The battle for leadership of the FNM

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Oswald Brown Writes –

Oswald Brown

By OSWALD T. BROWN

I’m still trying to figure out how severe the political fallout will be within the Free National Movement (FNM) over the vicious verbal attack on FNM leader Dr. Hubert Minnis in a commentary on Facebook by Sharon Turner, a “special friend” of former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham.

Given Turner’s close ties to Ingraham, personal and otherwise, it is safe to assume that she was acting on his instructions when she wrote her invective-filled commentary that, among other things, revealed that there were strong disagreements between Ingraham and Dr. Minnis during the campaign leading up to the recent Abaco bye-election.

For example, Turner’s commentary includes this startling revelation: “You, who allegedly met with FNMs on the night of the by-election loss and told them that you were actually not upset that the Party lost, allegedly saying the loss was actually ‘blessing in disguise because now they can finally and once and for all get rid of Hubert Ingraham.’ Why didn’t you go to the FNMs who worked long and hard and worked faithfully on the ground to try to get a victory and tell them that you were actually secretly pleased the Party was beaten at the polls? Why didn’t you tell them what a wonderful opportunity and blessing you thought the crushing defeat was for the Party? Why didn’t you go to Abaco and tell them that one of your primary interests was to try to wipe away any vestige of their former MP from the psyche of the FNM?”

This clearly explains why Ingraham decided to send a press release to the media conceding that FNM candidate Greg Gomez, whom he had personally chosen, had lost the election.

Whether or not Dr. Minnis has enough support within the FNM to survive as leader of the party depends on just how “fed up” the party’s hierarchy and the majority of the rank-and-file members of the FNM were with Ingraham’s dictatorial style of leadership.

The photo accompanying this story, Sharon Turner is seen, camera in hand, with former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham. For most of Ingraham’s recent five-year tenure as Prime Minister, she was his personal photographer and public relations writer. Officially, she was “hired” as Deputy Director of BIS based in Freeport, but spent very little time in Grand Bahama; rather, she accompanied Ingraham on many of his foreign trips.

For some long-time committed FNMs like Kendal Wright, an incumbent PLP Member of Parliament who was denied a nomination to run in the last general election for no other reason than the fact that Ingraham did not like him, this could be payback. The same is true about Pierre Dupuch, who was a very capable Minister in Ingraham’s cabinet before he incurred the wrath of Ingraham and was forced to resign.

Of course, former prominent Ministers in Ingraham’s cabinet like Tennyson Wells and Algernon Allen who also had difficulties with Ingraham’s style of governance have moved on to do bigger and better things outside of politics, but both could very likely use their still considerable influence in the FNM to give meaningful support to Dr. Minnis when Ingraham launches his full assault to remove him as leader.

Another major factor that needs to be considered in determining whether Dr. Minnis is standing on “solid ground” as leader is whether he has the support of former Deputy Prime Minister Brent Symonette and those remaining members of the former UBP faction that helped to establish the FNM back in 1972, like Sir Jeffrey Johnstone, who in the past has publicly demonstrated his loyalty to Ingraham.

To be sure, Brent Symonette still remembers the unflattering remarks Ingraham made about him in an article published by the Nassau Guardian as part of its series of articles based on “confidential” information made public by the website Wikileaks. In one of the articles Ingraham dismissed any possibility of Symonette ever being Prime Minister due to his “personality and lack of appeal” outside the bounds of his wealthy constituency.

FNM Leader Hon. Dr. Hubert Minnis

And then there’s Sir Orville Turnquest, who although retired from front-line politics still wields a great deal of influence inside the FNM. His son Tommy Turnquest became leader of the FNM after winning a special election organized by the FNM in 2001 to select a leader-designate to replace Ingraham, who had solidly promised to serve only two terms as Prime Minister. Ingraham, however, double-crossed Tommy after the FNM lost the 2002 general election and urged his supporters within the FNM to mount a campaign to have him return as leader of the part, which he did and led the FNM to victory in 2007.

The Turnquest family is a very closely knit group and Sir Orville may likewise consider the current situation propitious for revenge against Ingraham. Unfortunately, Tommy lost his bid for re-election in the May 7 general election, making it extremely difficult for him to continue to pursue his dream to become Prime Minister, but he may decide to join forces with Dr. Minnis to block any attempt by Ingraham to regain the stranglehold he has held for more than two decades on the FNM’s leadership.

To be sure, Ingraham has some rabid supporters in the FNM who will wage a no-holds-barred war to ensure that he remains the pre-eminent leader of the FNM, even though he has “officially” retired from front-line politics.

Sharon Turner’s tirade against Dr. Minnis is just the first salvo, and unless her scathing assault on Dr. Minnis was just a result of her personal hurt from seeing someone that she admires so much “put in his place” by Dr. Minnis, we can expect a torrent of criticism of Dr. Minnis from Ingraham supporters as the battle for the leadership of the FNM continues.

If nothing else, this will be interesting political theatre in the weeks and months ahead.