Hubert Ingraham, the self-described ‘barefoot boy from Abaco,’ who led the country for 15 years and the Free National Movement (FNM) for 19 years before a crushing defeat at the polls ended his political career, says after spending half his life in parliament “it’s time for me to go.”
Mr. Ingraham yesterday met with House Speaker Dr. Kendal Major and tendered his resignation as a parliamentarian. However, it does not come into effect until August 31.
Many FNM supporters have pleaded with Mr. Ingraham to reconsider bowing out of frontline politics and stay on as an MP for North Abaco – a seat he has held for 35 consecutive years.
With parliamentarians, the media and scores of supporters surrounding him yesterday, Mr. Ingraham explained his reasons for stepping down.
“There is no circumstance under which a leader, such as myself, who has been leading a party for 19 years, can take a party into an election, lose the election and . . . stay on. If you were a young person and want a first shot, take [Dr. Hubert] Minnis for instance, as a new leader of the party, if he takes the party to election and the party loses, he ought to offer his resignation. But, the party might well say to him, ‘fine, we think you ought to stay because we think you have an opportunity for the future’,” he said.
“Someone like me, who has served for three terms, it’s unthinkable at age 64 – 65 in a couple of weeks’ time – that I would stay on. It’s unthinkable. And why would I stay on to be a Member of Parliament? What is there in that for me? I’ve spent more than half of my life in the House of Assembly – 35 years. That’s more than half of my life. It’s time for me to go.”
Mr. Ingraham was first elected to the House of Assembly on July 19, 1977. Yesterday’s event was symbolic for him as he tendered his resignation on the same day he was elected.
The former prime minister said his greatest accomplishment so far will be, “leaving here with my head held high.”
At one point it was unclear whether Mr. Ingraham would have been given an opportunity to say goodbye to the nation, but he revealed yesterday that he will make his farewell address in the House of Assembly next Wednesday.
Mr. Ingraham said his decision to postpone his retirement to August was influenced by three decisions.
Firstly, Opposition Leader and long-time friend Dr. Hubert Minnis asked him to stay on a bit longer.
Secondly, he said he felt the Bahamian people should have an opportunity to reflect on the upcoming gambling referendum and be educated and informed about it a little bit more. He said he wants to ensure that it is not rushed.
And thirdly, and most importantly, Greg Gomez, one of four individuals who has applied to the FNM for a nomination to run in the upcoming by-election, has to sort out some residency issues.
“[He] has spent some time in the United States of America and he hasn’t been back home for quite a year yet. He has applied, I want him to be considered like the other [three] and my postponement will facilitate that,” Mr. Ingraham said.
“His father has been my supporter for many years. In fact, all of the candidates have been my supporters at some time or the other.”