THE DEATH OF THE FNM

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Oswald Brown

Oswald Brown Writes

By OSWALD T. BROWN

Supporters of the Free National Movement (FNM) are still in a state of shock that the Bahamian people decided they could no longer tolerate the corrupt, vindictive and totally inept FNM government and overwhelmingly voted it out of power in the general election held on May 7.

To them it is “unbelievable” and “unthinkable” that the Bahamian electorate would reject their “Papa,” former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham, in such a decisive manner.

In fact, one of Ingraham’s most ardent supporters, Eileen Carron, publisher and editor of The Tribune, was so incensed that she made this stupid and nonsensical statement in the opening paragraph of her editorial the day after the election: “Bahamians went to the polls yesterday and showed the depth of their ingratitude to a man who had dedicated 35 selfless years to their service.”

It did not matter to this serial purveyor of blatant journalistic bias that Bahamians exercised their God-given rights in a democratic society to elect the government that they thought would be best for the country, and that Ingraham and the FNM had been a terribly bad government over the past five years.

The defeat of the FNM was so decisive that there is a body of opinion that the party cannot position itself to again make a credible attempt to become the government of this country before the 2027 general election. In fact, there are those who insist that FNM is now on its death bed.

One thing is certain: The FNM that exists today in no way resembles the political movement that was established at Jimmy Shepherd’s house on Spring Hills Farms in Fox Hill in 1971 by moderate members of the disbanded United Bahamian Party (UBP) and a group of former PLPs, historically referred to as The Dissident Eight: Cecil Wallace Whitfield, Arthur Foulkes, Warren Levarity, Maurice Moore, Dr. Curtis McMillan, James Shepherd, Dr. Elwood Donaldson and George Thompson.

The founding leader of the party was Cecil Wallace-Whitfield, a charismatic and skillful political operative. Wallace-Whitfield had a domineering personality and this led to a serious rift within the FNM, resulting in some leading members of the party establishing the Bahamas Democratic Party (BDP), under the leadership of Sir Kendal Isaacs, while the FNM remained under Wallace-Whitfield’s leadership. But both the FNM and the BDP were convincingly defeated by the PLP in the 1977 general election.

Realizing that they had made a drastic mistake by dividing the opposition forces, the FNM and the BDP reunited under the banner of the FNM, with Isaacs still as opposition leader heading into the 1982 general election. Once again they were soundly defeated by the PLP.

Five years later, with Isaacs still as its leader, the FNM was again defeated by PLP in the 1987 general election, after which Isaacs resigned and Wallace-Whitfield once again took over the helm of the party’s leadership.

Then in 1990, with Wallace-Whitfield battling lung cancer, Ingraham, who had been expelled from the PLP in 1984, joined the FNM. When Wallace-Whitfield died in May of 1990, Ingraham was elected FNM leader and he led the FNM to a landslide victory in the August 1992 general election, winning 32 of the then 49 seats in the House of Assembly.

There’s no disputing the fact that Ingraham’s first five-year term as Prime Minister was an unqualified success, but from the onset of his tenure as the country’s political leader there were reports of concern about his dictatorial tendencies among some of his colleagues. However, based on his promise that he only intended to serve two terms as Prime Minister, they considered this to be an ego issue and not an indication that he had plans of becoming The Bahamas’ equivalent of Haiti’s notorious despot, Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier.

After leading the FNM again to victory in 1997, Ingraham embarked on his second five-year term still promising to only serve two terms as Prime Minister, and he certainly indicated that he intended to keep that promise when he orchestrated a special election within the FNM in 2001 to select a leader-designate and a deputy leader-designate, throwing his full support during the campaign behind Tommy Turnquest as leader-designate and Dion Foulkes as deputy leader-designate.

But after the PLP’s stunning victory at the polls in 2002, Ingraham went back on his word to serve only two terms and urged his supporters within the FNM to mount a campaign to encourage the party to have him return as FNM leader, although he had given a firm promise to Turnquest that he would not seek the leadership position. Of course, he was restored as leader of the FNM, and led the party to victory in 2007.

It was probably at this time that Ingraham really realized that he could do whatever he wanted to do within the FNM without worrying about a backlash from original FNMs.

In the five years between 2007 to the recent general election, Ingraham skillfully emasculated all original FNMs with leadership potential and cunningly made every effort to erase the leadership legacy of Cecil Wallace-Whitfield. His transformation of the original FNM into his failed Third Force party became a fact, if not in name in reality, during the recent election campaign when he demonstrated his dictatorial control of the party by successfully encouraging supporters of the FNM to call him “Papa.”

Many of those who slavishly started referring to him by this nickname probably did not realize that they were inflating his ego to continue what some political observers believe was his plan to establish a dictatorial regime in The Bahamas similar to the ruthless control of Haiti by Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier, who ruled Haiti from 1957 to the time of his death in 1971.

But the Bahamian electorate had the good sense to vote him out of power before he could accomplish what many were convinced was his objective.

Nonetheless, an argument could be made that Hubert Ingraham has achieved what he set out to do. Many political observers believe that from the very outset Ingraham’s plan was to transform the FNM into the failed Third Force party that he established after he was kicked out of the PLP in 1984 by getting rid of all of the original FNMs, especially those capable of challenging him for the leadership.

Indeed, all of the original FNMs who were considered to be possible future leaders of the party lost their bids for re-election, as the party won only nine of the 38 seats in the House of Assembly. Hence my conclusion that the original FNM party is dead and has been replaced by Hubert Ingraham’s Third Force party.