The Guyana Times published a story on Thursday March 20 reporting that the Opposition had caused a poll to be conducted last month which found that “former President Bharrat Jagdeo would be the most formidable candidate that the Opposition parties…could face in any upcoming general elections.” The following day the Guyana Chronicle carried a front page headline as follows: “Jagdeo favoured as PPP’s presidential candidate” in an Opposition poll. The Opposition denied any such poll.
The publications in the newspapers which followed outreaches organized by loyalist Ministers, belie Dr. Jagdeo protestations that he is not interested in a third term. This new campaign was no doubt inspired by talk of a landslide victory if he had been the candidate in 2011, and if he is now the candidate. An expensive campaign was also put together in 2010 which only fizzled out when General Secretary Donald Ramotar took a stand against a third term. Now that elections appear to be on the horizon Dr. Jagdeo is beginning to drool with renewed ambition and hunger for high office.
From the time he settled in to the Presidency and realized its potential to elevate him to ‘greatness’ and wealth (by saving), Dr. Jagdeo set in motion a two pronged strategy. He began to nurture and encourage a group of business people, many of whom expanded through opportunities available from state contracts and other linkages, into massive and still growing conglomerates. Today, crony capitalism has taken root in Guyana in a big way. This group is personally loyal to Dr. Jagdeo and displays nominal loyalty to the PPP but some are now quietly establishing or renewing links with the Opposition.
The second limb of the plan was to break down any independent thinking and resistance to himself from the leadership of the PPP. Party stalwarts were retired, removed or sidelined. Independent voices were driven out, stilled or subverted. The newcomers, enticed with career opportunities and devoid of ideological commitment or political history, easily fell in line and learnt that exaggerated and sycophantic displays of loyalty offered security of tenure and protection, albeit limited, from the great man’s rages.
Unfortunately, the core leadership of the PPP unwittingly succumbed in the early stages of these plans, not realizing their implications. Worse, even after the Party realized their purport, they went along, seeing only short term advantages and not the big picture. They certainly did not recognize that the ambitions of Dr. Jagdeo, who was soon to leave office, could not be contained. The 2011 elections revealed the extent of the damage to the Party.
The open campaign for a third term, the direct challenge to President Ramotar and his leadership and the attempt to deprive him of a second term, whether of a minority government or not, were nevertheless exposed by the publications. But Dr. Jagdeo can only succeed if he divides the Party which he clearly has no qualms in doing. He can make bold to raise this direct challenge because, although President Ramotar recognizes the need to curb his influence, he has taken no decisive action to do so. President Ramotar is now paying the price for inaction, which will probably continue and which will become increasingly costly. Dr. Jagdeo, salivating for office, is not going to give up against President Ramotar and the PPP who are not his comrades, but instruments of his now monumental ego and ambition. Scheming has been perfected into a high art.
Dr. Jagdeo, who now has nothing but contempt for the alleged failings of the leadership of the PPP and of the Government, arrogantly sees little obstacle in his path even though, as one comrade told him immediately after the elections in 2011, ‘it was your mansion and pension that caused the loss.’ The comrade, deprived of high office as a consequence, omitted the cussing out, loud music, lewd dancing, big rallies and years of hostility to sugar workers, all designed by the genius. Dr. Jagdeo succeeded in doing what the British, Americans and the PNC together could not do – deliver an electoral disaster to the Party of Cheddi Jagan. With his usual hubris he now believes that only he can reverse the disaster of his own creation, ‘deal’ with the Opposition and manage Guyana.
The PPP would unfortunately continue to regard an anti-socialist like Dr. Jagdeo as a ‘comrade,’ and defend him, in order to maintain the appearance of unity, even though he has demonstrated by the publications and otherwise, over and over again, that he cares nothing about Party unity. The success of his plan for the Party has weakened it, has caused simmering discontent, has led to the almost total depletion of leadership material which understands the primacy of the PPP’s commitment to the disadvantaged within certain ideological perspectives and underpinnings.
Unless the Jagdeo grip on the throat of the Party and Government is prised open by President Ramotar, finger by finger, and he nurtures the leaders mentioned above, and they in turn show some political courage, the intellectual successors of Dr. Jagdeo will eventually inherit the leadership of the Party and Government, and he and they will have the last laugh.