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The Minnis Interregnum

FORMER Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis’ press release announcing his decision not to run for the leadership of the Free National Movement (FNM) at its upcoming November 27 National Convention wasn’t a coincidence to many observers.

It came shortly after former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham told the media emphatically that Minnis will not be the FNM leader after convention, which was interpreted as the old guard washing its hands of Minnis. Even blind Stevie Wonder can see that the relationship between the two is strained.

I am left to wonder if Ingraham is salivating in the humiliating defeat the FNM suffered in the September 16 general election, which has left Minnis’ hold on the leadership vulnerable.

I say this because Ingraham, while he publicly endorsed Dr Duane Sands in Elizabeth, he did not do the same for Minnis in Killarney or at the national level.

When a photo of Ingraham, Perry Christie and Prime Minister Philip Brave Davis went viral on Facebook in the lead-up to September 16, certain Bahamians saw that as Ingraham’s tacit endorsement of his former law associate. All three are political proteges of the late Sir Lynden O Pindling.

Minnis, on the other hand, is viewed as an outsider who just happened to be in the right place at the right time to wrest control of the beleaguered FNM in 2012, subsequent to the retirement of Ingraham.

In the 2012 general election, the Ingraham-led FNM only won nine seats to the Progressive Liberal Party’s (PLP) 29. In addition to Ingraham and Minnis, Neko Grant, Peter Turnquest, Hubert Chipman, Theo Neilly, Loretta Butler-Turner, Edison Key and Richard Lightbourn were the only FNMs that won their constituencies in 2012. FNM heavyweights such as Tommy Turnquest, Zhivargo Laing and Dion Foulkes all lost their individual contests. Any of the three, had they been successful at the polls, would’ve automatically assumed the role of FNM leader. All three are political proteges of Ingraham. In fact, Ingraham had chosen Turnquest to succeed him as FNM leader in 2002.

I believe Ingraham’s abrupt decision to retire from frontline politics in 2012, which entailed him abdicating his North Abaco seat, paved the way for Minnis to assume the leadership role of the FNM. Ingraham’s win in 2012 in North Abaco was his eighth consecutive. His retirement would subsequently lead to a by-election in that area, between the PLP’s Renardo Curry and the FNM’s Greg Gomez, who was handpicked by Ingraham.

Gomez was marred in controversy, however. His candidacy, I believe, spelled the beginning of the end of Minnis’ relationship with Ingraham. Minnis’ ominous statement to the media after the by-election that the “Ingraham era is over” deeply offended many diehard Ingrahamites. Obviously, North Abaconians were not at all impressed with Gomez, who only secured 1,513 votes to Curry’s 2,367 – a 854 margin of victory.

Conversely, Ingraham had only tallied 379 more votes or 2,235 to Curry’s 1,856. Clearly, the FNM under Ingraham was very unpopular in 2012 and needed a change. The problem facing the party then was that its assumed future leaders had all been wiped out in the election, leaving Minnis and Butler-Turner, who were the only two FNM MPs that had served in the Ingraham Cabinet.

I find it interesting that so many FNM Parliamentarians have had grave difficulty in getting along with the outgoing FNM leader. Individuals such as Neko Grant, Butler-Turner, Hubert Chipman, Richard Lightbourn, Frederick McAlpine, Reece Chipman, Vaughn Miller and even Dr Andre Rollins (assuming that he’s a bona-fide FNM) have all had a falling-out with Minnis. It would also appear that Minnis’ relationship with Peter Turnquest and Dr Duane Sands is strained.

Moreover, another issue that was so uncharacteristic of the FNM with Minnis was its anti-media posture. It was the FNM under Ingraham that advanced journalism in The Bahamas, removing ZNS’s stranglehold on the industry. Also disturbing are media allegations of nepotism within the FNM administration – something that would’ve never been tolerated under Ingraham.

The Minnis administration was the most unFNM government I have ever seen. This was just one of the reasons I chose not to vote last month, something I had never done before. Personally, I am glad that the PLP had won, if for no other reason than it has afforded the FNM an opportunity to press the reset button. The FNM under Minnis had deviated from the core values laid down by Sir Cecil Wallace-Whitfield.

Minnis has publicly repented for his political shortcomings at the FNM’s 50th anniversary service at the Church of God of Prophecy on East Street. One of his shortcomings appears to have been his inability to get along with many within his Parliamentary caucus – an issue that eroded the FNM’s support among prominent members. Minnis’ rapid ascension as FNM leader and prime minister was unique, in that he became leader of The Bahamas a mere 10 years after entering frontline politics. It took Christie 30 years (if I am correct that he was appointed to the Senate in 1972) and Ingraham 15 years. Minnis has been FNM leader for nine years. However, his tenure is beginning to feel like an interregnum. It feels as if the party has held onto him as leader on an interim basis that has spanned nearly a decade, and is now prepared to part ways with a man who led the party to an unusual election victory in 2017.

KEVIN EVANS

Freeport, Grand Bahama

October 25, 2021.

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