Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis last night led the Free National Movement (FNM) to a spectacular defeat at the polls, appearing up to press time to be on a similar scale as the defeat he handed the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) in 2017.
And like former Prime Minister Perry Christie at the time, he has no one to blame but himself.
And he should have seen it coming.
The mountain of mistakes he made as prime minister was capped by calling an election in the worst surge yet of the COVID-19 pandemic.
He flouted the spirit of everything he preached about public health safety since the pandemic started.
This was likely the last straw for many voters, including FNMs.
Whether because of fear of COVID-19 or exasperation with Minnis and the lack of appeal of PLP Leader Philip Brave Davis, the majority of FNMs appeared to simply opt not to vote.
It is anecdotal at the moment, but turnout at yesterday’s polls seems to have hit a historic low.
Unlike Christie, Minnis will be seated in the House of Assembly, and as leader of the official opposition, while those who most fervently supported him will be on the outside looking in.
There appeared to be the notion in Minnis’ mind, and the minds of most in the FNM, that the PLP’s resounding loss four and half years ago was about Minnis’ popularity with the public.
It was not.
The public had a deep desire to be rid of Christie after 40 years in Parliament and two wasted terms as prime minister.
Minnis was an unknown.
Though unpolished, and even excoriated and replaced by his parliamentary colleagues as leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition, he represented a much-desired change from the PLP.
For the public at the polls on May 10, 2017 any well-known candidate from the FNM would have sufficed.
But Minnis squandered his mandate.
And now the people have snatched it away from him.
Minnis ascended to the leadership of the FNM for one reason only – he was crowned successor by former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham after the FNM lost in the landslide 2012 election.
Ingraham, who has a much deeper understanding of leadership than Minnis, resigned after he led his party to one of its worst defeats.
Perhaps he hoped that Minnis, whom he introduced to politics by encouraging him to run in the safe seat of Killarney, would have been malleable and would be guided by those with more leadership experience.
However, Ingraham mistook how crafty a political operative Minnis would become.
After the defeat of Ingraham’s chosen FNM candidate Greg Gomez in the 2012 North Abaco by-election, Minnis outrightly rejected Ingraham and triggered a fissure within the party that saw Ingraham supporters isolated and his own supporters elevated.
From the moment Minnis became prime minister he approached the job with a penchant for veering toward his worst instincts.
Instead of seeking to unite the country, he set about a campaign of further demonizing the PLP.
The entire first budget debate was subsumed with revealing what they portended was rampant PLP corruption.
They claimed that unbudgeted expenses run up during the previous administration were the impetus for embarking on borrowing to fund what was then a record deficit.
Then he made a spectacle of the Royal Bahamas’ Police Force’s Anti-Corruption Unit questioning then charging former PLP parliamentarians.
All the cases that went to trial failed, with the added insult of the Minnis administration refusing to disclose how much taxpayer funds were spent on paying the foreign Queen’s counsels who prosecuted those cases.
Minnis’ second year was spent explaining why, despite his fierce opposition to the implementation of value-added tax, he needed to raise VAT by 60 percent to stabilize government finances.
He lost two years during which his party could have been setting the conditions for economic growth by continuing to campaign against a PLP that held the smallest number of seats in history.
Valuable time went down the drain as Minnis and those who followed him hammered away at an already fallen foe, as opposed to bringing about the sweeping change they promised.
Forgotten were the Office of the Ombudsman, the Integrity Commission Bill, local government for New Providence and full implementation of the Freedom of Information Act.
The things he vowed to do were left undone and the things he railed against in opposition – such as the ‘Spy Bill’ – became priorities.
There was the Oban fiasco.
There was the fact that Minnis never held quarterly public press conferences as he pledged to do.
And there was the falling apart of the board of Bahamas Power and Light and Minnis’ hollow guarantee that there would be an investigation into it.
Not to be forgotten was his covering of aberrant House Speaker Halson Moultrie, which, like many other things, would come back to bite him.
But what really sunk Minnis was yet to come.
Hurricane Dorian hit Abaco and Grand Bahama in September 2019, wreaking havoc on a scale previously unseen.
Minnis botched the immediate response, choosing to preen and style himself as a strong leader rather than quickly take action and provide the necessary aid.
He created bureaucracies and complicated matters for residents of the impacted areas.
His administration dithered making excuses about the enormity of the challenge while non-government agencies did yeoman’s work.
Even through all that, Minnis still had not clearly lost the support of the people.
That changed when COVID-19 came to our shores.
Minnis immediately seized hold of the Emergency Powers Act to impose draconian measures on Bahamians, curbing civil liberties and closing businesses, coming up with inane measures he claimed were based on science without actually providing the science.
As the economy screeched to a halt, he criminalized the less fortunate – jailing coconut vendors and those without indoor plumbing caught seeking water during the lockdowns.
For a year and a half, Minnis repeatedly addressed the nation, reminding us he was a doctor, but sounding ever the politician as he praised himself and attacked his political opponents.
He allowed Bahamians to enter the country without COVID-19 testing, likely triggering the second wave of the pandemic.
Nearly a year later, he allowed fully-vaccinated people to enter the country without COVID-19, likely triggering the third wave that consumes us today.
Now the Bahamian people have made their decision.
They have decided to move on from Minnis.
FNMs should do the same.
To leave Minnis as leader will saddle the younger generation of FNMs with a burden they need not bear.
The leadership of the party must undergo wholesale change, inclusive of the chairman.
It must once again become a party of inclusion and reject the cult of personality Minnis has built.
It has not served the party well.
Minnis has achieved the highest elected office in the nation – no one can take that away from him.
However, he should now take his cue from the man who helped his meteoric rise to glory.
Minnis should resign as leader of the FNM and not take the mantle of leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition.
He has brought the FNM to its knees.
It is doubtful he has the capacity to get it back on its feet.