The tongue normally speaks what the heart desires. Listening to the political speeches of members of the NNP at a recently held zonal meeting in the parish of St Patrick and analysing these speeches carefully I picked up a statement by the Hon Roland Bhola which I believe is very interesting and may say something about his political ambitions as the general secretary of the NNP. Hon Bhola said, “I am not the political leader, Dr Mitchell is the political leader.”
It is a well established fact that Dr Mitchell is the political leader of the NNP, and Roland Bhola is the general secretary. What are the motivating factors as to why would Hon Bhola make such an interesting statement, especially as the NNP is preparing for elections in 2013? Was the Hon Bhola trying to convey a message to the NNP supporters at the meeting that he has political aspirations to become the political leader of the NNP or was he trying to give the assurance to Dr Mitchell and the supporters that he isn't interesting in challenging him for the leadership of the party.
Whatever his motivations were in making such a profound statement it is also a well known fact even within the hierarchy of the NNP that Roland Bhola indeed has aspirations to become political leader of the NNP and also he was seen as a replacement for Dr Mitchell after the defeat of the party in the 2008 general elections. Even in recent times the Hon Roland Bhola’s prestige has risen dramatically within the ranks of the NNP. As the general secretary of the party Roland Bhola is well positioned to become the political leader of the New National Party. He has the foundation to emerge as political leader if the NNP is defeated in the upcoming general elections.
A defeat for the NNP at the upcoming polls will result in many losers and in some cases the end to the political careers of the vanguard member of the party such as Dr Mitchell, Sen Gregory Bowen and Hon Elvin Nimrod. There will however be one clear winner and that person will be Hon Roland Bhola. Roland Bhola’s shortest path to becoming the political leader of the NNP is to hope that the party loses the next general elections and he happens to hold on to his seat in St Andrew's North East.
Hon Roland Bhola shouldn't hide his political ambition and aspiration to become the leader of his party. He shouldn't shy away from or get cold feet in laying his claim to be the political leader. What he has to do is to avoid taking the route that the current leader took in the battle with Herbert Blaize, but instead declare publicly his ambition to be political leader of the NNP.
Any sinister or covert action against Dr Mitchell may be suicidal and is therefore not advisable. With over three decades of political experience, jockeying for power and leadership of the NNP Dr Mitchell knows exactly when to build and also when to destroy for his own political survival. He has accomplished that objective very skillfully for the past decade which has enabled him to remain political leader of the NNP even after the party's 11 - 4 defeat in 2008. In any other political organisation in the Caribbean or the international community there would have been a challenge to Dr Mitchell especially leading his party from a position of having won all fifteen seats in 1995 to a one seat majority in 2003 and an eleven - four defeat in 2008. Sir James Mitchell wasn't so fortunate in St Vincent and the Grenadines, neither Edward Seaga in Jamaica, nor Patrick Manning in Trinidad and Tobago. Only recently Lester Bird was ousted as leader of the Antigua Labour Party by Gaston Browne as the party looks towards fresh young blood with a modern approach to leadership. Gaston Brown like Roland Bhola is in his mid forties. Browne is 45 years old, while Bhola is 46.
Hon Roland Bhola may have the support of the candidates especially in the parish of St Andrews, who have had a rocky relationship with Dr Mitchell. Yolande Bain Horsford most certainly would welcome the idea of Bhola as political leader of the NNP. Apart from Mrs Horsford, Hon Bhola can also count on the support of many other candidates including Anthony Boatswain. Being from the rural parish of St Andrews, Hon Roland Bhola can establish a caucus with the other three candidates from St Andrews and the surrounding parishes of St Patrick and St David’s and collectively they can increase their influence and power within the party. That is exactly what a sensible and ambitious politician would do. Such a caucus will be able to have seven seats in the parliament if they are victorious at the polls and as such can bring enormous benefits to the people of the seven constituencies.
Dr Mitchell has attempted to reduce the influence of Hon Roland Bhola by breaking from the NNP grassroots tradition by welcoming two aristocrats into the house of the NNP in the persons of Nicholas Steele and Alexandra Otway. In recent times it seems that they have lost some influence within the party and that the two are attempting to have their own caucus within the NNP by recruiting Simon Steele former Director of the Board of Tourism. It was rumoured that Simon Stiell is interesting in replacing Elvin Nimrod as the candidate for Carriacou and Petite Martinique with the blessings of some key local party supporters.
Dr Mitchell's motivation in recruiting these two rookies may solely be financial, however given his political prowess there are other reasons for doing so. Dr Mitchell’s major strengths within the NNP is that he has been the party's chief financier. Money brings with it power and influence. Hon Roland Bhola would definitely have to have the ability to raise huge sums of money as he aspires to take charge of the NNP. As General Secretary he is well placed to do just that. Politics is all about timing, making the right choices and having a bit of luck. The recent battles within the ruling party by the so called rebels was ill-advised and poorly timed, resulting in their demise. Hon Bhola may very well learn from the mistakes of those so called rebels and carefully analyse the mood within the NNP as he builds his political base and infrastructure in preparation for taking over the mantle of leadership of the party.
One may ask what kind of political leader, opposition leader and possible prime minister Hon Roland Bhola may emerge to be. He definitely won't be a charismatic leader, however given his disposition he may very well be a leader in the mold of Prime Minister Tillman Thomas who believes in accountability, transparency and good governance. He appears to be the type of leader that may work across political lines in the interest of the country. He has demonstrated this ability by giving credit to the NDC administration in his budget presentation to the annoyance of members of his own party. He will be leader without any significant baggage, however as a member of Parliament in the previous NNP government he has to take collective responsibility for the many ills that this administration brought unto the Grenadian people.
In the view of the speaker of the house Hon George McQuire, Hon Bhola has been the best debater on the opposition side for the last two budget debates. Some positive attributes that Hon Bhola possesses is that he isn't as arrogant and belligerent as the mainstream NNP politician and therefore will be likeable by persons who are not necessarily supportive of the NNP. He also appears to be the like of leader who will demonstrate a high degree of respect for self and country and develop and amicable working relationship with the media, trade unions, other NGOs, private and public sector. The inability of the leader of the NNP to build such trust with the various sectors of the society has been responsible for the defeat of the NNP in the 2008 general elections.
Within the ranks of the NNP there are many dynamics at play. The party however has perfected the art of keeping their internal issues safe and secure in the party's vault from the scrutiny of the general public and the media. Sen Bowen in a recent article indicated that the NNP is seeking new young intelligent minds to join the ranks of the party. This call has been made in light of the NDC's ability to attract some new and very exciting candidates both young and middle age into its ranks. The prospect of Ali Dowden, a 20 year old, coming up against the father of the house of parliament is itself significant. What this may indicated that it is time for the father of the house to go into retirement since it appears that he is running against one of his sons.
Senator Bowen’s call for new blood to join the NNP at this time may also be an admission that it is time for there to be the changing of the guard. His call however is coming against the backdrop that for thirteen years the NNP has marginalised the young politicians within its rank.
His call may also be an attempt to neutralize the growing influence of the Hon Roland Bhola. New young intelligent minds within any organisation tends to gravitate towards leadership position. Hon Bhola may have to play his cards strategically if he is committed to be leader of the party. In the immediate future there are some things he can do. He has to work towards building his political, social and economic network. He can begin his political network by lobbying with the other six candidates in St Andrews, St David’s and St Patrick. He has to use his position of general secretary to develop genuine grassroots support among the various constituencies, build relationships with the various sectors of society base on mutual respect and trust. His philosophy has to be different from that which has been defeated in 2008.
Once he has the political ambition and he is committed Hon Roland Bhola should not allow anyone to intimidate him from aspiring to be political leader of the NNP. His chances of becoming political leader and leader of Her Majesty's opposition is great once the NNP loses the upcoming general elections and he holds on to his seat. His prospect of becoming prime minister in the near future is remote at best since he may have to come up against a very formidable candidate in the likes of Hon Nazim Burke Minister of Finance. Prime Minister Tillman Thomas has indicated that he will only be serving two terms if given the opportunity to do so and therefore there will be a smooth transition within the NDC. Hon Nazm Burke will be the front runner and rightfully so given his loyalty to Prime Minister Tillman Thomas and his commitment to the core values of the NDC. Apart from that he is well respected within the rank and file of the party and possesses the temperament to be a great leader in the future.
Finally, Hon Roland Bhola should have concluded his statement at the meeting by stating, “I am not the leader of the party. Dr Mitchell is the leader, but sooner rather than later I will be the political leader of the NNP and the leader of her majesty's opposition.
I am looking forward to working with all of you her and all our people throughout Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique and in the Diaspora. I am also looking forward to one day to serve as your humble prime minister. A different prime minister to those that the party has produced in the past. A prime minister that all the people can TRUST. Thank you.”