Is Brogad living in a bubble?
Who remembers the short-lived comedy series Foul-ups, Bleeps & Blunders that was aired on ABC in the mid-80s? The title may best describe the Andrew Holness-led Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) Administration, which, after overwhelmingly winning the confidence and admiration of the Jamaican people, has, whether wittingly or unwittingly, set out to squander much of its political capital and goodwill through arrogance, an autocratic approach to governance, and a growing disconnect from the electorate.
In 2021, after that decisive whipping of the People’s National Party (PNP), Holness was dubbed with the dancehall sobriquet Brogad. This was showered on him because of his then popularity with the masses. “Brogad”, which means friend, was taken from the song by 6iX member Daddy 1 and “Anju” had so connected with the people that they embraced him wholeheartedly as he “flexed” with his Clarks. Fast-forward to 2023 and the sheen has gone off the ball. Indeed, successive polls in recent times have revealed that he is no longer as popular as he once was.
Against this backdrop of diminishing returns, the prime minister has become more and more defensive, going as far to chastise, vehemently, those who criticise his style of leadership and the performance of his Government. One may well ask if the awesome power that he wields, especially in a scenario in which he and his “combolos” persist in believing that, in the very final analysis, when he flies the gate, the PNP will stumble and fall by the wayside and he will be on his way to an unprecedented third term, thus equalling the political feat of the “Fresh Prince”, P J Patterson, whose infrastructure mantra he has been using to telling effect (or so he thinks).
In this vein, he himself has admitted that second-term fatigue has set in, but what he may not have realised is that popular leaders with a large majority in Parliament tend to become far removed from the pulse of the nation and end up living in a bubble surrounded by yes-men/women, wimps, and sycophants. Readers who have watched that popular BBC comedy series Yes, Prime Minister will fully understand what this writer is alluding to.
Now let us be very honest and fair here. There are many positives that the Holness Administration has achieved. Tourism is booming, unemployment is going down, the macro-economic indicators are the envy of many developing states, plus other major achievements that the government can confidently trot out. But here’s the rub. Inflation has been ravaging the lives of the poor and middle class and there has been a general breakdown in the society, in terms of law and order as well as poor service delivery in our hospitals and government bodies, and I can go on. The harsh truth is that while the apple looks shiny and delectable from outside, there are worms inside which may well make it rotten to the core.
In the meantime, using statistics in a rather deft way with the help of some supine public servants and ingratiating private sector operatives, citizens are being cajoled into believing that all is well and prosperity is knocking at everyone’s doorstep. Yes, incidents of crime, including murder, may be down, but while there is emphasis on the quantity, the quality of violence that is being perpetrated by terrorists, deviants, and malcontents is most horrendous and frightening, no longer are women, children, and the elderly spared from the constant bloodletting. They are being killed in the most brutal and unconscionable ways. And all we hear is that the prime minister is “shocked”, the Leader of Opposition Mark Golding is “shocked”, the Police Commissioner Major General Antony Anderson is shocked, and the National Security Minister Dr Horace Chang is “shocked”. What a shocking state of affairs!
Meanwhile, as the prime minister boasts about the First World highways that are being built, there are pothole-riddled streets everywhere, not to mention many impassable farm roads (one “Prosperity” donkey won’t cut it); rat-infested garbage pervading the Jamaican landscape; a public transportation system that has been likened to the Middle Passage continues despite many promises to fix it; food prices are going through the roof; patients are sleeping on hospital floors unattended; corruption reigns supreme; and the House of Parliament has become a fish market with our leaders setting no good examples in civility and decorum.
By the way, the Marlene Malahoo Forte-led Constitutional Reform Committee (CRC) seems to be going down a road to nowhere and the Integrity Commission wagon is being circled by the “proverbial Indians” (parliamentarians and JLP supporters) who are firing slings and arrows at it in a most outrageous fashion. In this regard, what is the purpose of the gag order on Cabinet ministers and Government members with respect to the not-too magnificent six who are being investigated by that august body for unexplained ill-gotten gains? Jamaica is going down a slippery slope!
As the nation tries to keep up with what has fast become a soap opera of intriguing dimensions, one wonders what will burst the prime minister’s bubble so that he can come down to Earth and face the music.
The last two general elections showed that the vast majority of Jamaicans have very little interest in the political affairs of the country. This worrying scenario has been compounded by a partying Opposition PNP that seems to think that all that is needed is to turn up the vibes among the masses. But while they jump and prance, the million-dollar double-barrelled question is: Where are the policies, what will a Mark Golding Government do differently than what now entails? No wonder so many cynical Jamaicans continue to say, “Same difference.” Go figure!
The bottom line is that at this stage of his political career Brogad must be very concerned about his legacy. Staying in a bubble far away from the madding crow will help to destroy this objective. He needs to reconnect, come out of the ivory palace that he is now in, and face the music. Jamaica needs a Moses, not a Pharaoh!
Lloyd B Smith has been involved full time in Jamaican media for the past 47 years. He has also served as a Member of Parliament and Deputy Speaker of the House of Representaives. He hails from western Jamaica where he is popularly known as the Governor. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or email@example.com.