Who is in charge?

THERE is an image of Bharrat Jagdeo and Irfaan Ali that has been circulating on social media.

The image, in my opinion, is quite concerning and should also be quite concerning to all Guyanese. Guyana is entering into a new phase, the most important post-independent phase in its journey towards economic development, in all its sectors. Guyana can only achieve this if there is strong, confident and competent leadership from the top. When Guyanese go to bed at nights, they need to be confident that their President is able to think and make decisions independently; they need to be confident that whatever crisis Guyana experienced while they were asleep was handled by their President decisively, and communicated to them confidently.

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Most Guyanese are of the view that Irfaan Ali is a puppet, or if we are to use the words of Dr. Joey Jagan, “Bharrat Jagdeo’s front man”. Most Guyanese think that Irfaan Ali is not his own man, despite his multiple claims to the contrary. We Guyanese are an intelligent and intuitive lot. When we express such concerns about Irfaan Ali, it should not be dismissed, as Bharrat Jagdeo would do on many occasions.

Bharrat Jagdeo and Irfaan Ali were at a political rally a few days ago. Bharrat Jagdeo was on the immediate left of Irfaan Ali on the stage. Bharrat Jagdeo was busy scribbling notes as a compliant and obedient Presidential Candidate unashamedly looked on. Most of us thought Bharrat Jagdeo was making notes for his own speech. This was one of the rare occasions we were wrong. Very wrong. Bharrat Jagdeo was scribbling Irfaan Ali’s speech. That in itself is not very, very concerning, since some leaders do have speech writers, albeit they would edit the speech to their liking or proclivity, and definitely with no coaching. What followed next was quite worrying for us about a potential future leader. Bharrat Jagdeo proceeded to animatedly use said notes to teach and coach Irfaan Ali in the presence of Irfaan’s wife. It was like a boxing coach giving instructions to his boxer, who is far behind on the scoring cards, and completely nonplus. Ali then took said notes, and awaited his turn to impress his master. Is this what Guyanese expect of their future President?

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And it is deeper than that. The observer who analyses such matters superficially would just analyse it from one dimension. I am not that type of observer. The chess player in me, I tend to analyse every action in great detail. It is an established fact that Irfaan Ali dropped out of UG. At UG, Ali would have had to undertake classroom-based assessment and examinations. At UG, there would have been no escaping the fact that on examination and assessment days, it is you and your pen at that table to answer those questions. There is no Bharrat Jagdeo to assist you. There is no Priya Manickhand to structure your answers. It is you and you alone. It is either you know it or you don’t. Irfaan Ali apparently did not, hence he cut and run. Hence, he became the first Presidential Candidate who is a university dropout. Then Irfaan Ali proceeded to only undertake Online courses at random universities. Some of those universities cannot be located with the most sophisticated GPS, such as the West Demerara Business School. Some universities are in obscure localities in India and Greece. Nonetheless, with Online universities, course examinations and assessments are Online. That turned out to be an ingenious move on the part of Irfaan Ali, as it removed what was most challenging for him at UG; namely, doing his assessments and examinations on his own. In those remote areas of Greece and India, the lecturers would have no clue who did Irfaan Ali’s assessments and examinations. All they knew was that they were submitted. Was it Irfaan Ali’s work? Was it Jagdeo’s work? Was it Priya Manikchand’s work? We would never know, but suffice to say it became Ali’s grades. Grades which are questionable.

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Then Ali claimed he successfully completed a PhD. This, too, was Online, but this time closer to home. The University of the West Indies. A PhD is very academically demanding. For a PhD, there are no lectures; it is research-based, developing and creating new theories, and clarity in the field of study. It is all independent learning and thinking, since the PhD student does it all on their own, with minimal supervision. The reason is simple: On successful completion of the PhD, you are deemed an expert on the subject matter. It culminates in an 80,000-word dissertation. To put that in perspective, 80,000 words would be the number of words in an average 400-page novel. If Irfaan Ali was able to independently do this PhD dissertation, as he wants us to believe, why did he require such detailed coaching for a simple speech? The fact is that the rigours of a PhD instils a high level of independence in the successful candidate, to the extent that they would not have anyone treat them like a kindergarten, pamper-wearing and finger-sucking toddler. A type of independence that is painfully absent in Irfaan Ali, and begs the question, Was Irfaan Ali’s “PhD” independent original academic work?

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So, here we go again. He is not his own man. He is clearly a puppet. He is clearly a ‘front- man’. He is not an independent or critical thinker. The PPP may want you to believe that he will be an excellent President. Do you?

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