Friday, January 17, 2014

Rooting for the coronation

THE document penned by former Tillman Thomas Chief of Staff William Joseph about why Nazim Burke is a bad choice for leader of the National Democratic Congress makes interesting reading.

 And rather than his former comrades in the NDC making a frank and mature analysis of his arguments, they have -- as is their way of operation -- resorted to name calling; as if by smearing Joseph with all the bad brushes they can suddenly find, will make a lot of the points not relevant.

  While Willie is the most vocal against the pending Burke leadership he is not alone. Even George Worme has pause about the idea, and would rather Franka Bernardine. Phinsley St Louis thinks the party is about to commit another political suicide. Ken Joseph thinks it is all finished.

  Unfortunately for Willie and some of his other friends the pending February 2 coronation of Burke as NDC leader is inevitable.

  This was a play that has been in the making since 2002 (at least) -- and I know because I used to have Friday evening meetings with the leader-designate at Ciboney Chambers.

  As with the likes of Arley Gill, Kenrick Fullerton and Michael Church -- my first real contact with the modern NDC was with Burke -- not anybody else.

  Within three months of meetings, I was convinced that he was not good to lead the party or the country. (Forgive me if I don't want to go into details about that just yet).

  Only this week, someone reminded me of the conversation I initiated about the issue in the lead up to the 2003 general elections.

  I said to the likes of Peter David at the time, words to the effect: "I know you all are bent on promoting Naz in the long-term, as leader of this party. I know you all regard him as a comrade and everything, but if that was to happen it will be a colossal mistake; it will be unfair to the nation and I will break ranks and fight all of all-you."

  It is a pity Willie and company did not see it coming until now. I saw it from a mile away.

  I predicted it since 2003 -- and how I wish for their sake, I was wrong.

  The leadership of Tillman Thomas has, to be fair, long passed its sell-by date. 

Truth be told, if he had adhered to his mantra of accountability -- the essence of which is responsibility -- he should have resigned the night of the last elections as party leader. (But that's one of the many contradictions of the former prime minister).

  Up to this very moment, Thomas has not taken responsibility for such a humiliation of the NDC at the polls and a near-fatal tainting of the brand.

  Everything Thomas eventually got, he deserved, and the "No Tilly, No NDC" was just, in the end, an inappropriate but convenient election slogan.

  My fresh prediction is that the new NDC under Burke will so seek to remake the party after February 2, that Thomas would not even be mentioned as a footnote to its history.

  Naz and anyone have a right to desire to replace Tillo after the beating of last year. To be fair to them, it would have been untenable and unwise to tie their political futures to such a failed leader.

   That said, Tillman's ultimate failure would not have happened so spectacularly if the seeds were not sown by Naz and his friends since 2002.

  Here is how the strategy unfolded over the years: try to get anyone who might stand in the way of Burke's planned coronation by seeking to bring them in disrepute in the party, knowing that down the road a weak Tillman won't be able to stop anything.

   Never mind the humiliation and the loss of power -- that 12 year plan has worked well. Give Burke and his crew credit for that.

  One of the ironies of the NDC, while in power between 2008 and 2013, is that Thomas succeeded in getting rid of all the major players who stood up to defend his leadership while in opposition -- especially with the two attempts to formally move against his leadership.

   The likes of Gill, Gilbert, David, Glynis Roberts, Colin LaBarie, Michael Lett, Pauline Andrew and Jerome Joseph were veterans in that struggle to whip delegates into line, when the Burke camp, with the late Teddy Victor as their chief surrogate, looked to remove  Thomas.

  One of those crazy attempted suicide missions, as we called it then, was in the aftermath of the 2003 elections when the party came from nowhere to almost win that poll.

  Instead of consolidation and moving forward, these crazy men were then talking about removing the leader. (In hindsight maybe they were right. It would have saved Grenada some blushes).

  Having being barred twice from challenging Tillo, the Naz camp decided soon after the 2008 election victory, to a strategy of divide-and-rule  -- separate the new leader from people such as David, Roberts and Lett.

   They played to Tillo's worst fears, and by the convention of 2009 at the GBSS Auditorium they moved to take control of the party with all their henchmen, leaving only the leadership and the general secretaryship (understanding they could not challenge those).

  That was the convention of the unceremonious sacking of LaBarie as chairman, when Glen Noel took over; and Naz, against advice from some of us, went from PRO to deputy leader after they railroaded George Prime.

   Sensing trouble on the horizon, David gave one of his better political speeches -- the "we've come too far to lose the vision too soon" address.

  The sometimes naive and too-trusting man he can often be, David came out of the convention still upbeat that in spite of some bad signs, the party won't be divided and everybody would go forward together.

  But it was that Sunday I began to be convinced, barring some divine intervention, the suicide pact was sealed.

  And so it all culminated in the 2010 "swearing in stand-off".

  That, to me, was another telling moment. With the government on the brink of collapse, Burke went missing in action.

  In frantic dialogue and conversations on how to solve the crisis, Burke consulted no one. Never gave his input.

  I asked myself then - what kind of deputy leader is that  -- who will not engage his colleagues at a time of such deep crisis?

  His excuse afterwards when confronted on the issue: he did not want to insert himself from fear of further inflaming the situation.

  (My theory is that he wanted it to collapse, understanding that both the likes of Tillo and Pedro will be swept away, and he would be the last man standing to lead the party).

   Well it came a few years later.

  He is the last man standing wanting to lead. He deserves that NDC, and NDC deserves him. (Never mind the legitimate questions being asked about the scholarship money).

  I don't know why Willie and dem want to rain on the man's parade.

  Let's all enjoy the coronation, and then see what happens next!

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