Loretta Butler-Turner, after she moved from Grand Bahama back to New Providence quickly became a strong force within the Free National Movement party. She was a favorite of three-time Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham. When he put his slate together on the way to upsetting the Progressive Liberal Party and Prime Minister Perry Christie in 2007 during the general elections, Ingraham had Butler-Turner on the Montagu Constituency ticket. She won, and the achievement catapulted her almost immediately into Ingraham’s preferred group. He appointed her Minister of State for Social Development and other than making inroads in her portfolio and growing as a women’s rights advocate, Butler-Turner was admired nationally for her eloquent presence in the House of Assembly. By the time the third Ingraham Government was defeated in 2012, she had become one of the leading politicians not only in our land but in the region as well. During her first tenure in the House of Assembly, she also served as Vice President of the Inter-American Commission of Women. Indeed, Butler-Turner had made her mark outside of The Bahamas. There would be much more to this lady who hailed from the Pond Community in New Providence. She was, indeed, headed for more personal accomplishments of the historic kind. After heading to convention, Ingraham took responsibility for the resounding defeat of his party (9-29) and resigned on election night 2012. A convention was soon held. Butler-Turner became the first female to win the deputy leader post in a major party. She defeated Desmond Bannister and despite Dr. Hubert Minnis becoming the FNM Leader, virtually by default, it was Butler-Turner as the representative for Long Island who flashed elegance, eloquence and political acumen in the House of Assembly and during press conferences much more often than any other in the Official Opposition. She overshadowed Dr. Minnis based on the reality of the circumstances. She was just several grades above her leader, politically and generally, and it showed. She was looking more and more like Prime Minister material, a lot more so than Dr. Minnis. He couldn’t like that and perhaps he felt all along that her superiority over him would be obvious. Butler-Turner would later say that when the two became public adversaries Dr. Minnis told her she was not his choice for the deputy leader position in the FNM. The die was cast. Dr. Minnis began to show himself for what he actually was – a person many (inside and out of his party) would not be comfortable with. The situation led to a one-day convention in 2014 and Dr. Minnis who had galvanized a lot of support because of his pledges to help the small man, easily beat his opponent. The friction between Dr. Minnis and Butler-Turner increased though. She declared her opposition to him as the FNM leader. Eventually with the support of Neko Grant of Central Grand Bahama; Hubert Chipman of St. Anne’s; Theo Neilly of North Eleuthera; Edison Key of South Abaco; Richard Lightbourne of Montagu; and Dr. Andre Rollins of Fort Charlotte; Butler-Turner was able to upend Dr. Minnis and replace him as leader of the Official Opposition. It was history again. She became the first female to head the Official Opposition in Bahamian politics. Dr. Minnis was left with K. Peter Turnquest, the East Grand Bahama Member of Parliament in his corner. For sure, Butler-Turner displayed the attitude, in every way, of a Prime Minister to be. But alas, Dr. Minnis was getting a groundswell of support from those who would come to regret their decision. So, at convention time in 2016 Butler-Turner pulled out of the race and the FNM Party belonged to Dr. Minnis. She had reached her political pinnacle as leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Official Opposition. It would end up being a bitter-sweet achievement because that development spelt the end for her in the FNM. She ran in Long Island as an independent candidate in 2017 and lost. These days, she and a lot more who closely observe the political arena are only left to wonder. What would have happened if Butler-Turner, after she lost to Dr. Minnis for the leadership during that one-day convention in 2014, had just bided her time? Would it have been better for her to simply lick her wounds politically, but remain firm within the FNM? Could she have just waited for Dr. Minnis to become the pariah Bahamians detested? Yes, if only! History is what it is, but the view strongly held here is that one Loretta Butler-Turner was most definitely on the pathway to become The Bahamas’ first female Prime Minister.
Loretta Butler, daughter of noted mortician Raleigh Butler and grand-daughter of the legendary politician and humanitarian Sir Milo Butler, not too long ago seemed destined for an extremely high position in the country called The Commonwealth of The Bahamas. Indeed, she was well on the pathway to become the first female Prime Minister of The Bahamas. I know quite a bit about her. During the years 2015 and 2016, we interacted often regarding politics. Prior to that she was a beloved inspiration to my mother and the other women of the Montagu Constituency. Even after she no longer represented them in the House of Assembly, she continued to reach out to them on special occasions. My mother was a staunch supporter of the Progressive Liberal Party; but she told me often and fervently, “I like Milo Butler’s grand-daughter”. So yes, I know a good bit about the lady. We grew up in the same Pond Area of the middle-east section of New Providence. She would have been one of the little members of the Butler clan one would see at the once famous, land-mark store in The Pond when purchasing items. However, she really came to my attention while in her early teens. The late Olympic sprinter and National sprint champion Kevin Johnson and I were sitting on the roadside wall in front of his home one day in 1972. Two young ladies in their early teens passed by and greeted us, very mannerly, and I asked the obvious question to my friend Kevin. He informed that the slightly taller one was “Raleigh’s daughter and the other one, Milo’s”. The taller of the cousins was Loretta. The age of high technology was in the far distance then, but news traveled very well in neighborhoods. So I was able to follow her career when she recorded one of her notable “firsts” and became the pioneer female in this country with a degree in Mortuary Science. The next I heard of this lady, Loretta, who would hit ceilings in politics later on; she had relocated to Grand Bahama to operate the family mortuary business in Freeport. Quite a transformation was to take place. She became recognized as one of the top morticians in Grand Bahama and was cutting a wide path in the business. Her destiny then took a firm grip on her and politics for a number of reasons (another story, at another time), won out over the business. Instead of in the PLP political family, however, she was to evolve as one of the more spirited, progressive, and capable members of the Free National Movement (FNM) of all time.
(Be on the lookout for the continuation of this series on one of the truly fine daughters of the Bahamian soil. It will be uploaded on GB News soon)
At some point, those who love and cherish the political organization called the Free National Movement (FNM) would be better off coming to the realization that Dr. Hubert Minnis is certainly not ideal for the transformation of the party. He is just bad news. This is understood to so many people in this country, including a lot of FNMs. The man can easily be categorized as a pariah. He is just not a good fit in Bahamian politics today. Dr. Minnis is blamed widely, and one could say justifiably so for the devastating loss suffered by the FNM against the now governing Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) on September 16, 2021. On November 27, 2021, the FNM held a one-day convention for the leadership. There was clearly not enough support from within the party for him to seek to continue to lead. He recognized the dilemma and sat out the election. Contesting for the new leadership were Michael Pintard, Iram Lewis, and Kwasi Thompson; all ministers from the Minnis Cabinet. While Lewis and Thompson were known to be quite in favor of Dr. Minnis, Pintard was another matter. He never seemed intimidated by or overly impressed with Dr. Minnis, and was not seen as one of the former prime minister’s favorites in the Cabinet. In fact, it was said that Dr. Minnis did not want to allow the ratification of Pintard to run on an FNM ticket in the most recent general elections. He came to Grand Bahama while the topic of candidates was high on the party’s agenda. I was told that he met overwhelming support in Marco City for the sitting MP. The FNMs in Marco City, thus, changed the course of history. Pintard was ratified, won handily against PLP Curt Hollingsworth, and became the leading figure at the November 27th one-day leadership affair. So, the FNM ended up with a (now) moderate/intellectual Pintard as opposed to an erratic/unpopular individual at the helm. And, this is why the FNM faces a conundrum. On the one hand, there is the leader Pintard with a sober approach much different from the raucous presentations of Dr. Minnis. The two styles will never blend and at this stage in trying to regain the confidence of the people, it just makes sense for the FNM to go in a different direction than the one that led to disaster.Pintard can transform the FNM. However, the job is made excessively more difficult if as a rule during every House of Assembly session there is this braying going on that is counter to the desired image-changing for the FNM. When Pintard stands up, he is 100 times more acceptable in my view because of his factual offerings as he builds a new image for the FNM; one surely those in the FNM family hope will enable the people of The Bahamas to embrace them in national leadership once again. At this moment in time and going forward, I submit that Dr. Hubert Alexander Minnis is not a good ingredient for the FNM pot.
Sir Jack Hayward died on January 13, in 2015. He was 91, and the last remaining member of the first big three, who history considers the prime investors/architects of Freeport and the wider Grand Bahama. It was not a planned union between the Haywards (Charles the father, and son Jack), and founding investor Wallace Groves. The American, Groves, who orchestrated the Hawksbill Creek Agreement with the then Bahamian Legislature back in 1955, was in deep financial trouble when the Haywards came on the scene, afterwards. A whole lot of infrastructure had been put in place in the free port area and surrounding communities, including the east-most sector which was cut off by water from the far eastern settlements of Grand Bahama; and the Southern Shores and West Grand Bahama. Groves accomplished a lot, with other American investors. They turned marsh, mangrove-populated land into an advanced habitable environment. Sir Jack, when I interviewed him several years before he died, once in his office at the Grand Bahama Port Authority, and on another occasion, over dinner at his home in Fortune Cay, informed, that one by one, Groves lost his early fellow investors. He was in dire financial shape when the Haywards came into the picture, Sir Jack told me. Sir Charles liked what Groves had done with previous partners and opted to hitch his financial horse to Groves’ investment wagon. The rest is history, to be told in this ongoing GB News series. Sir Charles concentrated on the investment side, as a much-welcomed compliment to Groves, and the great transformation to what was later to be called the Magic City, began. In the meantime, son Sir Jack became very much the leading socialite in the embryonic free port trade zone (later to be called formally Freeport). His interaction every evening with other more-social minded associates, led to another necessary aspect of a growing society. The social sector is an important element where, and whenever humans come together. Out of that came, eventually more sophisticated hangouts such as lounges and eating spots, and in particular, a social/news voice, called the Freeport News. Sir Jack was indeed one of the founders of an institution, which was in the very fabric of Grand Bahama for 61 years, before official closure of the Freeport News on October 31, 2021. Although notably synonymous with the early Freeport and the evolving Grand Bahama Port Authority, Sir Jack was also considered the pioneer socialite.
(The series continues in GB News. Watch for follow-up articles).