The detractors of the APNU+AFC Coalition are hard at work on all fronts. There is a determined effort to prevent the Coalition from returning to office. At first glance, one could argue that there are justifiable grounds for removing them—they have made some terrible mistakes.
Some of us have been pointing to these mistakes for a long time, but many in the leadership thought we were hostile to the government and sought to put us in our places. In the end the government was derailed by one of its own. So, here we are on the eve of the mother of all elections fighting to keep things in perspective.
At a personal level, I have made what I consider to be one of the most important decisions of my political life. I have decided to support and campaign for a return of the Coalition to office. I do so cognizant of the past, the current and the future shortcomings of the leadership.
There is a lot about my political culture and ideological outlook that is at odds with that leadership. But I do believe that sometimes one has to make critical decisions that go beyond fidelity to one’s ideals and take into consideration the very urgent demands of the moment.
I believe strongly that government in these post-colonial outposts should be an agent of fundamental transformation of the society away from all the political, social and economic obscenities of the past. In that regard, I see government as the single most important institution at this juncture in our history. It is the government and the government alone that decides who gets what, when and how. So, it matters at any given point who governs. All of our big and decisive movements since Emancipation have in the final analysis been about who governs.
Whatever we think about what has transpired thus far as it relates to the coming Oil and Gas dispensation, one thing is certain—Guyana would not be the same again. Among other things, the country will get an opportunity to put in place the building blocks that are necessary to facilitate the transformation that is needed to correct the ills brought on by centuries of bondage and exploitation.
The big question is whether we can throw up the leadership that is needed to inspire and oversee that transformation.
My argument is simply this: Oil and Gas wealth by itself would not bring about transformation. Transformation has to be imagined, then implemented and managed.
One of the major regrets of Guyana’s post-colonial experience is that it has not been able to throw up government leaders with the capacity and intentional desire to fundamentally transform the society in ways that lift it out of the state of dependency, want and institutional vice that are the legacy of its history.
Our leaders, with a few exceptions, have generally not been students of history and human development. Their practice of politics has been driven by love and lust for power as an end in itself. Insofar as they conceive of and make policy, these are grounded in simplistic notions of the needs of the society. What passes for policy is no more than moves aimed at political expediency.
This is why noble-sounding policies have not led to lasting transformation of the society. Our governments have spent billions of dollars on education, healthcare, infrastructure and other social programs since independence, but after six decades, the society is as underdeveloped as it was in the 1950s.
Yes, external factors have played a role in this outcome, but lack of visionary leadership is to be equally blamed. It is so amusing to hear people talk about using the coming oil wealth to spend on these things as if we have not already spent a lot of money on them with minimum results. Those devoid of history on the mind can only be mindless.
So here we are on the eve of First Oil. As I look around and listen to the various leaders, old and new and from small and big parties, I am yet to hear any inspiring vision for uprooting the roots of the old order and replacing them with one that frees Guyana and Guyanese from the shackles of underdevelopment. Not from the PPP or the Coalition or the host of other parties offering themselves up to lead.
One hears slogans and doctrinaire economics, but not vision. The debate over the one imaginative proposal on the table—Cash Transfers—tells a sad tale of how much our collective political imagination has not matured.
As I have said before, if all we can offer in a debate of big issues are abstract theorization and anti-poor narratives, then we are not ready for prime time. It is that state of play that has prompted the usually measured Professor Clive Thomas to describe the chatters in and out of government as “Ignars” and “Ignoramuses.”
So, what are we putting before Guyanese on March 2, 2020, as far as plans for fundamental change is concerned? Unfortunately, nothing inspiring. The PPP demonises the PNC and AFC every day. The PNC and AFC are locked in negotiations over who brings what to the table and deserves what. The new parties repeat an empty slogan—We will not coalesce with the big parties. The sad thing is they are all oblivious of their detachment from history and from the motion of the society as they seek to impose their emptiness on reality.
What should the people do in the face of this nothingness at the top? I have had a lot to say, so I presume people listen to me and some may even look to be for validation of their ideas on how to proceed. This moment is too pregnant with possibilities to do nothing. So, for me, not voting is not an option. Think down the road twenty years from now when your child or grandchild, faced with a heartless and callous oil-rich regime, asks what you did in 2020. You surely don’t want to say you did nothing. A no-vote on March 2, 2020 is a passive vote for emptiness and nothingness.
I have had to contend with two ruthless regimes in my time. The architects of the old PNC regime have moved on—they do not wield power. But, the gangsters of the immediate past PPP regime are very much alive—they steer the PPP ship. I fear what they would do to Guyana, were they to return to power. Some of them are good people, but most of them are ruthless political operatives who would not hesitate to return to the ways of the criminalised State.
Lack of vision along with political viciousness is a bad brew. I cannot vote for that PPP and will not encourage Guyanese to vote for them. If the PPP wins in March, the government would be a runaway train with no checks and balances. The Oil and gas wealth will be fuel for that train.
There is a host of new parties. Many of them represent the egos of the individual leaders. None of them offers an alternative vision. They will all not join with the big parties but have no idea how to stop these parties. What a mess of a stance! A vote for them is an experiment with extreme and bizarre emptiness and nothingness.
We come now to the Coalition. This current government is the most frustrating one in the country’s post-colonial history. My critique of it is well known, so I will not repeat it here. Under normal circumstances, I would have difficulty voting for this Coalition.
As I stated above, I differ with its leaders ideologically and tactically. They represent more than small doses of the old politics. But in our fragile state of play, I have to gamble with them, because there must be something in place to work with, to squeeze some small dose of transformation from.
Despite the dominance of the PNC, there is still more than the form of a Coalition. One lesson, I hope the Charrandass episode teaches the PNC is that it is vulnerable—it has to depend on others to get into government and for legitimacy in government. I doubt PNC leaders would say it publicly, but it is this truism that demands the PNC negotiates with a very weakened AFC as if the latter was strong. It is this vulnerability of the PNC that in my estimation makes the Coalition the best choice at this time.
We can potentially get a little transformational something from a coalition of parties than from a dreaded one-party government. The Coalition is potentially the best vehicle to a minimum transformation.
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