch and many Bahamians said that as a doctor he should have known better. Many Bahamians vowed to teach him a lesson for this and many FNMs did not cast their vote.
Moreover, there was unrest in the civil service about unpaid funds and nurses and other health care workers in particular were very unhappy with their remuneration packages. I can’t remember in recent times when a general election was called with so many outstanding issues.
The Oban and the Town Centre Mall Post Office deals along with the firing of the Bahamas Power and Light (BPL) board started to plant seeds of doubt about the Minnis administration.
Dr Minnis did cause the firing of Dr Duane Sands after he was caught up in a breach of the emergency orders.
He did cause his Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Peter Turnquest to resign after a financial scandal involving a private company was publicized. Dr Minnis did cause utility bill payments to be suspended for a time because unemployment in 2020 after the pandemic hit had reached record levels. Most of all Dr. Minnis exercised his authority to cause one part of his social welfare plan to financially assist thousands of Bahamians who received much needed National Insurance Board (NIB) cheques shortly after the country was shut down in March of last year. This was indeed very commendable and he showed superb leadership in this instance.
The aftermath of hurricane Dorian provided an opportunity for Dr Minnis to bring the country closer together. He did not do that. The lack of reporting on the true number of deaths due to the hurricane and the lack of a strong law enforcement presence specifically on the island of Abaco brought more despair to that community. Criminal activity was on the rise and illegal communities destroyed by hurricane Dorian started to be illegally rebuilt right under the government’s nose.
The pandemic spending which was under the watchful eye of Dr Minnis was, in my opinion, another missed opportunity for him to show that he could manage the country’s affairs properly. Requests from the Auditor General, Mr Terrance Bastian to provide reports on the pandemic spending went unanswered and the mistrust of the FNM government was heightened.
One of Dr Minnis’ famous quotes before he became prime minister was “One is one and two is two. I gave the answer. Bye bye.” This was during one of his comedic interviews when he was not in the mood to answer questions from the media. In hindsight, this was a sign of things to come.
A teary-eyed Dr Minnis announced in October that he will not seek leadership of the FNM at their convention on November 27. What was once a promising political career only five years ago has now turned into a forced early retirement.
Bye bye, Dr Minnis. You blew your chance of becoming prime minister of the Bahamas for a second term like your predecessors. The little political clout you had has evaporated. You have forfeited the chance to defend your crown.
This is exactly why it’s a new day. I don’t know if history will be kind to his legacy.
Jim Rohn said, “The challenge of leadership is to be strong, but not rude; be kind but not weak; be bold, but not bully; be thoughtful but not lazy; be humble but not timid; be proud, but not arrogant; have humour but without folly.”
November 10, 2021.