The Prime Minister’s announcement to pursue re-nomination as party leader at the Progressive Liberal Party’s national convention in November is an act many have expected and some have dreaded. But partisan differences and leadership struggles aside, the Prime Minister’s decision highlights a pressing concern.
As of this year, the Rt. Hon. Perry Christie is 72 years old. If he succeeds in his bid for leadership at party convention (which may be more likely than his rivals would hope) and leads his party to victory in the next general election, or leads in opposition, he will be a worrying 79 years old by the end of the approaching five year term.
That isn’t a jest at the Prime Minister’s age, but rather a startling fact that reveals the issues of leadership and succession within the parties we trust to govern our nation. And it is indeed a problem across the aisle as well, as the Free National Movement has also had its share of issues in passing down the torch.
The political culture of The Bahamas is anchored on charismatic, polarizing leaders that inspire personal followings of admiration and obedience with grand oratory displays and strong personalities, and has been since the days of Sir Lynden Pindling and even before. But strong personalities and individual supremacy need to give way to sustainable and organized party structure and succession if the parties and people of The Bahamas are to thrive.
The defence of long serving party leaders is that, with all that hangs in the balance, now is not the time to gamble with unproven and untested leaders. But that raises exactly the point. When will be the time for new leadership? Despite their distinguished service and admirable characteristics, party leaders are still just men who live and age like the rest of us. Leaders who want to rule until they’re buried are problems associated with South American oligarchies and former Soviet Bloc countries, not a young parliamentary democracy which leads the Caribbean in wealth and human development.
Isn’t it time that we as a nation begin to think about our long term leadership and political stability? Every great Bahamian who wants to step up means that inevitably another great Bahamian must step down. The honourable men and women who led us yesterday and today can only keep leading us for so many tomorrows before nature and God decide we can no longer call upon them to.
-James Christopher Albury