Eighteen months into the coalition government, I venture where only fools go. I seek to take in broad strokes a hard and honest look at the leader, President David Arthur Granger. Already this brings personal discomfort; it is certain to bring grief in its wake. I begin with the positives, the utterly commendable.
The President is awarded the highest marks for his personal ethics. I give him the same freely for his exemplary commitment to family and his public comportment. In these respects he has earned an A plus all three times. The man, the citizen, the leader is likeable, and comes across as simple and humble, a true man of the people. This is diamond deluxe.
Now in my assessment of him as politician and governor, I encounter severe headwinds and alarming turbulence. As a minister responsible for a particular portfolio, say Defence or Social Cohesion, I could anticipate him doing extremely well. But Mr David Granger is not a mere minister, but minister of ministers, and to ministers. He is El Supremo, El Numero Uno. I think he has faltered here.
Let me be quick to express recognition of the contentious ship he captains. There is the coalition partner, whose leading lights have only recently discovered the silent zone, the political and management wisdom, of tact and tactical quietude; and the need to operate within the confines of a framework. Moreover, this is a partnership accepted publicly, but resented privately by the local legion from the ancient political wars. That would be the PNC old heads. It is part of the dense thorny bush through which the President walks barefooted and bareheaded. Sometimes he limps, sometimes he hesitates. It shows. The house is roiled by the presence of all these stepchildren and political outsiders. Thus, Mr Granger finds himself as den mother and ringmaster. The chief has avoided the short leash, whip-cracking, and starvation diets. The new Commissioner General of the GRA provides an invigorating example of cutting adrift the errant and the concerning. The President should be aware.
Now I do appreciate that politically the leader has two stalwart ladies (one is a neighbour) and the man with eagle wings in his corner, whose loyalties are unquestioned and who will charge any hill for him. But can the same be said about the rest? I mean those who are either underperforming, or not performing at all, and have become familiar public whipping posts.
Here in scorching Guyana, it is time for the President to heat things up with his own version of a Christmas Eve shakeup. If that is too unchristian, then a New Year one would be just as fine. Shake the baggage. Such action would remove comments about indecisiveness. I think of Dr Keith Rowley from next door and his recent moves. The President knows.
Politically the President must watch his back; as a historian he should be well aware of his inheritance. Grecian gifts were gained; he must rein in those running amok as though it were the old times, and the same exclusive entitlement to good times. Clearly, the President has stalled here. I search for a letter in the alphabet to award, but it is neither in the first row nor in the first five. I understand that there is a method to the madness; I urge that there be more madness and less method to his political and management styles. It ought not to be injurious to his studied unflappable style.
Along the same vein, management has turned out to be surprising and disappointing. I hear some questioning capabilities. I beg to differ, though there are some blind spots, and soft underbelly. Management of an army is vastly different from managing a nation, a divided and surly nation; and the political prima donnas, and legacy issues interwoven in the day to day.
In the army, it is obey or over there. That would be the brig. The President is learning that in Guyanese politics, it is more of: “you can’t touch me”; and “you can’t move me”; and “you can’t rule me.” Gone is the automatic “yes sir!” now replaced by something way less civilized. Also, the four-fingered near horizontal salute, gives way to the single fingered variety. There is power and then there are the powers, the princelings, and a whole battalion of panjandrums to make life difficult. They have history. Orders to jump do not result in “how high?” but “why?” The President is discovering that management is hamstrung by raw politics, old politics. It is the boat that Mr Granger rows manfully; he has found the shore a moving target, and a hazier one. As before, the rating is further to the right and below the ABC line.
For all of the foregoing reasons, I humbly recommend that the President display to the nation a more martinet side. And if that does not work, then he must transform into a boot camp sergeant, or roaming MP. Military police, that is.
I hear that the President reads everything. Hopefully, he will find some things herein worthy of pondering and he will act accordingly. The very best is extended to him.