I had a four-hour lunch with Dr. David Hinds of the WPA and Leonard Craig of the AFC at German’s yesterday and people would come up and talk about the news of the AFC going into the local government elections alone.
My words to Craig are that a very uncertain future awaits the AFC and this is because I do not think the APNU+AFC regime has performed. I said openly at the table that a third party and the imminent Amerindian party are going to reshape the electoral landscape.
For the purpose of this article, I should have offered the number of columns I penned on the AFC since it went into power. I honestly don’t know what more I can analyze about the AFC. In my next piece on the AFC, I will give readers the exact numbers I have written. I have been asked countless times since the AFC announcement what I think will happen to the AFC.
I will not answer in this article because I will be looking at the electoral prospects of the AFC in forthcoming pieces but without dwelling on its likely showing in local government polls, I think some historical notes should be offered. Why did Walter Rodney capture the imagination of Guyanese in the seventies?
Indians felt that the PPP, even under Jagan, could not mount an effective opposition to the Burnham Government. For a majority of Indians who wanted the Burnham administration to be removed, Rodney offered the better chance. Rodney became very popular in areas in the countryside that were virtually under the ownership of Jagan since the fifties.
For African Guyanese, (and this was quite discernible in Linden) Burnham had failed them as a hero. Rightly or wrongly, they bought into Rodney’s message that Independence did not lead to the liberation of the masses. Rodney offered them that liberation and they supported him. What Rodney received from the Guyanese people was a desire to see a new party outdo the only ones they had to contend with – PPP and PNC.
When the AFC was born, there was a reversion to the seventies. Like Walter Rodney, Guyanese saw the AFC as a necessary “Third Force” devoid of the trappings of race and party domination. The AFC became an overnight sensation because people felt they had enough of the PNC and the PPP and the race baggage they carried.
The AFC then was the counterweight to the two tribalist organizations. It was a time in Guyanese history when citizens just felt that Guyana needed new faces, new politics, new directions.
One of the factors that the AFC had as a natural advantage was that it was founded by persons who came out of the old order with one of its founders, Sheila Holder, even leaving the WPA on the basis that that party had outlived its usefulness.
Raphael Trotman cut from the PNC, Khemraj Ramjattan cut from the PPP. For Guyanese fed up with the PNC and the PPP, these two men offered a third pathway as Rodney did in the seventies.
The AFC echoed a very powerful message – “It is time.” That message captured the imagination of the nation, especially a country with a young population. People interpreted “it is time” to mean that the time had come for new leadership in Guyana. The AFC defied the pattern in the English-speaking Caribbean of short-lived third parties. It just didn’t pick up a seat or two. It won six seats at its first try, then, added to that in its second elections in 2011.
The AFC came into power in 2015. Then the phenomenon that captured the hearts and mind of people began to wane. The AFC did not carry its powerful symbolism of the third pathway into Government. It simply subsumed that pathway in a unified government. This was the traffic mistake of the AFC for which I believe it may never recover. It took its identity which was given to it by a country that dreamt of a new horizon and sunk it into the administration it was part of.
“It is time” turned out to be “it is time to have power.” It had power and its first casualty was its identity, the identity of a third, multi-racial force that offered a new political culture. Who to blame?
The finger has to be pointed at its leadership? Power does frightening things to people. Power destroyed the new pathway. The dream of a multi-racial Guyana died with Rodney. The candle lit briefly from 2006 to 2015 with the AFC.
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