By Michael “Ponty” Archibald
St. George’s, Grenada – “The NDC are their own worst enemies!” “I have never seen a party/government try so hard to lose an election!” “The arrogance of that little group in control of the NDC is amazing!” “That kitchen Cabinet – we did not elect them!”
Comments like those above were heard constantly in rum shops, private discussions, on the streets, in offices, around the country and read in newspapers in the final two years and months leading up to the 2013 elections.
It seems that the only people who did not hear them were the NDC leadership themselves. Or maybe they did but choose to ignore them in the usual arrogant confidence in their own rightness!
It appeared that the new members, many of them good solid people, selected to contest various seats after the controversial expulsion of the so-called rebel gang, had little influence in changing the approach and attitude of the entrenched inner circle.
Like most Grenadians I have my own views as to why the NDC lost the 2013 elections. As is usually the case there were many contributing factors but if I were to leave out, for the purposes of this discussion, the very well managed and focused campaign ran by the NNP, it is my view that many of those reasons can be grouped under three main headings of – (i) management of the economy, (ii) leadership and (ii) an inability to present a united front.
In the case of No (i), management of the economy, there is no questioning the difficult economic situation the NDC found itself in on assuming the reins of government; with the impact of the international economic recession and the combination of the size of both the monthly debt payments and the monthly wage bill as a proportion of monthly revenues – leaving the government with little room
Given that difficult situation the NDC government’s negative attitude and poor treatment of potential foreign investors was very difficult to understand. Also very difficult to understand was the glaring lack of empathy in their statements and actions for the suffering public and the lack of emphasis on job creation in the face of very high unemployment; reported to be in excess of 40% by 2012.
The handling of the CCC matter with its potential for creating jobs is a case in point. Further they gave the impression that only they had the answers, nobody but them had the brains to understand the economic situation or the context in which the economy operated and while they never said so openly, one never felt that they were open to the suggestions, ideas and opinions of others not within their anointed inner circle.
I cannot count the number of times I, and many others like myself, were told that we simply did not understand. When you shut people out your thinking becomes incestuous and unproductively circular while you miss out on many good ideas and
suggestions that might have served to fertilise growth in our economy.
The end result of the above, among other things, was that the public did not accept their constant claims about better management of the economy as they could not see or feel the impact of that better management, if any; did not feel that the NDC government cared about their daily fight to make ends meet or their bread and butter issues.
The NDC government, it seemed, was above all that in a world all of their own.
The second area concerns the sensitive matter of the leadership of the NDC and Government by the Honourable Tillman Thomas. I first commented on what I saw as the shortcomings in the leadership competencies of the goodly gentleman as far back as 2008 much to the displeasure and indeed, anger, of the faithful.
As is their wont, they misinterpreted my comments as dislike of the goodly gentleman and as support of the NNP without ever attempting to objectively analyze what I was saying.
I repeat for the record that I was referring to competencies and have no dislike for the man whatsoever nor am I a supporter of any particular party – only Grenada.
To comment on just three of those competencies – first a leader must have or seek to develop a clear vision as to where he wants to take the country and must be able to competently articulate that vision in a manner that not only make that vision clear to the citizenry as a whole, but also makes them want to climb on board the movement to realise that vision.
In that regard the leader must also outline a broad direction in which he wants the country to travel towards achieving that vision. The details and specifics can be developed later with assistance of others but the road must be broad enough to accommodate some zigs and zigs as will be made necessary by circumstances, as long as the overall direction is consistent.
It could not be said that the NDC leader had developed or articulated clearly a compelling vision for Grenada. The constant repetition of the words transparency, accountability and good governance was not a vision.
Secondly a leader must demonstrate competence in the management of his human resources – his people; particularly his Cabinet, the senior members of his party but also senior civil servants, the media and the general public.
In the present world he/she must first be a consensus builder before the use of the big stick but be prepared to do so when all else fails. He must also be fair to all concerned, particularly his Cabinet colleagues and those immediately under his influence but also to the citizens as a whole.
Skill in human resource management was not demonstrated by the NDC leader as was obvious in the way in which the matter of the so-called rebels played out and neither was there fairness in the treatment of certain Cabinet Members in comparison to others.
The third competency I would comment on is technical competency and here I refer to his political skills, “savvy” or “smarts”. Political savvy or smarts would be hard to describe in this short paper but we know it when we see it.
Examples that raised eyebrows include – (i) Mr. Thomas’ admission to the press that he did not know or was not aware that the salaries of civil servants would be late one month, (ii) his not ensuring that strong supporters of his party who had carried out legitimate, and I stress legitimate, work or provided services to the
government were paid on time but instead were forced to wait months putting their businesses and livelihood in peril, (iii) his alleged attempts to have his wife appointed to a sensitive and senor position within the Service, (iv) his public announcement of his decision regarding a foreign investment proposal before the committee he himself appointed could even meet to consider the matter and (v) his handling of the entire situation regarding the controversial expulsion of (ten) senior members of his party and government.
As a result many concluded that the Honourable Tillman Thomas did not seem to have the political skills or savvy necessary to be a successful leader of a
modern political party.
I would argue further that he did not score very well in the three areas mentioned. No leader can be good in all the important areas of competency required of a modern leader but however he must be willing to listen, to diagnose and understand his areas of weakness and strive constantly to improve his performance in those areas – and it is here that he fared the worst.
Finally I will comment that there is a difference between stubbornness and determination.
The third and final area was the party’s and government’s inability to present a united front and to work together towards common goals. The disagreements that led to the eventual breakdown of relationships and eventual expulsion of eleven senior members of the NDC were visible early and got progressively worst.
The ongoing and deliberate leaks from one side in particular condemning
the other side in the harshest terms was like the terrible Chinese dripping water torture of long ago and made any reconciliation extremely unlikely.
In any event it was clear to onlookers from early on that one well-known group wanted the so-called rebels out and that serious attempts at reconciliation were not being made.
The vitriolic condemnation of his previous colleagues by the NDC leader, a man
constantly described as humane and religious, before and after the expulsion left many of us sitting in front of our television sets with mouths agape in disbelief.
The constant condemnation by the Deputy Leader simply made things worst in the eyes of the public. It was felt by many that if they would do that to their own colleagues then they could not really care about the rest of us and if they could not get together as adults and manage themselves and their party, then how could they be entrusted in the continuing management of the country.
There were other things of their own doing that worked against them of course, such as- (i) the constant blame game – Keith Mitchell, the worldwide recession, the debt, the rebels, the media, current affairs commentators, over and over ad neseum, a depressing and constant barrage of negativity, (ii) not enough time and focus spent in explaining the difficult economic situation instead of assigning blame and more importantly, in outlining their plans for the way forward, (iii) the arrogance and know it all attitude of the “kitchen cabinet”, (iv) their seeming inability to implement important projects (the projects were always “on stream” but somehow never got going) and (v) a poorly run campaign which focused largely on creating fear of Dr. Keith Mitchell – to name a few.
Indeed, the NDC had only THEMSELVES to blame! The question is – will they recognise this and make the necessary changes or continue to search for “OTHERS” to assign blame?
(The above was reproduced from Caribbean360. The opinions expressed are solely those of Michael Archibald – MBA(FS), FICB, AICB, is the principal of MBA Consultancy Inc)