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OPINION: When number 2 is really number 1, in reality, in positioning

by GHK Lall

It is a reversal of all that we were taught in math classes, and which forms the backbone of our understanding of the hierarchy of numbers, of the serenity of settled order, and of the strategic placement of people and things. In the real world, number 1 is number 1, and that’s it. Nothing else counts. Well, that is the real world, which apparently does not apply to the world known to Guyanese and lived in Guyana. For in this country, number 2 is really about the envisioning of being number 1: in planning and calculating, in positioning and preparing.

I look at the local world of Guyanese politics and that is exactly what I observe, absorb, assess, and conclude. Take the ruling coalition party, as the first exhibit. There is this unbecoming tussle over the number 2 position of prime minister of the Cooperative Republic. An office converted into a meaningless and scorned backwater affair has suddenly taken on the seductive muscle tone and glittering allure of the coveted. Over there in Cummingsburg land, bewildered and bewitched Guyanese (yes, they are) hear of the fight for the PM’s position boiling down to the finality of: ‘it gotta be me.’ Not quite Sammy Davis, Jr., but close enough, to confirm what men think of primarily, and on which their life depends, from all indications.

I submit that political life and relevance, indeed, depend on such supremacy of interests and hoped-for result. Because, the current fight is over more than the tokenism of the prime ministerial nomination, which everybody in this society recognize is as prestigious and fulfilling as septic tank cleaning. Skeptics should check with prior officeholders. The ongoing fight for the number 2 office in this land is to ready for the best-case scenario, to accompany as the bridesmaid in waiting, to stand before the throne.

If anybody thinks that Guyanese political figures are slow and dense, I encourage rethinking. Consider these: there is the age factor. There is the health factor; these things are iffy, as in as good as they last. I hope for the best. There are the stress and disgust factors, which may accelerate premature exit. Any single one of those, or combination of them, can pave the way and open the door to a lot of things, including bedlam. I know it is not the hard science of mathematics. But I urge looking closer, if only to discern the underlying elements in operation here. This is more than for the history books, this is about booking one’s own passage to the highest possible summit, the artful angling that brings head spinning. It is of a political steeliness that is harder than any arithmetical order. In essence, the timing pattern and holding pattern of number 2 waiting in line and waiting for god.

On the other hand, the opposition leadership machinery has no such engine head noises, no such internal combustion woes. It hums along placidly and potently. The opposition operates by that old and tried Russian mathematical political formula. This is where a calculating number two pretends not be desirous of being number one, where an obsessed (highly likely) number 2 goes through these shallow exercises of being open for consideration. It is the most unconvincing exhibition of purity and piousness played out since the whole nomination and candidature business took shape and wing before a disbelieving public.

Moreover, and unlike the contentiousness within the governing coalition, all the words, every sentiment, and each posture, of the supposed main man, the big cheese prepped and costumed for the generalship of Guyana is for one and only one partner towards the altar of governance. I cut through the sparring, the games, and all the silliness of this nonsense season. Cut though the coyness and the sheep’s eyes and the mutually inviting demure blinking of eyelashes. I say this, because what is present and presented to the voting public is a prearranged marriage, a done deal, with all parties to the wedding knowing full well who gets control of the dowry. That is, who assumes the dominant role, who would be the real number 1. Even the in-laws are supportive. When there is such a match made in Guyana’s political heaven, then that governance altar already assumes the worst of desecrations. All the signs and portents so evidence. Think Lady Macbeth; just look to where that led. And if she is found gender-degrading, then I offer Richard II or Iago.

I love it; what is there not to like about such a prearrangement, if only for the symmetry of it? The ruling coalition government has to hate it, since its own courtship points to the stormy and the divisive, the uneven keel of two struggling against joining by what looks increasingly like a shotgun marriage. I have always said that high ideals, high heels, high wine, and high ambition do not go well together. There is cause for stumbling, blurring of lines, and ending up in the drink. This is not metaphorical, but to be taken literally.

The opposition slate is set in stone: forget about the frills and ribbons and gimmicks; it is the undying harmony of number 2 really being number 1. No clashing. No problem. For its part, the coalition has progressed from the ramshackle to the ridiculous. It cannot get its act together, even at a sensitive time like this. There is fixation on being number 2, except that number 1 is having none of it. Things fall apart, when the numbers are not aligned, do not hold. Who needs Christmas and Old Year’s?

Mr. GHK Lall is a Guyanese author, columnist and former financial analyst on Wall Street.