The buzz was in our ears that First Oil was expected “within days; within hours” when I met on Wednesday last with Cabinet’s Sub-Committee on Legal Affairs and, afterwards, with our public information caucus.
Our PR tzars were on top of possible response scenarios for First Oil – from an Address to the Nation by His Excellency, President David Granger; to spontaneous celebrations in the streets.
The news came Friday night after I had settled down in a Miami hotel, ahead of a family vacation/re-union. The dependable Imran Khan sent a terse Whatsapp note that Guyana has drawn First Oil, and that President David Granger was about to make an address.
At the time, Sita and I were watching a video of the Iowa All State Orchestra in which our grandson, Wayne, was playing the viola. They were playing Symphony No.1 by the German composer, Gustav Mahler, as if in measured and serene celebration of the magic moment of Guyana’s unfolding greatness.
As the Guyana National Service theme song, “can we do it?” trumpeted in the background before the President started his Address, I looked through the huge glass window of my room at the brightly-lit, giant 35-floor, guitar-shaped, Hard Rock building. I imagined the psychedelic, electric guitar to be fire-works of brightly contrasting colours, which were exploding in the hearts of my Guyanese brothers and sisters in joyous celebration of that “first oil” moment.
President Granger has named December 20 as our National Petroleum Day. It will be a day to remember, forever perhaps, when Guyana’s destiny was defined; when the world would no longer find us to be just a dot on the map for mere curiosity.
As the President spoke, my wife, children and grand-children cheered lustily and loudly. Our heart was throbbing collectively with pure joy and unrestrained happiness.
The reason is self-evident. But the President saw the need to stress that petroleum production in Guyana would spur the “transformative process in the country’s economic development”. It will stimulate jobs and expand quality services for our people who have hitherto been victims of the ravages of colonialism, and neglect caused by persistent under-development.
With honest and responsible leadership since 2015, all of that would soon change for the better. That was foremost on my mind as we left the Miami airport in the wee hours of the morning. A taxi had patiently waited for us as it took a while to de-plane since we were seated in row 16, in economy class.
When the driver said that he was from Uruguay, the conversation immediately focused on the former President, Jose Alberto “Pepe” Mujica. I told the driver that Mujica was my hero, and that I had told him that when we met three years ago.
After I congratulated the former Tupamaros guerrilla fighter, who was imprisoned for some 12 years during the military dictatorship, he threw his right hand over my shoulder in a warm hug of friendship.
Mujica was widely celebrated as the world’s poorest president, who rejected perks and privileges of office. He lived in his own house, and travelled to work in his own car.
With the expected oil boom, Guyana would need leadership quality and style of a Mujica, to ward off the lure of corruption that has haunted almost every country that benefitted from oil wealth.
My man for the Mujica image in Guyana is David Arthur Granger who, so far, has given to the presidency an aura of selflessness, a strong religious/moral suasion and calm, and re-assuring leadership.
As happened elsewhere, this may be the time also for internal temptations at vacillation and political opportunism. It was the weakness of vacillation and treachery, motivated by self-enrichment, that caused the crisis of governance a year ago.
I have over many years of association with revolutionary movements around the world seen the weaknesses of governments in transition, about which I have been warning. I have often cited the examples of opportunistic leadership divisions during the 1980s in Ethiopia, Afghanistan and Grenada, and warned against the fight for positions.
BIG LEAP FORWARD
For Guyana to take the big leap forward under coalition leadership, the time has come for qualitative transformation in the form and structure of executive authority. There has to be one coalition, one alliance, one partnership with one, united leadership. The partners have to invest trust in its leadership, and embrace principles on which decisions have to be based, when made.
Since I resigned from the PPP, I have met and embraced young, visionary and committed leaders in the Coalition on whose shoulders would be the duty to take Guyana forward. In the new dispensation, they would need the Mujica quality to eschew narrow, personalized, self-interest for the nation’s good.
I look forward to our future with optimism and confidence. As I commented, with first oil, Guyana has burst forth from economic bondage, and asserts freedom to realise her enormous potentials for prosperity and greatness. When the oil economy begins to grow the soil economy, sweet oil will blend with fertile soil to realise the El Dorado dream. This is Guyana’s magic moment.
The Guyanese people are embracing this development. They were preparing for December 20. They were busy cleaning up, sprucing up and decorating as if to receive a precious visitor. The shopping splurge was aided by what I saw as the back-pay bonanza, where public servants were given a tax-free, lump-sum as salary increases for 2019.
GUYANA GOING PLACES
Part of the welcoming mood was generated by the arrival on its inaugural flight New York-Georgetown of American Airlines. It was timed for December 18 when it made its inaugural Miami-Georgetown flight last year, but touched down the following morning.
There are some eighteen other major airlines, including Jet Blue, that have signed on to do the Guyana route. Guyana is finally going places.
First Oil has changed the way the world sees us. We also need to see ourselves differently, and worthy of the blessings of first oil.