FREEPORT, Grand Bahama –During his address at the Progressive Liberal Party’s mass rally on March 18 in Grand Bahama, which is now certifiably PLP Country, PLP Leader Perry Christie, in pledging that the PLP will conduct a clean campaign, enumerated the reasons why the next general elections in The Bahamas will be fought on the issues.
Referring to this in his address at the FNM’s mass rally the following evening at Clifford Park in New Providence, Prime Minister Hubert “THE DICTATOR” Ingraham stressed that leadership will also be a major issue during the campaign, clearly inferring that his leadership qualities are better than Christie’s. That conclusion, of course, is debatable, given the fact that the two former law partners have totally different styles of leadership. Ingraham is a domineering and intimidating leader who seems to think that the title Prime Minister gives him the right to micro-manage all of the ministries in his government, while Christie, during his recent five-year tenure as Prime Minister, demonstrated that he believes in the consultative approach to governance. Much to his detriment, this approach sometimes resulted in him not making decisions in a timely fashion and subsequently being criticized as being indecisive on matters of a critical nature.
In fact, when I was editor of The Freeport News, I made this claim on more than one occasion in an editorial or in my column, OSWALD BROWN WRITES. A very good friend of mine reminded me of this last week after seeing a picture of me at the PLP rally in Grand Bahama and questioned how someone who was so critical of Christie as a leader could now be singing his praises and a strong supporter of the PLP. This is a very legitimate question, and one that I shall attempt to answer as best I can. But to do so requires a little background history of my “involvement” in politics.
It is no secret that I was a strong supporter of the FNM. In fact, I was one of its founding members in 1972 and the founding editor of The Torch, the party’s newspaper. But the fact of the matter is that people do change when circumstances dictate that change is essential. The need to change my political perspective became a reality for me when I was forced to “retire” as editor of The Freeport News because I had become highly critical of the FNM and Ingraham’s style of leadership. I shall at some point in the near future go into more details as to why the circumstances surrounding by removal as editor of The Freeport News led to me reaching this decision, but the truth is that it was not too difficult a decision for me to “return home” to the PLP; my early roots in the PLP were to some extent stronger than my affiliation with the FNM.
I became a rabid supporter of the PLP in 1962 when I was a young reporter at The Tribune. One of the PLP’s dynamic young leaders at the time was Arthur Foulkes, the current Governor General, who is one of two individuals (the other being Sir Etienne Dupuch) that I credit as being responsible for whatever I have achieved as a journalist. So it was only natural that I would become an enthusiastic supporter of the PLP, and those who are familiar with my radical nature at the time can recall just how avid a supporter I was. In the 1960s I was an avowed Black Power advocate, who subscribed to Malcolm X’s philosophy of effecting change “by any means necessary” and totally committed to doing whatever this simply stated philosophy implied. But as I’ve already stated: People change when circumstances dictate that change is essential.
I left The Tribune in 1966 when the PLP was gearing up to mount a strong campaign for the upcoming general elections in 1967. Foulkes at the time was one of the PLP’s most dynamic speakers, and Lynden Pindling was instrumental in helping me to make that life-changing decision. He felt that for Foulkes to have the time to put into the campaign that would be required of him, he would need help at The Times. At the time I was making a very good salary at The Tribune, but I did not hesitate to leave, even though I knew that The Times could not afford to pay me what I was making at The Tribune.
After the PLP won the January 10, 1967 general election, Pindling arranged for me to go to London for one year’s training in advanced journalism on the staff of The London Evening Standard, one of Great Britain’s leading newspapers. It was while I was in London, from 1968 to 1969, that I got to know Perry Christie very well. I knew him as an outstanding athlete in Nassau in the early 1960s when I initially covered sports for The Tribune, but it was in London that we became very good friends.
I was not an “ordinary” student in London. The journalist union required that I be paid a salary, so I had a one-bedroom flat in West London, a couple blocks from West Brompton tube station. My flat was always well stocked with food and liquor, and just about every Bahamian student who was in England at the time attended one of my parties or simply dropped by on weekends.
There was something special about Perry Christie even way back then that convinced me that he would have a successful career in politics. He was then, and still is today, a brilliant orator and exuded the kind of charisma that is a tremendous asset to anyone planning a career in politics. I recall that in 1969, the student union held a debate on the topic, “Independence for The Bahamas, Now,” with myself and Michael Turner, who was studying finance at the time but is currently a very successful lawyer in Nassau, arguing in support of the proposition and Christie and Joseph Hollingsworth, who was studying law, opposing. Christie and Hollingsworth won that debate hands-down, mainly on the strength of Christie’s persuasive presentation.
I returned to The Bahamas in November of 1969 and was immediately faced with having to make a crucial decision, one that literally redirected the course of my life, which at the time I thought would be in front-line politics as the representative for Central Andros whenever Clarence Bain, the then PLP representative for the area, either died or retired from politics. Several months before I returned to Nassau, Premier Lynden Pindling had fired Foulkes as Minister of Tourism and Warren Levarity, who just about everyone involved in the PLP during the progressive struggle would agree was the best political strategist in the party, as Minister of Transport.
I became editor of The Times, but it became quite apparent to Pindling that I still disagreed with the firing of Foulkes and Levarity. In March of 1970 he called me to his office in the Churchill Building and accused me of having Foulkes write some of my editorials. The curse words that I used can’t be repeated in this column, but suffice it to say that that very same day I was fired at editor of The Bahamian Times. When the Dissident Eight broke away from the PLP in 1970 I followed them, and the rest, as they say, is history.
This background of my involvement in politics should explain why “going back home” to the PLP was not a difficult decision for me to make. The remaining question to be answered is this: Why have I changed my opinion of Christie’s style of governance?
Again, as I’ve stated twice previously, people change when circumstances dictate that change is essential. The Perry Christie that delivered the masterful speech I heard at the PLP mass rally in Grand Bahama two Fridays ago reminded me of the same Perry Christie that I knew in London. We won’t know until the PLP wins the next general elections and he becomes Prime Minister whether he will decide to be more aggressive in handling his prime ministerial duties, but there should be no doubt in anyone’s mind at this point in time that he is indeed a far better choice to be Prime Minister of The Bahamas than Hubert “THE DICTATOR” Ingraham.
Ingraham has demonstrated over and repeatedly that he has all the traits of an absolute dictator, and I am convinced that if he is given another five years as Prime Minister of The Bahamas, democracy as we know it in this country would cease to exist. That’s the sort of gamble no Bahamian who loves and cherishes freedom should be prepared to take.
In the case of Christie, although I fully believe that he will change the opinions of critics of his first term as Prime Minister, one of the reasons why I am highly optimistic that the next PLP government will manage the affairs of this country extremely well is that we have a very capable deputy leader in Philip “Brave” Davis and an excellent mixture of seasoned and young politicians who will help to properly run this country, not as a one-man show but as a group offering their best advice to their leader.
So Ingraham is absolutely correct when he says that leadership will be a major issue in the next election. To be sure, there is no comparison between Christie and Ingraham with regard to which man has more compassion for the “small man” and, indeed, all Bahamians. Therefore, the leadership decision Bahamians will be faced with is whether they want a leader who believes in the principles of democracy and is supported by a good team, whose advice he welcomes, or a leader who runs a one-man show and listens to no one, an absolute dictator.