Ingraham: Pindling’s “Most Illustrious Protégé”
Fired by Sir Lynden Pindling in October 1984, both Hubert Ingraham and Perry Christie eventually secured the job of the man who dismissed them from his Cabinet. Those events and the ensuing battle for the highest elected office in the land make for a sort of Shakespearian drama that is coming full circle with a likely denouement sometime after May 7.
The almost spectral-like presence of Sir Lynden at rallies for the PLP and the FNM via recordings of one of the Fathers of the Nation has made him something of a minor issue in the 2012 general election some 12 years after his death.
Most voters over a certain age have strong feelings about Sir Lynden. Some view him with unbridled enthusiasm while others equally view him with unbridled disdain. Many view his as a mixed legacy with extraordinary accomplishments though besmirched by a legacy that included mass corruption within his administrations and the victimization of opponents.
In the public imagination Sir Lynden is not seen in the extraordinarily glowing terms of his more fervent admirers nor with the utter disdain of those who view him quite differently than these admirers.
For a new generation of voters, who may prove decisive in this election, Sir Lynden is known more from the history books than the daily headlines. These voters may be somewhat perplexed that both Perry Christie and Hubert Ingraham have invoked the memory of Sir Lynden.
Ultimately, though this is of greater interest to voters of a certain age than to younger voters, it serves as a reference point and as a backdrop to the final contest for the ultimate political prize between two of Sir Lynden’s protégés.
When Sir Lynden gave his farewell address before the House of Assembly in July 1997 he acknowledged Christie and Ingraham. Yet, he saved his final praise for the latter whom he described as “the most illustrious protégé of mine thus far”.
Sir Lynden’s statement was not that of a father simply admiring a son for having done well as Sir Lynden would clearly have preferred to be in Ingraham’s position. His was a recognition of the man who, along with the FNM, finally ousted him from office after a quarter century in power.
The young upstart whom Sir Lynden derided as a Delivery Boy not only wrested power from the great man in 1992. Ingraham went on to even more decisively beat the PLP in 1997 sweeping the Family Islands save that of Sir Lynden’s seat of Kemps Bay. That year, the FNM won one of the highest popular votes ever in an independent Bahamas approximating the PLP’s 1968 victory.
Looking at each other across the House floor, Sir Lynden and Ingraham recognized in each other similar qualities necessary to capture and retain the ultimate prize.
Whereas Sir Lynden had vanquished and destroyed many opponents over the decades, it was the man he ridiculed as the Rude Boy who had now earned the right to be called, his most “illustrious protégé”. Ingraham had, after all, overcome the attempts of Sir Lynden and others to destroy him politically.
Now here was Ingraham the dissident, who joined forces with other famous dissidents to conquer the giant in a classic tale of the master being defeated by his protégé. The Rude Boy ended the entitlement, if not the entitlement mentality, of the highly favored courtiers in the Court of Sir Lynden.
Fast forward to 2007. Perry Christie, after securing the prime ministership in 2002 with a gussiemae majority including every seat in New Providence, save Montagu, is defending his long sought after ambition and parliamentary majority. With great confidence, similar to 1992, the PLP cannot envision a defeat at the polls.
Yet, once again, the man who defeated Sir Lynden, triumphs over elements of the PLP old guard and the new Christie acolytes. While these factions may have varying feelings about Sir Lynden and his legacy, they share a common – at times irrational – disdain for the man who knows the political culture of the PLP as well, or better than, these factions.
All of which continues to enrage many PLPs. The image of Sir Lynden appearing on screen at an FNM mass rally and on TV before tens of thousands of older and newer voters describing Hubert Ingraham as ” the most illustrious protégé of mine thus far”, is more than many PLPs can bear.
Unbearable also are Ingraham’s visits Over-the-Hill, the supposed bedrock of PLP support, hence the overreaction of some, including Dr. B.J. Nottage who is generally respected across the political spectrum.
The front page photo of him angrily shaking his fist in the face of National Security Minister Tommy Turnquest may become an unfortunately iconic and negative image of Dr. Nottage. The photo also telegraphed a negative view of the PLP which many voters have of the party’s sense of entitlement to the votes of Over-the-Hill residents.
What Hubert Ingraham and the FNM accomplished by joining forces was not only to secure the FNM as a majority party that can best the PLP. The base of the FNM has also been broadened and its appeal reaches into every strata of society.
There is also the fear by some PLPs that Hubert Ingraham may begin to rival the popularity of Sir Lynden and that given another term, he may even have more significant accomplishments in various areas of national life.
Next week’s general election is not only a contest between the FNM and the PLP. It will also likely be the last battle between two of Sir Lynden’s protégés, confirming which one may indeed be the more illustrious in the minds and hearts of Bahamians.
While Sir Lynden’s memory has some resonance in 2012, the vast majority of voters are not concerned about his legacy. They are decidedly more interested in how either Perry Christie or Hubert Ingraham will, if returned as prime minister, burnish a legacy of advancing the needs of a 21st century Bahamas.
History assigns greatness not just by the individual measure of a leader, but more fully by what he or she achieved – and by what could have been achieved were it not for the clay feet and/or Achilles heel which have caused many a leader to stumble or fall before achieving true greatness and not simply the adulation of contemporaries.
By next week this time we should know whether Hubert Ingraham or Perry Christie will be afforded the opportunity to add crowning accomplishments to their public service and political careers. To be a historic figure’s protégé is one thing. But to be a historic figure in one’s own right is the thing which separates the greater figures in history from the lesser ones.history, politics