Nigel Hughes lays down conditions for accepting nomination for AFC Leader, consensus opposition presidential candidacy

Last Updated on Thursday, 13 June 2024, 21:20 by Writer

Attorney-at-Law Nigel Hughes

Former Chairman of the Alliance For Change (AFC) and well-known Attorney-at-Law, Nigel Hughes on Wednesday stopped short of saying he would accept nomination to become his party’s leader, and said much would depend on getting key commitments “on a set of principles” at his party’s conference slated for June 29.

Hughes and former AFC General Secretary David Patterson were each nominated by two groups and Sherod Duncan by 15 groups.

He said he would be sharing his views with his nominators and other party decision-makers in deliberations at the AFC’s National Conference to ascertain whether they agree with him that there must be common programmes, involvement of civil society and constitutional reform.

“I think our politics, in the past, has been too exclusionary. Somebody gets in and somebody else is permanently out and we have the most unfortunate constitution so, f0r me, unless there is a commitment to very serious constitutional change, I’m not interested in getting involved,” he said.

Referring to Guyana’s increasing wealth, he made a pitch for “the best from across the board” potentially from civil society to develop a modern country based on sound human rights, economic and environmental principles. “My preference would always be for a broad coalition of interests dedicated t0 making Guyana a modern society with all the protections for everyone and that broad coalition must, of course, include politicians but it should include a wider catchment area of the society,” he said. Mr Hughes said the government and opposition must identify short, medium and long-term plans for education, foreign affairs and a 10- to 15-year economic plan that would guarantee stability and growth.

Mr Hughes, who had twice told Demerara Waves Online News that he was finished with elected politics, noted that Guyana was “in a very, very precarious position”, and so anyone who could advance an argument to save Guyana should do it. “I do not seek any privilege neither do I think I am excluded from that but I believe that if one does not stand up at this point, having observed all that is going on, then I really and truly I would have disappointed my parents,” he said.

Mr Hughes skirted direct questions about whether he was available to be the opposition’s consensus presidential candidate for the 2025 general and regional elections, assuming he accepts nomination for the post of AFC Leader and wins. Instead, he said anyone who is asked to be that candidate would have to consider whether he or she is equipped to advance the entire society collectively. “If there were sufficient people of the view that a team of us could do that, I certainly wouldn’t refuse to participate but that, again, would have to be driven by scientific data. There would have to be polls. We would have to be able to assess on the ground whether people think that the programme, the projects, the plans can be advanced by a team of people,” he said.

Leader of the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR), Aubrey Norton is on record as saying that he would not rule out making way for a consensus presidential candidate, but he would have to be convinced that that is the best person and not allow any0ne to derail his party. “I will not close the door to any candidate but I wouldn’t open the door to opportunism. I would have to be satisfied that it’s a strong candidate who is prepared to face the challenges,” Mr Norton told Politics 101.

Saying that he was unaware that he was nominated for the post of AFC Leader after being out of the political limelight for several years, Mr Hughes said “I would have to think about that very seriously.” He shrugged off suggestions that his increasing public presence on issues was politically motivated, but instead he had been showing his face on national issues as a “Guyanese citizen”. “I speak from what I believe is a national perspective and I think, unfortunately, in Guyana, when people speak of issues that touch and concern national development, they are categorised as political and in my case, I suppose, because I have had a background in politics, it’s easy to say I am becoming political,” he said.

Mr Hughes has on more than one occasion represented the International Decade for People of African Descent-Guyana Assembly at the United Nations, and more recently he was at the centre of renewed advocacy for abolition of “negro” by police to describe Guyanese. Government days later issued a directive for a change in reference to all race groups by police and the public health sector.

The governing People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC) has often criticised Mr Hughes for saying that the 2018 no-confidence motion against the then governing APNU+AFC had not been validly passed because 34 is a majority of 65 seats. The Caribbean Court of Justice, Guyana’s final court, later ruled that 33 is a majority of 65.