The late VC Bird is credited with intoning, “The dogs may bark but the wagon rolls on.” He was referring to his detractors whom he felt were trying to derail and distract him from the path he had carved out for the country.
The struggles he faced with the plantocracy are well documented. The stories of his exploits have been told and retold, and some say embellished, as to become folklore. But few would deny that in the nation’s fledgling beginnings Papa loomed larger than life.
Political pundits point to a list of ills, which have befallen this country because the Father of the Nation, in the face of irrefutable, incontrovertible evidence failed to change course. In fact, the gentleman is oft admired for being mulish, which some see as a virtue.
Some say that like his contemporary, Eric Williams, he mastered the art of seeing what he wanted to see and hearing only what was good to his ears. So it was quite in character for him to steer the wagon of state in the direction in which he wanted it to go despite what the people opposed to him did or said.
It would be stating the obvious to say that VC Bird operated in a time when information was not readily available. People in politics told their followers what they wanted them to hear. Truth was relative depending on the circumstances and from whose voice it emanated. It would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, for any politician to cocoon himself from the facts today, at least not for very long.
Fast forward to March 31 2010; a high court judge, with a stroke of a pen, turned the entire country upside down, throwing the nation into panic mode and testing the mettle of the current political leader, Baldwin Spencer.
To date, no one has dared make comparisons between the esteemed former prime minister and the current holder of the post. As a matter of fact, Spencer is noted, perhaps because of his trade union background, as a consensus builder, someone who would rather take the non-confrontational route. He is thought of as being slow to anger and equally measured in arriving at decisions.
The prime minister has been faulted for dreaming of the utopian ideal – a tent under which both the pretenders and the real could co-exist. Those who know say that while he has not exactly eschewed the notion, these past few days, especially at the town hall meeting he held on Wednesday evening where he declared war, he sounded very much like a general marching his troops into battle rather than a preacher beseeching the sinner to repent.
The prime minister no longer has the luxury of waiting for things to happen. No longer can he count on the good nature of his fellowman. If he were of the view that there is some gentleman’s agreement where politics is concerned, it is time for him to disabuse himself of the notion.
The dogs have been making yapping sounds at his feet for far too long. They have been becoming more and more emboldened. They have been threatening to bring the wagon of state to its knees by forcibly taking off its wheels.
All eyes are focussed on the leader. What will he do? Will he dish out more of the same arm-in-arm camaraderie, or the “we are all Antiguans and Barbudans” rhetoric, or, why can’t we all just get along gibberish?
The good book tells us there is a time to plant and a time to pluck up that which is planted; a time to kill and a time to, … a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, … a time to love and a time to hate, …a time for war and a time for peace.
Even as the country remains in a state of flux, as no less a person than the leader awaits the decision of the Court of Appeal to put paid to the speculation of who should be at the helm, the nation’s business must continue.
The problems that confront this country are real; the current global economic climate continues to impact negatively on our fortunes.
This certainly is no time for a prime minister to be distracted by yapping dogs, which like to hear themselves bark at every shadow, real or perceived.
The ship of state needs firm hands, steady eyes, a clear head and unyielding resolve in the face of criticisms whether based in fact or fiction.
Our advice to the tent-builder therefore, is, to take up a new occupation called “wagoneering.”