Columns

Eureka! Holness has discovered the 'Father of the Nation'

Franklin
Johnston

Friday, March 16, 2018

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Andrew Holness creates this opportunity to compare Edward Seaga and others. It is invidious. If he lives longer (we wish him long life), with Andrew in office, most public buildings — some not yet built may bear his name; why? Seaga, as others, copied stuff when in office; and why not? The white man invented it all, so we drive cars, wear clothing, have long hair from abroad, and copy his entities. We respect Seaga's prescience — as some copied inappropriately — but a development bank, stock exchange, or export agency is not innovation.

He also started cultural entities, celebrations which are in his field of expertise — great! Don't we all dream of doing things if we had power?

Michael Manley was also a social scientist (not culture, politics); uber-conscious trade unionist; scintillating personality; and his innovation in rights and black empowerment is unparalleled. Were he here we would be in solidarity and demonstrating like the students in America as guns affect us viscerally. Shame! Seaga worked under the circumstances; Michael Manley took risks to change the circumstances and sparked global debate on a “new world economic order” which engaged the South and scared the North. Those of us who worked abroad saw that Bob Marley and Manley were known and loved in Africa, Middle East, Asia. Seaga was unknown!

We revise history to our peril and Andrew Holness does Edward Seaga a disservice. He is a defining, deserving leader who took point in his field — culture, etc. But State power is fearsome, and we expect growth, innovation, prosperity with each new prime minister. Seaga failed.

Portia Simpson Miller is one who fulfilled her mandate to right economic fundamentals as a precursor to growth. Holness is now on pole and not doing well; he has time so he must focus and Seaga worship is unhelpful. I had bet on Andrew Holness to lead us from poverty to prosperity and the clock is ticking so get focused and get going! Last month he was judging judges; now he is rewriting history and “Eureka” he found the “father of the nation”. Eddie may be embarrassed for his acolyte who has a history of good intentions which go horribly wrong. This phrase was not used about Seaga in 1962, before, or after — until last week. No peer, or even his ghostwriter, used it; so do we premise that Andrew may be rolling the pitch for some drama?

The vanity of naming many structures for one person is patent. Andrew said he has some new honour for Seaga, so we hope his personal fortune is in play, not taxpayers. At least three public icons bear his name: the Fiscal Services, HEART Trust and Petrojam complexes. If every entity copied from abroad on a leader's watch is to be named for him then declare Edward Seaga the winner and stop this nonsense now!

Holness went to school and was taught history; was it all fake, Sir? Many public bodies started on his watch, but Seaga did not invent them. A big investor in tourism his business went south, like the nation's, but he and Michael were in office during our “coming of age” years and copied, as those who copied the much-loved Kentucky and Burger King from foreign. Will they be cited too? Names like Edgerton Richardson, Beckwith, G Arthur Brown, Bonnick, Horace Barber, all gifted civil servants, should be on buildings. This puffery is Andrew's personal reparations, not ours, and his mentor did not request them. This apprentice is a centurion, so find personal ways of rewarding your Svengali!

Vanity naming must stop! Use it for a one-of-a-kind or terminal effort. Norman Manley did the ideation for Independence — one off! Edward Seaga is a favourite as he writes books when politicians do not, and followers don't read, but is he extraordinary? We have no desire to dissect Seaga's legacy as we are here now and he was part of our ill-fated journey. Extraordinary is Sam Sharpe, Paul Bogle and George W Gordon — all terminal. Don't go there, Andrew! Seaga tried to build a garden of decency in Tivoli; now ashes in his mouth, but a well of State funding for them. Seaga is special. He gave up his US passport, but he did not work two jobs in snow or was racially abused; like Mom, who toiled 50 years. He was gifted US citizenship — no big thing to give up! He should say mea culpas and help democratise Tivoli, so People's National Party and Jamaica Labour Party supporters can live side by side as his legacy.

No more naming for politicians, except for unique or terminal heroism. Do you see any on the horizon? Use naming to incentivise civil service, teachers, police, nurses to greater productivity and innovation. The leader who removes us from Trump's s***hole category by educating and prospering our people would have aced Norman Manley's commission — economic independence and every flippin' building can bear his name! No more pyrrhic victories. We love our prime ministers, but let's keep focus as we are on a mission. This goodwill may not outlast Holness unless he delivers on growth and cauterises crime. Tread carefully, Prime Minister!

Franklin Johnston, D Phil (Oxon), is a strategist and project manager; fellow of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (UK); and lectures in logistics and supply chain management at the Mona School of Business and Management at The University of the West Indies. Send comments to the Observer or franklinjohnstontoo@gmail.com.

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