Time to be fish or fowl
Published: Jan 11, 2017
Dr. Hubert Minnis, leader of the Free National Movement (FNM), effectively ousted the so-called “Rebel Seven” from the FNM, and they effectively left the party. Now each must be what he or she must be.
No matter what anyone says, the FNM is not “all together now”. Some of its members have left; others are considering leaving; and many are staying with a level of disgust that suggests that they might as well leave. Minnis is overseeing a house of cards. Charges of deceit, tribalism, insecurity and selfishness have rocked the party to its core.
The latest such charge came from the FNM’s Long Island Association. There is lot of activity by the party, for sure, but activity and effectiveness are not the same. Yes, the FNM may win the next election, but winning is not vindication, even if it feels good. The organization is not whole, and an unhealthy political party as government is not good for the nation.
In recent reporting, Loretta Butler-Turner, now leader of the opposition, is reported as saying she did not leave the FNM. In effect, yes she did, and so did her colleagues. You cannot oust the leader of the party as leader of the opposition without the consent of the party’s council or support of the majority of its supporters, and not have it seen as betrayal. In that circumstance, you should tender your resignation, settled in the notion that what you do, you do for the good of the nation. One thing is true, no political party is more important than the nation. It is the nation that gives meaning to a political party, not the other way around. To make a move, no matter how seemingly injurious to a political party, that is in the interest of the nation, if that is what you believe, is something not to be ashamed of.
Butler-Turner needs to move on. She must not look back. She has set her course and now she must take it to its natural end. To do this, she must not think in terms of getting elected but in terms of being effective for the country. The Bahamian people need champions, people prepared to see the truth, speak the truth and pursue the truth. Sometimes that truth must be spoken for the people, and sometimes it must be spoken to the people. What they do not need are panderers merely looking for power, panderers who have no plans for effectively using power to make Bahamians better off. Butler-Turner must use her position, as leader of the opposition, with skill and potency to be what that position demands – a voice of reason, enlightenment and advocacy for better. If she does this, she will reap many rewards, now and into the future. Her choice was a hard choice; it was not broadly popular. But if it was rooted in principle, she must be resolved.
As for the next election, Butler-Turner cannot expect to run on an FNM ticket. That is simply unreasonable. She must run as an independent, or as a part of another party – her own or one of the others in existence. Given the mood of the population, there is truly room for capable, compelling and compassionate independent candidates. Bahamians truly may elect some of them in this present climate. But be sure, mediocrity will not draw them. Wishy-washy will not attract them. And they will not support anyone looking back. This is a time for courage, conviction, clarity and compelling. Butler-Turner has the ability to exhibit all these traits, but she must do what she must to express them. Her deeds must cause people to erase any doubts they have about her gender, or her commitment to the singular cause of their betterment. Only genuine service will make this possible.
These are hard times for politicians in The Bahamas. People are fed up, frustrated and shifty. They want their lives to be better economically, socially and politically. Their hearts feel sick from years and years of failed promises they feel were made by succeeding governments, and they are looking for a way out. It is not uncommon to hear Bahamians say, “I have never seen it like this in all my life.” I heard it yesterday passing through the airport in New Providence – and the person who said it was working.
When you are in an environment of fear, the best way to survive, and to excel, is to be fish or fowl. Be true to yourself; know what you are about; and be about that. Whatever the outcome of your deeds, they can only vindicate you in the end – not necessarily with victory, but with dignity. No fish, no fowl is ashamed of itself. Operating in their own space, their movement is a wonder to behold.
• Zhivargo Laing is a Bahamian economic consultant and former Cabinet minister who represented the Marco City constituency in the House of Assembly.