A Broader Vision for Over-the-Hill
There were two big stories coming out of the FNM’s first mass rally of the 2012 general election. First, Hubert Ingraham unveiled his party’s agenda for the next five years. In a nod to the Internet age and to younger voters, the FNM released its manifesto online as Ingraham made the announcement.
It was a PR bonanza reinforcing the image of competence and organization of Ingraham and his government. It further reinforced the image of tardiness and disorganization of Perry Christie and his party.
Earlier that week Christie announced that the PLP was ready to govern on day one. Despite this assertion, and an earlier claim that his party was prepared for the campaign, the opposition was caught flat-footed.
Almost a week into a four-week campaign, the opposition failed to produce a manifesto, and this from a party that has been agitating for the prime minister to hurry up and name the date of the election. If the PLP still has not produced a manifesto by today, nomination day, it does not bode well for the party in the minds of many voters.
The inability to beat or equal the FNM in releasing its manifesto is a major blunder by the opposition. When it is released, a part of the story will be the question of why it took so long. Many voters will ask what such a delay may portend of another Christie administration.
There was another major story emerging from Ingraham’s remarks at the mass rally. The prime minister effectively upended the opposition’s urban renewal mantra with a broader vision of urban redevelopment, incorporating potentially far-reaching initiatives.
Ingraham pledged a Back-to-the-Island Initiative which he hopes will be the beginning of “the largest migration ever back to the islands”. He suggested that it might relieve urban congestion and serve as a crime-fighting measure. The prime minister also pledged to launch, “the most comprehensive youth outreach and social intervention programs in the country’s history”.
He made a down-payment on that pledge on Sunday past by fulfilling a promise he made in his national crime address last year. That down-payment is an additional $1 million in grants for youth and urban outreach programs.
Urban redevelopment requires a comprehensive vision, a vision long held by community activists such as Rev. C. B. Moss. Ingraham’s vision includes social, economic and infrastructural development. He pledged an Urban Gentrification Fund to “help with the restoration of homes in designated historic areas of our traditional Over-the-Hill communities”.
Ingraham also proposed what holds the promise of becoming one of the most significant economic initiatives for Over-the-Hill in the modern Bahamas. That groundbreaking initiative is the Native Food Market. He suggested that such a market would offer “real hope and economic opportunities to scores of Bahamians. It will help to revitalize Over-the-Hill. It can help to reduce crime”.
He indicated that the market would include “a permanent space to exhibit and showcase the history of Over-the-Hill and of our rich African heritage. There will also be exhibition space to showcase traditions like ring play and traditional African dances”.
Much of what is being proposed builds on the dreams of cultural leaders like Edmund Moxey and his Jumbey Village, as well as the dreams of cultural icons like the late Kayla Lockhart Edwards and the late Jackson Burnside.
What Ingraham and the FNM are proposing outstrips the lesser vision of Christie’s urban renewal plans. Essentially, Ingraham has proposed an expansive vision of urban redevelopment.
It is a potentially grand vision with the extraordinary potential to empower individuals and communities Over-the-Hill and throughout the country. Sir Lynden Pindling’s government demolished Jumbey Village and what it represented. But it could not kill the dream.
It is a dream that is being renewed and revitalized in unexpected ways. Such is the nature of authentic visions and life-giving dreams. They have a spiritual force that bends the arc of history towards their ultimate fulfillment.
It may be an irony of Bahamian history that neither Sir Lynden, the proclaimed Moses, nor Perry Christie, a protégé, effectively launched a sustainable program of transformation and redevelopment of Over-the-Hill.
This historic accomplishment may become one of the greater legacies of Hubert Ingraham. Like the Dissident Eight, and thousands of others, including Edmund Moxey, Hubert Ingraham had to leave the PLP to realize his progressive dreams.
Though stylized as the party of the poor, there were and remain core elements of the PLP fixed on an elitist worldview in which academic qualifications, social status and high net worth account for more than other qualities of character.
Being labelled as the Delivery Boy and Rude Boy by the PLP elite was an unmistakable dig at Hubert Ingraham’s socio-economic background. The inference: “How dare this poor boy who went to school barefoot, and who is not of our social standing, dream that he can become prime minister. He should be grateful for what we’ve done for him and mind his place.”
Today, the PLP remains strong in traditional Over-the-Hill neighborhoods. This, despite what many see as decades of neglect and betrayal of the residents of these communities.
What the Delivery Boy has accomplished in terms of dramatically improving the public amenities and services for residents of his constituency of Cooper’s Town and North Abaco is in stark contrast to what Christie has, as dramatically, failed to do in Centreville and Farm Road.
The greater the political power one obtains, the greater the obligation of serving the poor. It is a fundamental obligation of public service that one leaves a legacy of uplifting the poor. It is a test of a nation’s humanity, “how it treats its most vulnerable members. The poor have the most urgent moral claim on the conscience of the nation”.
Small bore “urban renewal” efforts by any party or the mere application of bandages or tourniquets to the problems of poorer urban communities are insufficient and insulting. What is required are holistic responses in solidarity with those who live in these communities.
The PLP has too often taken for granted its support in poorer communities. The FNM has too often taken for granted that it might not find more fulsome support in the very same communities. The prime minister may be pleasantly surprised when he visits with residents of Bain Town and Grants Town this week.
Because of who he is, in terms of his record, biography and decades of public service, he will find that his message of an Opportunity Society will resonate with young people and residents Over-the-Hill. He should be equally attentive to the voices and talents, needs and aspirations of those whom he meets.
While some view Ingraham being referred to as Papa as paternalistic, others view it as a sign of affection. The Delivery Boy has become a father figure. What is deeply hypocritical is that those who fawned over Sir Lynden as “Moses” and participated in the cult of personality around “Chief” now feign alarm at Ingraham being called Papa.
If The Bahamas ever risked slipping into dictatorship it would have been in the Pindling years aided and abetted by those who served as his courtiers and sycophants as he victimized others and presided over a government of mass corruption.
The two last terms of Sir Lynden’s premiership were not his best. Indeed, they were arguably his worst. For Hubert Ingraham, 2007 to 2012 and potentially the next five years may be among his best. But, this is up to the Bahamian people. And to the man who has journeyed from a poor boy to the Delivery Boy to Papa, his elevation to statesman is a work in progress.
Apr 17, 2012