Will Obie run in West GB again?

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Hundreds of Grand Bahamians showed up at the PLP’s headquarters in Freeport, GB on Sunday, February 29, 2021, as members of the West Grand Bahama Committee voted to select a candidate to run in the upcoming general elections. Veteran politician Obie Wilchcombe won the vote. It’s now up to the Candidate’s Committee in Nassau to make the final decision. (Photo by E.J. Rolle)

West Grand Bahama Committee chose Obie to run, but final say is up to Candidate’s Committee

By E.J. Rolle

Compass Contributor

While the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) has excoriated and publicly pointed out the “mis-steps” of the Free National Movement (FNM) over the past few weeks, it has avoided coming face-to-face with its own struggles, challenges and inward fighting.

In spite of making a promise in the media to have all of their candidates for the upcoming general elections named by the end of February, as the month of March rolled in, the party still find itself betwixt between choosing from a number of people who have expressed their desire to run (hundreds, according to Davis) and those whom the hierarchy would like to see placed in certain constituencies.

The Progressive Liberal Party has not named one single candidate for any of the five seats in Grand Bahama. One of the hotly contested constituencies seems to be the West Grand Bahama seat, which is presently held by the FNM’s Pakesia Parker-Edgecombe. 

In spite of holding a number of town hall meetings and committee meetings in West Grand Bahama, no final decision had been made on who would represent the PLP for that constituency. On the other hand, certain members of the West Grand Bahama PLP committee, over the past few days, have played their own video of town hall meetings on social media, all calling for the main branch of the party to nominate and ratify Obie Wilchcombe.

It has been a serious bone of contention among the PLP party over the past few weeks between those Obie Wilchcombe supporters, Brave Davis supporters and the in-between PLPs. The contention uncovers the scab on a wound that was seemingly inflicted when PLP leader, Brave Davis had contested Obie Wilchcombe’s run for Chairman of the Party.

It was a nasty fight and damaging words and accusations were said to have been expressed from both sides. Since that time, some PLP supporters are claiming that Davis holds a personal vendetta against Wilchcombe.

Fred Mitchell won the Chairmanship of the party over Wilchcombe.

“I’m a consummate team player,” said Wilchcombe. “The party spoke and I accepted it. He defeated me in 2009 for deputy leader, and I’ve never gone against him. Never opposed him. I thought I’d be a better Chairman, because I think I understand the nuts and bolts of the party. I wanted to be a part of his team. I lost, but I’ve never been against my party at all.”

To make matters worse, on several occasions Wilchcombe had expressed interest in becoming a leader of the PLP. It was like pouring salt in a fresh wound in the tension between Wilchcombe and Davis. At the time, many felt that Obie’s leadership aspirations was a real possibility, because Obie was known as a charismatic, well-versed individual, who grew up under the tutelage of former Prime Minister, Perry Christie.

Asked if he still has leadership aspirations, Wilchcombe said no. At least, not now. “My aspirations are simply to serve the people. I would love to be able to help the leader, Brave Davis; help him with his programs and help him in preparation of the programs for a better country. That’s what I want to do.”

Both of those situations – the Chairmanship battle and his leadership aspirations – may have helped to give Brave Davis the mindset he has towards Wilchcombe. Does he feel threatened by Wilchcombe for leadership? Some seem to think so, although Davis has not admitted to such ideology. But he is definitely doing all he can to keep Obie away from getting his foot back in the door of the PLP.

But the people of West Grand Bahama are adamant on entertaining no other candidate for West Grand Bahama, but Wilchcombe.

On Sunday, the PLP held a massive meeting at its headquarters in Freeport, all in an effort to have members of the West Grand Bahama branch select from a number of prospects all vying for a chance to run in West Grand Bahama. There were said to be six individuals who were vying for a chance to run in West End for the PLP. Individuals like Keith Smith, Astwood Lewis and even Ginger Moxey.

Hundreds of party followers showed up to the headquarters on Beachway Drive, blocking the street that led to the Bishop Michael Eldon School. There were so many people at the small headquarters, that the police had been called.

After hours of deliberations, the well-known Obie Wilchcombe won the popular vote by a landslide, winning 154 votes. His competitors only secured votes in the single digits. However, it’s still not a shoe-in for Wilchcombe. In spite of the huge support he received from the West Grand Bahama Committee, the final decision will have to be made by the party’s Candidates Committee, which we understand will make the final decision sometime this week.

“I have remained active in the West Grand Bahama constituency and so I’m confident that I can secure the party’s nomination,” Wilchcombe told the media following Sunday’s meeting. 

“What a lot of people don’t realize is that in the last election, I didn’t lose Grand Bahama. I lost Bimini, but I won in Grand Bahama. So, I am confident that if we follow the democratic process, and we believe that the voice of the people speaks loudly, then, yes. Otherwise, what’s the purpose of doing all that we’ve doing?”

The Bimini branch of the party is set to have their run-offs this week, which means, they will have to decide as well, who they would like see run for the island of Bimini, which is connected to the West Grand Bahama seat.

Wilchcombe said that even after the last election, which he lost, he was asked by the party to be a care-taker of the constituency and claims that he did that. He also said that he and his campaign workers were asked to work to grow the branch and build relationships, which he said was done.

However, whatever efforts Wilchcombe and his team claimed to have exerted in West End, it has not changed Davis’ attitude towards him. Thus, the fight Obie has to go through just to get nominated. For many years, Obie Wilchcombe’s name was synonymous with West End. It was always a PLP stronghold, in spite of the loss in the 2017 elections, during which time the PLP was almost decimated, winning only four seats.

The love among a lot of residents within West End for Obie is apparently strong. The fact that it has taken Davis and the PLP this long to even nominate a candidate for the constituency is evidence that Obie has some pull in West End. According to PLP sources, Davis was warned that if Obie was not nominated for West End, they would not vote at all. Some residents were even threatening to go into the polls, put a line through the name of the PLP candidate on the ballot and put Obie Wilchcombe’s name. A spoiled ballot.

That’s how serious the people of West End consider the need to nominate Obie. In order not to push the envelope, Davis put the burden on the West Grand Bahama Committee to select who they wanted. It was maybe his way of passing the buck.

Now that the West Grand Bahama Committee has spoken, it will be up to the Candidate’s Committee to make the final decision. Davis wants to avoid having any appearance of interference at all. Although some say that Davis has the ear of the Candidate’s Committee in Nassau.

Davis told the media on Sunday night that he was not surprised that Wilchcombe won strong support among the party’s branches, but added that the Candidate’s Committee will decide how much weight Wilchcombe’s win will hold in the end.

According to PLP sources, even if Obie gets the nod, Davis has no intentions of giving the seasoned politician any spot in his Cabinet if the PLP wins the election and if Obie wins his seat. Davis may have tried to keep his hands off the issue surrounding Obie Wilchcombe, but when it comes down to it, as the leader of the party, he will have his say about who runs in West Grand Bahama and Bimini.

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