The Scarlet Pimpernel Blog
Thursday, 29 November 2012 02:31
By The Scarlet Pimpernel
ALP Leadership Dispute Settled - Now that the Antigua Labour Party (ALP) has democratically determined that the controversial MP for City West Gaston Browne is the person who will most likely lead the party into the upcoming 2014 general elections,
aside from my earnest congratulations to the victor, I am intellectually induced to consider the critical ramifications of his triumph, in the context of the transformative, crisis leadership required to pull Antigua & Barbuda out of its current economic quagmire.
Though I hope that the key factors that tilted the ultimate decision of the delegates voting at the ALP convention were rooted in a determination of the candidate they believed, in good conscience, has the leadership skills, knowledge and experience required to unify the factious party, inspire the electorate, attract foreign investment, stimulate local entrepreneurship and improve the lives of the suffering society, one would be naive to discount the extraordinary influence of pecuniary incentives and the alarming level of political chicanery involved in the process.
It is well known that “politics is a really dirty game”, where the outcome is not always decided on the merits, but in the end, the more perceptive politician prevails. More than anything else, the convention result marks the end of a dynastic leadership era the country has long awaited. You may recall when the Progressive Labour Movement (PLM) rallied the nation to “spread the word and sweep out Bird”, the Father of the Nation is noted for having said that he will retain the metaphoric broomsticks that swept him from power. In the same vein, Gaston Browne is well advised to recognize that the “comeback kid” is a shrewd Svengali who admittedly, “na tek laas lik”, so he must be vigilant not to win the battle and lose the war.
While the usual suspects who gave rise to the 2004 “anti-corruption referendum” eagerly await their return to power, the change at the top will not be sufficient to force the United Progressive Party (UPP) to relent from effectively reminding the People that they are looking at virtually the same ALP that plundered the country during its twenty-eight (28) year “reign of corruption”.The Elixir of Power
In light of Lester Bird’s public concession that he wants only to lead his beloved party to one last victory and then will hand over the reins of leadership to the heir apparent after two years, the acrimony of the challenge to his leadership speaks pellucidly to an underlying, unspoken truth. Indeed, Gaston Browne is obviously ambitious, as well as qualified to hold the party’s leadership, but the hostility attending the challenge, considering the totality of the circumstances, suggests a complete lack of confidence in Lester Bird’s ability to steer the party to election victory in 2014. In that context, the offer extended to Lester Bird in Gaston Browne’s manifesto may be interpreted as respectful and appropriate.
On the other hand, is Lester Bird justified in wanting to end his illustrious political career on a high note, retiring as the leader of the party to which he dedicated his life, or is it a case where a “geriatric albatross” with a damagingly low approval rating, had to be prevented from permitting his ego to diminish the party’s chances at the upcoming polls?
Notwithstanding the virtues of either position, Gaston Brown’s contention at the convention that Lester Bird’s idea of passing of the baton after two years would plunge the nation into crisis must be viewed as a politically palatable euphemism of a bitter truth of no confidence.
It would not be rhetorical to ask, now that the deed is done, whether it is more likely that the ALP can mount an effective campaign and prevail at the next election after its delegates decided to jettison Lester Bird and propel Gaston Browne to the helm of the party.
To grasp the full significance of this question, it must be evaluated in the context of the ALP’s eccentric approach to campaign financing. There is no need to explain the direct positive correlation between money and successful political campaigns in Antigua & Barbuda. In that connection, one must recognized the pivotal role that Lester Bird has played for decades in attracting campaign funds into the party and ensuring that said funds were distributed to candidates with limited war chests.
While the ALP candidates from the corruption era have the means to finance their own campaigns, the ALP will not have a snowball’s chance in hell of capturing nine (9) seats in the next general elections if its campaign’s full slate is not adequately funded. And now that the most indispensable fundraising talent in the party has been unceremoniously disparaged, disgraced and demoted, it is less likely that his auspices will be equally motivated. Apparently, the astute Gaston Browne carefully considered this fallout and opted to play a dangerous game with a fat piggybank that plays both sides and deposes allegiance only to self-preservation.
An even more telling precursor of things to come is the ungodly alliance that has emerged from the ALP leadership battle, which features the once inseparable sidekick of the defeated albatross, jockeying with pieces of silver in hand to become the sidekick of the man who would be king. Be not dismayed, the comrades have a saying that “there are no permanent friends and no permanent enemies”.
Plus it has been wisely whispered in polite circles that “running with the hares and hunting with the hounds” is the going quid pro quo for his anticipated return to the right hand of the constitutional monarch. In the interest of averting the inevitable consequences of dancing with the devil, I am inclined to counsel Gaston Browne with the famous words of Peter Drucker: “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.” Better yet, heed the words of my maternal grandmother and “no go tek kan-kan-sa-ness an go shake cocobay people han”.Leadership
Leadership is actually defined as a process by which a person influences a group of individuals to accomplish a common objective and directs the organization in a way that makes it more cohesive, coherent and effective. By that standard, a political leader is not only required to sway votes in his favor, he is expected to influence and direct his organization to deliver the greatest amount of good to the constituents he serves.
With that said, it is specious to suggest that one has to be the ultimate leader of an organization to positively influence its activities. For the most part, the leaders we have experienced in Antigua & Barbuda fall into the unscrupulous, opportunistic, nepotistic, and narcissistic categories; they are more concerned with filling the pockets of a small few than with the general welfare of the People, and hence my incessant appeal for new blood.
As new major weaknesses in the UPP’s battle armor are beginning to show in rural south; as ensuing implosion of the party appears to be its self-ordained fate; the need for young patriotic leaders to surface has never been more pronounced. It is unalloyed insanity to believe that economic development and national progress will come from the same crop of leaders that have not been able to present the nation with a workable economic recovery plan after almost a decade of anguish. Talented Antiguans and Barbudans with political ambitions must quickly realize that “[i]n periods where there is no leadership, society stands still. Progress occurs when courageous, skillful leaders seize the opportunity to change things for the better.” Harry S Truman.
Even if you have no experience in politics or never held a leadership position, it is important to note that the walk of a thousand miles begins with the first step. Moreover, “[t]he most dangerous leadership myth is that leaders are born [trait leadership theory], that there is a genetic factor to leadership. That’s nonsense; in fact, the opposite is true. Leaders are made rather than born [process leadership theory].” Warren Bennis. With that guiding principle in mind, I implore the “talented tenth” of our nation to answer the clarion call to service of our nation and step forward to create a new era in our politics. Leaders in waiting must break free from the constraints of apathy and summon the courage to make history, as well as earn the right to look your children in the eye without shame for doing nothing but talk and blog while the ship of state runs aground.
As previously stated through this medium, I do not have any confidence in political manifestos, but I must admit that out of curiosity and personal admiration I perused the document presented by Gaston Browne and found it to be quite typical in an era that demands an innovative break from the past. I submit respectfully that, “[a] promise is a comfort to a fool,” and the people of Antigua & Barbuda will continue to be defined thusly if time and time again they continue to fall for unsubstantiated promises. Albeit, on account of an abiding optimism in what Gaston Browne represents, I await cogent explanations of the strategies he intends to employ to finance and subsequently realize his vision for the nation.Recommendations
I conclude with a few words of advice for the ALP’s new political leader, which I hope will serve to orient current and future leaders to elements of the transformational leadership that the nation direly needs.
Put the People first. A political representative is a servant of the people s/he represents. At all times and particularly in parliament there is an obligation to represent the People you serve and not your personal agenda. The electorate is tactile and that can get tiresome, but let it not be said that the People only feel your presence when you are seeking votes.
Understand the significance and widespread effects of your actions, because errors and inappropriate practices, policies and programs of a government can wreak havoc in the lives of many, particularly the most vulnerable in society.
Lead with your strengths. You cannot be all things to all persons and remain effective. Surround yourself with the right people (no square pegs in round holes) to learn the needs of the persons you serve, to maximize the efficiency of your operations and to leverage your talents.
Make your own luck. Embrace your challenges, pursue your goals with passion and don’t permit your failures to define who you are.
As we look for leadership away from the dark cloud of incompetence that presently engulfs the nation, be reminded by the words of Joel Baker that “[a] leader is a person you will follow to a place you wouldn’t go by yourself.” An eager nation awaits the first steps of the new leader of the ALP, so walk good.