Will Ingraham return?
PHILIP C. GALANIS
Published: Aug 19, 2013
Twenty-one years ago today the Free National Movement (FNM), led by former Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) chairman, member of Parliament and Cabinet minister Hubert Ingraham, defeated the PLP after the latter’s 25 consecutive year rule, which commenced on Majority Rule Day on January 10, 1967. The FNM’s victory on August 19, 1992 was impressive and ended the (Lynden) Pindling era – a chapter in Bahamian history that will not likely be repeated either in its longevity or in its unprecedented series of success stories that marked the 25 years of the Pindling administration.
Last week, in Ingraham’s letter to the editor that appeared in the two major dailies, he caustically criticized the Christie Cabinet for seeking to alter the Baha Mar deal that was executed during Ingraham’s last term in office. The re-emergence of Ingraham prompted several Bahamians to ask the question which is the topic of this week’s Consider This... will Hubert Ingraham return to frontline politics as we approach the general election of 2017?
Did he ever leave?
Last year on election night, before all the votes were even counted, Ingraham conceded the election to Christie and the PLP. During his ungracious concession speech, Ingraham announced that he did not intend to take his seat in Parliament and would immediately resign, first as the party leader and then from Parliament at the earliest possible date. To his credit, Ingraham respected the time-honored parliamentary convention of resigning as the party leader after being defeated, a lesson that neither of his PLP nemeses appreciated or acquiesced to in the face of their electoral defeats.
However, the resignation from his seat in Parliament was not only a slap in the face for the voters of North Abaco. It also smacked of the rantings and ravings of a very sore loser. Earlier in the election campaign, Ingraham was fully prepared and had even pleaded with Bahamians to allow him to lead the government just one more time. But having faced such a crushing defeat, he determined that it was either his way or the highway. Ostensibly, he elected to take the highway. But did he?
At that time, and in the months that followed, many Bahamians felt that they had seen the back of Hubert Alexander Ingraham. There are others, this writer included, who had hoped for a kinder, gentler Ingraham who would evolve into an elder statesman, constructively contributing to the development of his party and our community that he served for so many years. It is singularly unfortunate that in our body politic we have not yet found the formula or developed the maturity to honor and learn from those who have given so much for so many years, with no regard for their party affiliation. Perhaps in time that will change.
On election night, this writer participated in the election returns on Cable Bahamas and speculated that, in all likelihood, we had not seen the last of Ingraham. That perception was rooted in three irrefutable observations: first, that Ingraham is, was and perhaps always will be what pundits describe as a “political junkie” – that is, a person who eats, drinks and sleeps politics. Politics is inextricably interwoven into his being and such people thrive on engaging in and aspiring to perfect their art.
The second reason for believing that Ingraham was going nowhere is that he had played that tune before, the first time immediately after his party’s defeat in 2002. He was often absent from the House of Assembly, was disengaged from active politics, until, at the 11th hour, he was ‘drafted’ by his colleagues and a coterie of cronies who felt that he was their and the country’s savior, who should not be deprived of his second coming. And so, after giving assurances to the ‘Young Turks’ in his party that he would not seek the leadership, Ingraham was again anointed as the chosen one to lead the charge in the elections of 2007. He was again successful at the polls, ushering in his third non-consecutive term as prime minister.
Third, Ingraham, who is known to frequently dispense rancorous disparagements about others, has an infinitely low threshold for being on the receiving end of such criticisms. In Bahamian parlance, he gives far better than he receives. Recognizing this personality deficit, it is easy to understand that Ingraham decided immediately after his defeat that he would not allow the victorious PLP to excoriate and berate him while he sat in Parliament. He simply did not have the stomach for that.
It is for these three reasons that we maintain that he never really left, but, rather, took a hiatus, allowing those he left in charge, Tommy T in the first instance and Hubert M in the latter, to believe that he had passed the torch to a new generation of FNM politicians.
Will he return?
We believe that there is a very strong possibility that he will return. Ingraham is a very clever politician. Like an astute soccer player, he is constantly looking for an opening to score a goal. Just one year after being defeated, he has seen that opening in the controversy that has enveloped the stem cell debate and its appendage of the Nygard factor. Let’s not forget that the last time Ingraham returned was on the heels of the Anna Nicole scandal. He must be thanking his lucky stars that, perhaps, the political gods may have gifted him a situation where history seems to be repeating itself.
Additionally, Ingraham is famous for not selecting strong successors. We saw that in 2002 and again a decade later. In the absence of a strong successor, he is bound to appear to be the party’s ‘knight in shining armor’, riding to the rescue.
Also, again in Bahamian parlance, Ingraham is not known for ‘taking last’. Clearly, he does not want his political legacy to include defeat at the hands of someone he does not see as his political equal.
Ingraham recognizes that by 2017 the recession that plagued much of his last term will be over and he would like to take advantage of that to seize the opportunity for a fourth non-consecutive term to complete his unfinished agenda.
The best laid plans
If Ingraham is harboring such thoughts, he should think again. He will have many obstacles to overcome, not the least of which will be his perceived betrayal of those steady soldiers he left behind to bear the brunt of his failings while in office such as the give-away of BaTelCo to foreigners, the obscene expenditure overruns on the New Providence roadwork, the record-high deficits and national debt that mounted up on his watch, and the wasteful spending of nearly $50 million on the poorly conceived $25 million 52-week jobs program, just to mention a few.
Perhaps the most laughable sentiment expressed by Ingraham in his letter to the editor last week was his disdain for The Bahamas (PLP) government reneging on previously executed agreements. This from the author of the stop, review and cancel policies that the FNM adopted vis-à-vis many of the agreements that the PLP had left in place.
We believe that Ingraham never really left and now would like yet another chance. He was given that opportunity by the good people of North Abaco, but they were essentially told that they were not enough. Perhaps Ingraham is hoping that Bahamians will have short memories and that the PLP will once again be inundated in a string of scandals that will pave the path for his second return.
However, notwithstanding his compelling track record of stunning returns from political obscurity and the potent and powerful force of his personality and political will, has Ingraham correctly assessed the fact that the voter of 2017 is not the voter of 1992 or even of 2007? Will that voter, some of whom were not even born in 1992 or able to vote in 2007, welcome another return of Ingraham, this time a 70-year-old man, with open arms? Only time will tell.
• Philip C. Galanis is the managing partner of HLB Galanis & Co., Chartered Accountants, Forensic & Litigation Support Services. He served 15 years in Parliament. Please send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.