Rowley’s Failure

By Dr. Selwyn R. Cudjoe
April 20, 2011

Dr. Selwyn R. CudjoeThe hiccups PNM is going through have more to do with Keith Rowley’s failure to lead than Patrick Manning’s political intransigence and nostalgia for power. Manning, the insane victim of his own ill-judgment, is suffering from the failed-leader syndrome to which many past leaders fall prey: an inability to recognize they messed up and ought to leave the political stage quietly if they cannot do so gracefully. This is the difference between great leaders (such as Nelson Mandela of South Africa and Julius Nyerere of Tanzania) who knew how to demit office peacefully and stubborn autocrats (such as Ben Ali of Tunisia, Hosni Mubarack of Egypt and Laurent Gbagbo of Cote d’Ivore) for whom power is an entrancing aphrodisiac.

Rowley is turning out to be an inefficient and perhaps uninspiring leader for which the PNM will pay dearly if he does get his act together. Rowley believes that leadership consists in attacking continuously and vehemently everything the Government does (and does not do); holding an occasional press conference; and calling on the government to fire every one from office. In some cases he is right; in others he is irrelevant. If the government takes his advice soon there will be few office holders.

Perhaps it was an omen for the future when, after the PNM’s defeat in the last local government elections, Rowley claimed that the PNM lost because it did not have enough evidence of PP’s failures. This was a negative strategy. He seemed to suggest, “Just wait until they begin to govern, then we will have sufficient ammunition to attack them.” This is exactly the path he is following.

But is this a sufficient strategy on which to become the next government?

Leadership consists of a different mettle. A leader must be able to inspire and fortify his troops with uplifting sentiments and, more importantly, an alternate vision of the world. He must be prepared to devote his life to his work. This is what Dr. Williams did. He did not start his political career only by attacking the government in power (1950-5). He also offered systematic, well-worked out programs in economic development; constitution reform; race relations; and the pros and cons of a West Indian Federation.

He drew on the economic experience of Arthur Lewis who worked with him at the Caribbean Commission; the political savvy of George Padmore whom he knew during his London days; and a strong cadre of middle class intellectuals (mainly teachers) upon whom he built his political foundation. Between June 1955 and June 1956 Dr. Williams addressed 154 meetings throughout the country.

President Barack Obama has been under the gun for the past year from the Republicans who defeated his party in last year’s midterm election. After that, they thought they had him cornered on questions such as the deficit, poor performance on job creation-in spite of the fact a Republican President created the economic disaster– and health care. He compromised with the Republicans on some issues and his numbers went up again.

A week ago he seized the initiative from the Republicans by outlining his vision of the economic trajectory of the United States and made it clear that the smoke and mirror policies of the Republicans (exemplified by Paul Ryan’s “Path to Prosperity”) would not solve the nation’s economic woes. Martin Wolf of the Financial Times, one of the major thinkers of the 20th century, savaged Ryan’s plans (he called it “a reductio ad absurdum”) whereas Paul Krugman, columnist of the New York Times and Nobel Laureate in Economics gave Obama’s plan the thumbs up.

Rowley started out impressively when he announced his vision, “Reflection and Resurgence” at the PNM’s convention that presented its candidates for the local elections. In that speech he announced broad themes around which a new PNM would locate itself: decentralization of the government at the physical, psychological and social level and fiscal federalism that seeks, among other things, devolution of spending and, to a lesser extent, revenue raising responsibilities to local government. He also emphasized the importance of human development since we are more obsessed with the quantity of our physical possessions rather than the quality of our lives.

Since then Rowley has not outlined one policy initiative. For example, what is PNM’s position on public sector wage negotiations? Rowley’s political mode is attack, attack, attack. All one sees within the PNM is a tendency to cannibalize its own, something for which the PDP, ULF and the UNC were famous years ago. The “he say, she say” of the last General Council was the worse manifestation of this behavior.

Rowley has not undertaken the hard work required to rebuild a defeated party. In this he can learn a lot from Dr. Williams, Manning and Jack Warner, the modern prototype of such an ideal. Jack took on Panday and won; he took on Ramesh Maharaj and won; he took on the PNM and won. He is responsible primarily for putting the PP together and they won. If he becomes the leader of the PP it will be in power for the next decade.

Jacks’s most important achievement within T&T’s racialized climate was his winning the chairmanship of the UNC which he did fairly and squarely. He was not elected UNC’s chairman because he is black. He did it because of his efficiency and hard work. It helps that he has mucho money. But money was/is no substitute for hard work and the services he provides to his constituents. You many not like him but he gets the job done.

Rowley has not been mobilizing, inspiring or uniting his party. If he had, Manning’s antics would be seen for what they are: the tabanca of a jilted party leader who still harbors a desire of returning to the helm of the party. When a past political leader refuses to attend the legislative caucuses of his party he reflects disrespect for his colleagues and his party that tells us more about his character than the party’s attempt to develop a unified position.

Rowley must recommit himself to rebuilding the PNM and demonstrate steadfastness of purpose. He must articulate clear political alternatives if he wishes to convince the country it will be better served under a PNM government. He still has some time to do so. If he believes the PP will wither and die he has another thought coming. It is not likely the PNM will win by default the next time around.

24 Responses to “Rowley’s Failure”


  • Rowley suffers from the same condition which afflicts many so-called professionals in T&T…he is a UWI graduate without any foreign exposure, education or experience.
    He lacks the ability to meet the challenges which Dr. Cudjoe calls upon him to articulate and achieve. One of the most disappointing characteristics which is severely handicapping Trinis, from politicans to talk show hosts, is the ability to properly speak the official language of the country. It is very difficult to comprehend what they are trying to say most of the time. The dialect is proudly spoken as the official language.
    Every sector of UWI should undergo a rigorous accreditation. The proud standards of the past have been severely eroded. The country is also bombarded with questionable on line degrees.

    • Having recently returned from study in England myself, I feel obligated to respond to this comment.
      Trinidadian English is the language of Trini people, in a similar way to American English being the language of Americans.

      It is important for an independent people to have their language that conveys common history and understanding. The English language, as you well know, is rite with conflations of meaning forged by common use. So Leh de man talk nah!

  • Prof Cudjoe could not have said it any better. For some time now i have been looking at the proverbial Rotweiler’s behaviour and all one sees is the sight of blood waiting to be devoured by him.
    There is nothing wrong with being in Opposition yuh know. It is a time for reflection, strategising and coming back stronger than before. Too often i have seen politicians in the corridors of power taking advantage of the people when they get there. It is often a good indication when they are returned to the opposition benches.

    It is now time for the PNM to take stock of their charges and do the work to which they were elected. They were elected to provide representation to their constituents. They need to do that, however and whichever way they could. Enough of the attacking left, right and centre as the professor puts it.
    Educate the nation and reposition your forces to be able to regain control of the ship which seems to be drifting out to sea at this time.

  • Hermese Duncan-Alexander

    Dr Cudjoe’s assessment of the challenges faced by the PNM are thought-provoking and poignant. More widely, though, I think his analysis points at the challenges that we face locally, not only at the political level, but as a people. On both sides of the house, we are continually subjected to, as a population, the mud-slinging that does nothing to lift/educate/enlighten our people. It does everything, though, to promote/prolong the bitterness and acrimony that we feel towards one another. Are we crabs-in-a-barrel or are we an independent nation of educated people seeking a better way of life?

    It’s a distressing state of affairs for I look at our leaders in all spheres of life and wonder, ‘Is that who we are as a people, or is it that we’re just a young nation and eventually we’ll move past these baser tendencies?’ For our sake and the sake of our children, I hope it’s the latter.

  • One of the most damning thing about multiparty politics is the definition of the party. When a defeated candidate decides he is the ‘one’, even though he led the party that lost, then nothing can happen. It divides the party and all the hangers on of the defeated politician see nothing but gloom and doom.
    This author writes about great leaders and he talked about Nyere and Mandela, but to him the only thing that differentiate a great leader from a stubborn autocrat is their ability to demit office peacefully. Since we are talking about leaders on the African continent, how do we classify Kenneth Kaunda and Jomo Kenyatta to name a few others. While others that have left office peacefully had to be tried after they left. We seem not to want to try our leaders that leave office ‘peacefully’ even though they were responsible for, at least, gross mismanagement. Maybe there isn’t such a charge for political leaders.
    I sense a hierarchical tendency – leaders are born so, rather than achieve it. It seems as though the leader that was picked by . . . didn’t make it so the leaders picked by the people must be inferior since they are not autocratic. When hasn’t Rowley been given the support he deserved in the party?? But he is fighting against the nay sayers in the party, which are numerous, and trying to make some semblence of the total lack of structure that was made to exist in the party so that the leader could have the ultimate and only say.
    As a member of the party the author should engage his political leader and assist in the development of the party. Not that I care since I do not believe in party politics and worse yet multiparty politics.

  • The political process has worked. The PNM membership has given Mr. Rowley the benefit of the doubt regarding the leadership of the Party, a position he has sought for quite some time. It is obvious that he is not the right person to lead the PNM. I believe that he possesses the skills, the political know-how, and the integrity to be a fine team player, and by extension, an asset to the Party. He has constantly demonstrated the political acumen, the fearlessness, team loyalty, as well as the appropriate attitude about fair governance. Nonetheless, political leadership is not his strong suite. I trust and pray that he will see the writing on the wall and not ignore it, lest he and the Party disintegrate. It is now time for the PNM to look deep within it’s bowels for a new, dynamic, and savvy leader who will take the nation to the next level.

  • Dr Cudjoe would not know a diseased dog from an actual human being. Who is paying him to write this filth? It’s this kind of drivel that has contractors losing contracts, hard working contract workers on the bread line and an economy so stagnant that Haiti won’t touch it. His article is like a poisonous effluent and that snake is only concerned about the bulge of cash in his own pocket. People, see with your own eyes Mr Cudjoe and friends are only here to blind you.

    • Cute M: Your venom against Dr. (Not Mr.) Cudjoe is hard to hide. I don’t know, but it is possible that you are a disciple of Dr. Rowley, and have a difficult time with anyone who attack, or opposes him and his ideals. Or, perhaps you have something personal against Dr. Cudjoe. Whatever it is, you are he one who as to struggle with that issue. Nonetheless, in my estimation, much of what Dr. Cudjoe has said in his article is on point. Might I suggest that you re-read it, this time with the eyes and mind, not of a Dr. Rowley or PNM sycophant, but as an impartial, non-judgemental, fair, and civil human being, with a non-anxious disposition. It takes courage and vulnerability to hear the truth. As a human being, I agree that the truth offends. But I am also of the belief that the truth sets you free.
      Respectfully submitted,
      Dr. Brian Jemmott

  • Rowley never developed leadership skills. He is way to brash and augmentative. He does not know how to pick his battles.

  • Dr cudjoe, birds of a feather never acknowledge another.the predicament canot recant by itself .the token splasses vissible are of an ilk ,whose only participation are common to their fellows in the p.n.m. :patronism,greed and no moral criteria.trying to sanitize this backward organization is like placing a scare crow in a ricefield.

  • @Brian Jemmott: Very well said. This is exactly what I have been saying. Rowley is a great soldier, but he is not a good leader.

  • Dr Rowley’s biggest Mistake was his poor choice of Chief Whip, Marlene Mc Donald. She is under investigation for a 2 million dollar slush fund just befor the 2010 elections and Dr Rowley put her as Chief Whip and deputy Political leader. When she is chargerd the PNM an d Dr Rowley will look like crooks.

  • I don’t normally read anything from Mr. Cudjoe because of his irrevelance. But, I must say I am glad that I read his article today. His analysis of the PNM debacle is on point. His view of Mr. Warner is true. And, his review of Mr. Manning and Dr. Rowley is totally acurate. But, I want to add this. The PNM is a dead party because iti has outlived its relevance for the 21st century. It has failed the African poor and working class by not empowering them. According to Mr. Warner statistics, only 1% of Africans own businesses whil 80% are owned by Indians and 19% by Syrian/Lebanese community. That is a shame after 50 years of PNM rule. The PNM neglect of areas like Laventille, John John, Gonzales, Beetham Estates and Prizgar lands will be its lasting legacy for the history books. So, thanks Mr. Cudjoe.

    • I’m in agreement with your assessment except for this one tidbit. Afro-trinidadians Less than 1%. I would argue that Chinese business ownership numbers which were omitted would reduce the percentage of Afro-trini businesses.

  • Why is it that we tend to revere people that put Dr in front of their names. From what I have learnt a doctor is a stepping stone to a Professor and ultimately a Mr.

  • Keith is a great man and I am disappointed that the doc will malign the good character of this man. What Keith has to beware of is the little PNM clan in Balisier house seeking to have him push forward certain agendas. As the leader he cannot get involve in the utterance of few disgruntled PNMites. He must carefully choose his battle and his language. The PNM cannot win another election without the support of all other ethnicities. In fact if the PNM thinks it will win another election anytime soon, they are misguided at best. So he must patiently toil in Opposition and realise that only the failure of PP can open the door for him…

  • “Jacks’s most important achievement within T&T’s racialized climate was his winning the chairmanship of the UNC which he did fairly and squarely. He was not elected UNC’s chairman because he is black. He did it because of his efficiency and hard work. It helps that he has mucho money. But money was/is no substitute for hard work and the services he provides to his constituents. You many not like him but he gets the job done.”

    Jack also won the most amount of votes of any politician in the history of the nation. This he did in a predominantly Indian constituency. Why? Jack in some ways understand Chaguanas and the people of that part of T&T more than any other politician understand their constituents. He know his constituents trust his judgment. And most of all they love their MP, something that cannot be said for all MPs in T&T.

  • Dr. Cudjoe is the only emerging voice of the African masses in T&T. It is true that whilst the PNM’s governance gave them a feeling of control and a sense security in reality they NEVER did anything to uplift the lives of Africans. Not easy to admit BUT is is very true. We need more Dr. Cudjoes not just one to lament and educate the challenges of failed black leadership. Looking around today, there is not ONE black leader that has authentic credentials to effectively articulate the aspirations and problems that is so needed to formulate a way forward. It is easy to criticize our thinkers but we must be able to take cognisence of the true points they are making for the good of society.

  • So brother Kian is dreaming about a Black savior ,that can come on a white horse , maybe from Oxford, Yale, Harvard,Toronto University, or Cambridge to save the day ,and fully uplift / liberate Trini Africans,huh?
    How sad, but unfortunately, my naive, sentimental friend , that’s not how you develop a people anymore. It did not work under Dr. Eric the alleged Father of the Nation, ANR Tobago alleged savior, or Basdeo Panday the alleged Indo Trini liberator.
    Africans people , globally do not take well to any form of criticisms, re social behaviors, norms, and actions , even if what they are practicing is self defeating. If the goal is not economic liberation, self love , and a sense of full independence, laced with prudent, solidarity maneuvers ,as a precursor to political empowerment, ‘you ain’t going any where buddy.’
    The most amusing reality on global Africans ,outside of the very tribalistic ,Virgin Continent ,is that many comically think, that European Imperialism ,400 years of slavery , or a stupid diploma,somehow purged them of their tribal ways, and that’s laughable. If that was the case ANR Robinson would not have been shot in his knees by Bakr and his African, fake religious goons.
    Manning would not be sitting like an illiterate , vindictive, San Fernando idiot in Parliament , after what,40 years of political life , attempting to die in office like his idol Eric Williams , or again ,be a spoiler to another African from Tobago- reminiscent to the Eric /Ah we bouy Robie ,wars- he felt caused his political demise, by exposing his closet criminal penchants, or cronyism,nepotistic , simi dictatorial,shenanigans ,from Caribbean adventurism ,to white Canadian, anti T&T, Corporate Hart,cuddling of East West corridor bandits, while like deffy Dr. Eric , continuing to neglect the real needs of African people ,that placed so much faith in him and party, from Toco to Bacolet, Bethel to Caranege, Grande, and Mt Dor.
    Promise me brother Kian that you won’t allow intellectual schizophrenic ,selectively outraged , lifetime race mongrels,like khem and company ,lull you into some false sense of inclusiveness mantra trap, simply because today they choose to see merit in Dr Cudjoe views.
    The good Doctor also has a not so subtle agenda,but just like most artist, without a full appreciation of the social sciences -outside of 101 theories- cannot grasp the big picture, and so refuses to test the waters , for other obvious reasons.
    Let me break down the reality of your country for you , as apparently , too many cups of Starbucks in Wyoming , or Denver , has clouded your judgement. Africans Trinis , cannot progress, if any one segment of it’s people, remains backward , and un-empowered.The twin island of Tobago remains a dismal, and embarrassing eyesore in the eyes of our people. Continue to ignore, demonize , and treat with contempt it’s people ,to your own peril.I wish ‘you alls’ well!

  • Neal, while there is truth in what you are saying, it is also true that in lorder to have any level of success we cannot give up. They only way to move forward is to acquire some level of sophistication. We have to cvontinue to tell our fellow Africn Trini that Carnival is not the All and end All in our lives. There must be more to it. One of our most important subjects to be engaged in is History. How can a whole race of people fail so miserably? We were the teachers, civil servants, leglislators, judges, doctors, surgeons, prosecutors to that of BANDITS? It is a lack of understanding? Not necessarilly a wesrwen education but education of who we are as a people. Maning obviously never learnt that. He thought that all he had to do was go the African for a vote and develop the Syrian conglamorate. How foolish and simplistic. I am not too sure that brother Rowley has learned this lesson either. He might be the same as Manning but we have to give him a chance to screw himself up with black people. We need more of professor Cudjoe because he has the tenacity to say the things that are needed to ber said in the avalanche of intellectualism under this PPP government. A government that has placed as its priority the destructionb of natio0nal security, Indianization, imbalance and Indian industrialization ahead of any other priorities. We need you and linda and Neverdirty and others to make contributions that will enhance our existence rather than mute it.

    • I do not understand this line of reasoning.

      “We were the teachers, civil servants, leglislators, judges, doctors, surgeons, prosecutors to that of BANDITS?”

      So let me ask you for some clarification.

      Where do all those young Afro- Trinis that have, and are walking the hallways of Trinity, QRC, Fatima, St. Mary’s, Bishops, Holy Name, and St. Josephs Convent, just to name a few, usually end up? Do they end up as BANDITS and BANDIT QUEENS?

      Do they engage in higher academic pursuits at UWI, COSTATT, UTT, Howard University, and other institutions of higher learning? If they do end up in those places, are they then postponing their careers as BANDITS and BANDIT QUEENS?

      When did we cease to be teachers, civil servants, leglislators, judges, doctors, surgeons, and prosecutors? It had to be this morning, since I have been busy working, and did not step outside for some air since coming to work at 8:30am. I saw lots of black folks in those professions as I drove to work this morning.

      I ask these questions because in the United States, during the month of May, I see thousands of African, African Americans, and African Caribbean students, graduating with undergrad and post graduate degrees. However, no matter how these graduates out number the ones going to jail, people, including Afro people, still identify the African youths as criminals and welfare queens.

      Help me to understand how we African people arrived at this juncture in our life, where we continuously relegate the positives in our existence, and feed the negatives to the voracious folks that are only too willing to believe what they hear.

    • Why is it that African people always become sentimental and nostalgic when all their chips are down and they are at the bottom of the ladder? When there were opportunities for them to make a difference in the fortunes of the ethnic group, the spent the time shooting down their leader, looking for chinks in his armour and giving the opposition ammunition to bring him down. Now that their wishes have been granted, they are crying down the chosen one. Didn’t they know that if Mr. Rowley had any leadership skill within him, he would not have taken the selfish task to undermine his leader? A good leader is selfless and not individualistic.
      I agree that Dr. Rowley was never a good choice of leadership for the PNM and he never will be; but most of the persons and talkers(Dr Cudjoe included) supported his undermining of Mr. Manning. Because of his individualism, he thought only himself and not the party when he chose to (destroy Mr. Manning) even if he destroyed the party at the same time. Dr Cudjoe and others exhaulted him for his “tenacity”, now they say he does not have the leadership skills.
      Dr. Cudjoe, while you and others were berating Mr. Manning’s Vision and his leadership (which I think was good (not great, but good in the context of his followership), you never thought about what better leadership would follow? Or is it as someone said recently, African people only like to mash up and pull down their own without even thinking about what will happen the next day (Que-sara-sara)?
      Mr Manning had set this country up with a vision 2020, the only leader to do so thus far. He implemented policies that would have seen the development of all races, but most of all the African diaspora. But where were the African leaders, like Dr. Cudjoe, to rally the troops and lead smaller groupings towards the vision – an Afro-centric vision carved out of the greater one? They were all trying to fight down Mr Manning, again because of individualism and small mindedness. So everything about the vision was wrong, even though they had nothing else to offer, but just talk and venge and pull down another African. (Cro-Cro is so right, every day I wonder when he will be given a medal).
      But although Mr Rowley is not, and will never be the man for the job, I will not applaud Dr. Cudjoe for his rant in this coloumn; as he has ranted against every black man that has ever tried to lead or make a difference to this ethnic group. Yet Dr. Cudjoe has never led anyone to any colour pasture, nor has he seriously contributed any suggestion, plan, vision or elbow grease to the development of the ethnic group or the PNM party that could be easily discerned as leadership (His (emphasis) group has not met the needs of the African population as the SDMS, GOPIO, and other Indian led ethnic groupings have done.
      Mr. Manning tried and for that I wish him the best and hope that he takes a well deserved rest and return to the PNM party in which ever form, so that some young and unvengeful persons could benefit from his expertise and political savvy. Mr. Rowley was part of the problem, he could never be the solution.

  • Cousin Twoleft and brother kian , you guys are both making very valid point, in trying to decipher the confused state we are in as a people. It is a pity the latter, decides to lump me with Huston transplant Queen, Madame Linda,brother Neverdirty ,and others , as failing to “make contributions that will enhance our existence rather than mute it.”
    Ain’t that something? Just observe,our more savvy/ visionary, Indo Trini brothers and sisters at work. 200 million have murdered each other across South Asia since independence, from India, to Pakistan, Bangladesh , and Sri lanka, but in Sweet, Sweet, T&T, not a bloodshed against each other, as it is all love, peace, and understanding, as they collectively do all that’s necessary, to advance their race, and have absolutely no compunction in destroying , and or ,eliminating every African , good or bad moving forward, if they stand in their way of full power. The Soul of Black folks can be quite revealing Kian.
    What do you know,800,000 Tutsi , and Hutu , slaughtered each other to death ,in one month in Rwanda, about 20 times that amount was slaughtered , between Sudan ,Burundi,Congo , Liberia, Serra Leone, and Angola ,since the Cold War ended in 1989, and yet in T&T , even after four self serving African leaders ghastly reign ,since 1962,and although we are a bit more peaceful than our more savage Virgin continental cousins…… when compared to above mentioned Indo Trini brethren, where are we in terms of socio economic, com political progress, and where does culpability lie?
    Yeah kian , blame the messenger, as I am at fault. Our wonderful writing Doctor , is correct. Long live the great Manning,and the Roth is an evil Gonian , only pretending to like Diego Martin , and other big brother environs.Got to give up on this country, just like Uncle V.S Naipaul folks.
    It just ain’t worth the effort, for if a seemingly intelligent kian, cannot see where I am coming from , how would that 2 bit , illiterate , carnival obsessed fools, figure out the big picture, hmmmmmm? We wish them well.

  • —200 million have murdered each other across South Asia since independence, from India, to Pakistan, Bangladesh , and Sri lanka, but in Sweet, Sweet, T&T, not a bloodshed against each other, as it is all love, peace, and understanding, as they collectively do all that’s necessary, to advance their race, and have absolutely no compunction in destroying , and or ,eliminating every African , good or bad moving forward, if they stand in their way of full power.—

    That may be true for a while. But, if they have no compunction in eliminating every African, what will the end result be after they have “achieved” that goal? Will it be for the ultimate purpose of self preservation? It must be considered in this context, that while “they” seek to eliminate the African, they would have also suppressed the antagonistic feelings of their own original continental enimity as was practised among their cast and religious brethren on the sub continent. The “elimination” of the Africans will then leave them with nothing else but a revival of their own internal divisions which would only result in them eliminating themselves in the same way the 200 million were elininated. Remember too, that historically greater forces had also no compunction in eliminating the African. Only to be amazed that the African is reanacting and resurfacing in all aspects of life and all spaces never conceived. What in effect will occur in this imported process of Indianization, will be self destruction, while the African will inherit, what he has created.

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