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By GHK Lall
Many expected the new Opposition Leader to bolt out of the gates, head for the ramparts, and take the country by storm. Some desired a leader frothing at the mouth and breathing fire through the nostrils. Others wanted a certain kind of man, a type of Opposition Leader, to fit the straitjacket that they had specially tailored for him.
Thus far Mr. Aubrey Norton has managed to surprise, if not outwit, all of them; he has made guessers of a lot of people, who are left to scratch their heads, and speculate endlessly as to what he may be up to, what is his vision, his real end game. In sum, the mystery of the man unfolding is how he is learning to manage himself, amid the expectations (some furiously fevered) of those who have elevated him to where he is; as well as against the calculations of those who stand in his way as adversaries, and have carved out a fixed path for him to travel, so that he can prove them right.
The problem, the challenge-what is bewildering to many-is that Opposition Leader Norton is proving to be a different man, his own man. Neither the hothead nor the head case that others have concluded him to be, hope that he is. Indeed, he is saddled with much on his shoulders, but his preference to this point is to proceed at his own pace, in his own manner, and at the time of his choosing. I think he did make an early misstep or two (especially as it relates to the media), but has since regained his balance, and his composure. It is what is befitting the times. He has demonstrated that he will not be hurried. He will not rise to the baits of those who taunt him, in efforts at seeking to tempt him out of his comfort zone. It is clear (so far) that there is a deliberateness to his steps, a caution in the areas he chooses to prioritize. Like I said, my assessment of him is that he will not be rushed, or let the agendas others have set for him dictate his state of mind, power his leadership moves.
Everybody has their eyes on him, and how he deals with the government leaders and their antics and mischief. It can only be one of two ways. As I see it, consultation or confrontation, engagement or estrangement. To put in nicer, but sharper terms, after the initial honeymoon, the reciprocal circling around and getting feet wet, it all comes to this: the outstretched hand clasped, or the upraised fist, and all that that means.
To be sure, it is interesting times in which we live, as the wise Chinese would say. Opposition Leader Norton has much race relations works to do, and from which he should not shirk, nor place on his secondary list, for that could prove politically fatal. My recommendation to him is that the ground has some fertile spots, which he must nurture to his advantage.
Relative to oil and its benefits to all Guyanese, this precious commodity just has to be on the new Leader’s list of must do, and must haves. To begin with, Mr. Norton’s people don’t have anything to show for its arrival, any receipt of its contributions to improving their lot. He can only be immunized from their sentiments and passions, their expectations, for so long, and so mildly. Yet, as oil issues take center stage and spiral, he does well to remember that taking on Exxon is taking on America; those are two tangible and nonnegotiable forces.
This is embodied in the presence of this corporate imperialist, the extent of oil (read gunboat, now reincarnated as sanctions) diplomacy. Guyanese would be surprised that the usually genteel American diplomatic head would transform to a raging thunderstorm should her people not get their way. Russia could have done what it did to oil companies, including American ones, because it has nukes. We have nothing, except division, of course, which must Mr. Norton must rise to address, possibly defuse. A united front is unbeatable, Exxon or no Exxon, sanctions, pariah state and all.
As he grows in his role, his management of the media must lengthen stride swiftly, his imprint registering deeply. It is, let’s cut to the chase, even as he crafts how best to use the media to his advantage. He has to get his story across, and on his terms. I think Mr. Norton has been subdued in his first few days, which is a mature approach.
He has his work cut out for him, a deep hole left by his predecessors, out of which he must dig himself. The last kind of figure he must be is that of a collaborator. With anyone: Exxon, PPP, or any of the other forces that drain and devastate this country. He must become a communicator par excellence, and he has all of overnight to get to that place. Then, he starts all over again. What now and where to….
The ball is now largely in the PPP Government’s side of the court. He must wrest it skillfully and wisely, also legally, from the powers that reign supreme. All Guyana watches to see if he can. I think he has what it takes; not everything right now, but enough to make an inspiring start. He must go for it, without going overboard. That time has passed. He knows so. To the varied hosts of Opposition Leader Norton’s well-wishers, denouncers, and watchers, what I put before Guyana today is merely a sketch of the first shadows of the emerging man and leader. May he prevail. There is nothing else.