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Whatever happened to Raynard Rigby’s leadership aspirations for the PLP?

Dear Editor,

I remember Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Leader Philip Brave Davis appointing a constitutional review committee in late 2017 in order to make changes to the party’s constitution — a first in nearly 65 years. Heading this committee is former PLP Chair Raynard Rigby. About two years prior to the appointment of this committee, Rigby was in the press somewhat half-heartedly expressing his aspirations of becoming PLP leader by challenging then leader Perry Christie. The readership would recall that the party held a convention January 24—26, 2017 at the Melia Nassau Beach Resort — the party’s first since 2009. Christie soundly defeated his sole opponent, Alfred Sears, 1,264 votes to 169 votes. It is my understanding that the PLP is mandated by its constitution to hold conventions annually. Under Christie, the party became tardy in this regard, although one can excuse the party for postponing its November 2015 and November 2016 convention dates due to Hurricanes Joaquin and Matthew. The April 2016 date was also postponed; the excuse given was the impending constitutional referendum on gender equality, which was held in June of that year. In June 2016, a couple weeks after the said referendum, Rigby was again waffling in the press when he took aim at Christie, after the latter claimed to be the glue that held the PLP together. One cannot fault Rigby for not fully committing himself to challenging Christie, whose leadership position, like Sir Lynden Pindling’s, was impenetrable. Hindsight being 20/20, Rigby obviously understood fully the dynamics of the stalwart councillors, many of whom were dyed-in-the-wool loyalists of Christie. The PLP is 66 years old, and has only had three leaders during 61 of the 66 years of its existence. The late Sir Henry M. Taylor took on the post of national chairman in 1953, the year the party was founded by him, Cyril Stevenson and William Cartwright. For 10 years Taylor was elected national chairman. But he never assumed the official title of PLP leader, as Pindling and Christie would do.

Pindling led the party for 41 years, Christie for 20 years. Davis officially became PLP leader in October 2017, after defeating Englerston MP Glenys Hanna-Martin. Unlike his two predecessors, I am not yet fully persuaded that Davis is as deeply entrenched in his post as Pindling and Christie. Unlike his two predecessors, he has never led the party to a general election victory. Both Christie and Pindling suffered multiple election losses, in all things considered. Ironically, after both suffered their second election losses in 1997 and 2017, respectively, they resigned as PLP leader. At the ripe age of 67, Davis will either be 70 or 71 when the next election is called. He will not be afforded the luxury of having another go at an election, as Christie and Pindling after they lost in 1992 and 2007, respectively. Two thousand and twenty-two will be Davis’ make-or-break year; that is, if he makes it to that election as leader. I think Rigby, despite never being elected to the House of Assembly, is the only legitimate threat to Davis’ hold on the PLP leadership post, not PLP Deputy Leader Chester Cooper. Cooper is a Johnny-come-lately, unlike Rigby who has been in the trenches for nearly two decades.

Rigby has several things going for him: He is educated; his grammar is polished; he is a professional; he is a very good orator; he is young; he is a family man.

He has served in the PLP as chairman. And — most importantly — he is unsoiled, in terms of not being accused of engaging in government corruption. Rigby, I believe, made a shrewd decision by appearing to distance himself from Christie. To me, it never looked like he was a part of the previous Christie government. Like many Bahamians, he was on the outside looking in. Another thing going for Rigby was his willingness to criticize the PLP when it deviated from its basic principles — something that was refreshing. He called a space a spade.

If there’s ever a time for him to mount a campaign for the top post of the PLP, it has to be within the next 24 months. Elections are approximately 39 months away. If Rigby is dreaming about leading the PLP into the next general election, time is running out.

— Kevin Evans

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