Op-Ed: The emergence of the FNM

Op-Ed: The emergence of the FNM

The Political Landscape of The Bahamas in 2023 – Part 3

Dear Editor,

The current state of the FNM has generated much commentary, discussion and attention in recent times. In the midst of internal conflicts, rebellion and challenges, the question must be asked: can and will the FNM emerge from this political quagmire? The answer to this vital question can be found in the pages of the well-chronicled history of the Movement called the FNM. The bravery and audacity of the Dissident Eight who were later joined by Number Nine (Sir Kendal G.L. Isaacs), Number Ten (Sir Orville Turnqest) and members of what was then the remnants of the UBP provides valuable insight into the spirit that defines the FNM. The formation of the FNM brought together individuals of diverse backgrounds and talents for a common fight and purpose. It was the members of the Free PLP, UBP, NDP and later the BDP (which came from within the FNM) that made the vision of the FNM a reality; for out of many came one.

The establishment of the FNM in 1971, the split ahead of the 1977 general elections and reunification in 1980 sheds light on the Party’s ability to address differences to emerge under a unified banner. In transitioning from one leader to another during its existence, the FNM has displayed a vibrant democracy and staying power for decades. From Sir Cecil Wallace-Whitfield to Sir Kendal G.L. Isaacs back to Sir Cecil Wallace-Whitfield to the Rt. Hon. Hubert Ingraham to Tommy Turnquest back to Hubert Ingraham to the Most Hon. Hubert Minnis and now to the Hon. Michael Pintard, we see a political organization capable of evolving with the times.

The first emergence of the FNM was as a result of the bravery and temerity of the Dissident Eight and their contemporaries. After a brief split in the 1970s, the FNM emerged again to contest the 1982 election and continued on its path to government. Sir Lynden Oscar Pindling will always be revered and hailed as the Black Moses of The Bahamas and Father of the Nation. In the context of Party politics in The Bahamas, Sir Cecil could be likened to the Moses of the FNM and Ingraham described as the Joshua that led the FNM over the proverbial Jordan into the Promised Land.

The assumption of the leadership of the FNM by Ingraham in 1990 and the Party’s victory in the 1992 elections saw the FNM emerge from the political wilderness to govern the country. This emergence propelled the Party to prominence as either the government or government in waiting since 1992. The great feat of Ingraham in leading the FNM to victory in 1992 and dethroning the PLP was accomplished because the Movement was powerful and focused. The 1992 general election victory came against the oldest and most established political party that led the nation to independence while establishing key institutions in an independent Bahamas. The hopes and dreams of the founding members of the FNM became a reality under the leadership of Ingraham.

Following a devastating loss at the polls in 2012, the FNM found itself at a crossroads once again. The resignation of a towering figure nicknamed the Dragon of Abaco by the late Bradley Roberts plunged the FNM once again into the political wilderness and internal conflict. The unassuming but politically astute Dr. Minnis took the reins and while some wrote him off, he defied all odds and led the FNM to victory at the 2017 general elections. The real impact of Ingraham’s appearance on the campaign trail leading up to the elections will never be fully known. However, the emergence of the FNM in 2017 and the margin of victory was so significant that many described the red wave as a Tsunami or “Salami”.

There is an analogy to be drawn between the emergence of the FNM under both Ingraham and Minnis. Ingraham became leader of the FNM in 1990 and became Prime Minister just two years later in 1992 by defeating a PLP led by the most iconic and legendary political leader in Bahamian history – the late Sir Lynden Oscar Pindling. Minnis became Leader of the FNM in 2012 and became Prime Minister five years later in 2017 by defeating a PLP led by a political juggernaut and heir to the throne of Sir Lynden – the Rt. Hon. Perry G. Christie. Ingraham of course stands in a class by himself as the second longest serving Prime Minister having served for three non-consecutive terms.

The FNM should be proud of its history, legacy and leaders. This does not suggest that these leaders were or are perfect; rather it speaks to their tenacity and determination. For this reason alone, FNMs should celebrate their leaders (past and present) and not demonize them. It is against this backdrop that the Party must continue to evolve and reinvent itself as it looks to the future. The Movement is called upon once again to live up to its name and emerge from the depths of defeat, discord and division to a glorious future. The Party of Sir Cecil, Sir Kendal, Hubert Ingraham, Tommy Turnquest, Hubert Minnis and Michael Pintard must unite under one banner for the battle ahead. Only then will the Torch be lit once again and the flames spread from constituency to constituency across our archipelago of islands.

The current FNM leader, Michael Pintard has been under attack from within his own Party and after two years in office, his leadership is being tested with intensification following the recent by-election defeat. However, internal challenge to leadership within the FNM is not a novel concept. Pintard’s predecessor had a similar experience and faced political mutiny from within his own party. It can be argued that in the aftermath of a gladiator-like figure like Ingraham, FNMs like to know that their leaders are battle-ready and able to defeat the formidable PLP. The current turbulence is simply a rehearsal in preparation for the upcoming clash of the titans – the PLP and FNM.

The PLP is the oldest political party which led the country to independence and was positioned to establish key institutions for the modern Bahamas. There is no doubt that the PLP is a well-oiled machine and knows what it takes to win. This is why the new generation of FNMs must draw from the strength of those who came before them and return to the old landmark of fighters. They must understand the political landscape and focus their attention on the needs of the electorate rather than their individual differences. The opponent the FNM will face in 2026 is seasoned and battle-tested; they must know this if the Party is to emerge from ashes like a Phoenix once again. The following words of Sun Tzu are instructive: If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”

Meanwhile, the PLP would be underestimating the FNM to its own peril. It would be unwise and reckless to bet against the ability of the FNM to emerge from its current challenges to win the next general election. Prior elections have shown that when the full machinery of the FNM is activated, the Party is able to rally its base, attract undecided voters and win general elections convincingly. There is a reason why the FNM has governed for 19 years and the PLP for 12 years since the last administration led by the late Sir Lynden Oscar Pindling. It is because the FNM is a viable option and formidable political force that knows how to win general elections.

Written by: Arinthia S. Komolafe