Much more required from OBA than a simple name change
Let's talk about the One Bermuda Alliance, which, despite its name change, many still refer to as the new or revamped United Bermuda Party. Let me first declare I never was a part of the first split of the Bermuda Democratic Alliance, or the merger that became OBA, so I have no underlying bias or loyalties that influence my opinion.
In my youthful days, when my eyes were first opened to the world of politics, I was inspired by all the voices of the time — the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr, Malcolm X and many others.
Naturally, being Black living in a segregated country, my natural inclination was to support the Progressive Labour Party, which was known then to be fighting for equal rights and inclusion.
I had known and held many acquaintances with some of the older veterans of the UBP; some of them were family, with whom I held frank and open conversations. In spite of their sincerity, it was a hard spot for them — the right wing who held the purse strings of the economy were unyielding in their positions. Many of the upwardly mobile and seemingly strong Black UBP members were on a perilous hook and could not step too far outside their lane.
However, pragmatism seeps in and allows one to consider the options at the time — and, yes, there were possibly some good ones that failed early. But if we had considered the road that the PLP was on at that time, heaven knows where we would be, and who would have survived.
We had the communist sympathiser Geoffrey Bing writing the constitution of the PLP, we had Cuba and Jamaica pushing the socialist agenda, but Bermuda was a military outpost for the Atlantic region, tracking nuclear submarines. As the old saying goes, blood would flow to the horse’s bridle before she was to be given up to communism.
We kind of knew that Bermuda was highly controlled, which explains why Hakim Gordon and others were banned from their own country back in the early 1960s. Every Bermuda governor before recent times being a former general points to the role they played.
The UBP as the transition agent, albeit very imperfect, was a relatively smooth transition from being a segregated to desegregated country. That era accomplished, the next prescribed philosophy should have been to go beyond integration and become truly a society of equals thriving and competing in the marketplace. That did not happen. Companies such as Appleby Spurling & Kempe did not become Appleby, Richards & Francis because the core economy remained segregated. When you walk into the corporate offices of CD&P, you will see files of new businesses bigger than what Richards, Francis & Francis had as a total stock — even though they had a prominent lawyer in E.T. Richards, the former Premier of Bermuda.
So the UBP era ended. It had many good intentions and many resourceful people, but just could not adapt to a new world and new demand. The UBP fumbled in the wilderness until it finally took its last breath while facing internal turmoil. After a couple of years of the PLP government, and with no end in sight to rising debt, up pops the OBA.
What was the OBA in this equation? Was it a new organisation with a new vision? Or was it, you came back to us?
In my walkabout, I discovered both elements: there were those who wanted to make a change, but lacked the understanding of what change meant. That happens to be a fundamental problem where people are taught under a system and it becomes all they know. While you may see a new face with commitment and willingness to listen, they cannot offer you anything other than what they have been fed. There were those also who were of the belief the UBP was the best thing since sliced bread.
If there is ever to be a change, there needs to be change agents. Leadership needs to see a new reality and visualise how life and politics for everyone would be better. At the moment, they are not doing that; they are still bringing their old cannons and muskets to the war, looking more like a tired, beat-up UBP than an invigorated, active OBA.
What can they do? Parliament is supreme and the rule of Parliament is “he/she who commands the majority shall form the government”. The OBA faces problems that many parties around the world have faced, and there are remedies. The vast majority of Bermuda today does not care about PLP or OBA; what they care about is their future, the economy, getting our young men working, education and seniors’ need for help.
The only real hope is that the OBA sees the wisdom of a coalition government to ride out the next three years. It has six MPs and needs only 13 from the other side to get to the magic number of 19. Yes, it will still be the preponderance of PLP, but we can draw on the talents on both sides of the House.
OBA, you have a role and a responsibility to do the best for your country. The issue is leadership and the question is, who and through what mechanism do we place the leaders we need?