Jun 30, 2016 kn Features / Columnists, Freddie Kissoon

frddie2In Guyana during the Burnham era, there was a song called, “Follow De Leadaah.” It was a kind of glorification of Burnham. But it would be inaccurate to say that only Burnham was invincible and omnipotent among PNC members. The same situation existed in the PPP with Cheddi Jagan and his wife Janet Jagan. The song, “Follow De Leadaah,” was composed when Burnham was President.
It was virtually impossible for there to have been any questioning among party members of Burnham as President, Jagan as President, Hoyte as President. Once the leader is the President or Prime Minister, the opiate is to “follow de leadaah” never mind the leader may be destructive and self-destructive. One of the most horrendous cases of a self-destructive leader was that of Prime Minister Patrick Manning of Trinidad. No one in his party or on the Government bench dared to stand up to him.
Right in the middle of his term, he chose to call a snap poll. There wasn’t any reason. The economy was doing alright. He had a parliamentary majority. There was nothing alarming taking place in the country. Manning was eccentric. He called the early election and lost. No one or no group within the PNM sought to remove him as Prime Minister because he had lost touch with reality.
Contrast the Manning scenario with British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher. At the height of her global fame, with the American President, Ronald Reagan openly saying she was his favourite world leader, the Conservative Party removed her as head thereby bringing her Prime Ministership to an end.
What happened in the UK with Mrs. Thatcher is unthinkable in the Third World. Now we have Brexit. Prime Minister, David Cameron, campaigned for the UK to stay in the EU. His party’s parliamentary group and the general membership were split. This definitely wasn’t a case of “Follow De Leadaah.” Can one imagine in the Third World, a Prime Minister campaigning for an issue while a big section of his Parliamentary party is on the opposite side of the campaign trail? The intoxicant and cult of “Follow De Leadaah,” would prevent that.
Over in the US, Donald Trump who is running for the presidency of the Republican Party is facing a relentless pursuit among top Republican leaders to deny him the party nomination even though he won the primary stage of the context among Republicans. All indications are that if Trump becomes the US President, a significant group of Republican leaders will not accept his control over the White House
In Guyana, “Follow De Leadaah” never stopped playing even though President Burnham died in 1985. Much to his credit, Hamilton Green in Guyana remains, together with the challenge by two Ministers to Prime Minister Basdeo Panday in Trinidad, of examples where a sitting President (and Prime Minister) were challenged. We do not see that often in the Third World. It is a rarity. In Guyana, it was possible because Green was far more a figure of popularity in the PNC therefore he had both the resources and party personnel to challenge President Hoyte.
The “Follow De Leadaah” syndrome played a deadly role in the loss of power by the PPP in the 2015 National Elections. After Ralph Ramkarran was ousted from the presidential contention for the 2011 national poll by Jagdeo, that put an end to any disagreement with President Jagdeo within the PPP hierarchy. After he lost the parliamentary majority in the 2011 General Elections, it was clear to most Guyanese that Donald Ramotar was not a winnable candidate but he was selected again to represent the PPP in 2015
Had there been a serious challenge in the PPP pyramid to President Ramotar to step down in favour of a more presentable, elegant, suave, intellectually endowed candidate, it is possible the PPP may have won the 2015 elections. The results of the 2015 poll have psychologically devastated the PPP. The PPP lost the Parliamentary majority by one, just one ballot.
In Region Eight, the Coalition won by one vote thus giving them the Region Eight parliamentary seat to enable them to govern by one seat. In the PR results, the PPP lost by less than 5,000 votes. If Guyana was different and had a democratic tradition like the White man that we, Third World people are always cussing down, the PPP may have created history in 2015. But no one dared to confront a sitting President. After all, in Guyana you have to and you must “follow de leadaah.”