?The core of this column was written on April 18, on a flight from New York to Port-of-Spain.
There were two essential failings which precipitated the decline and fall of Patrick Manning: an inflated ego that grew with "success" based on the economic rents drawn on the energy sector, rents that he felt he had gifted to the nation based on the fact that the decisions to monetise and commercialise the natural gas industry in its modern incarnation were taken under his governments. The second resulted from the first: he being so blinded by his own political advance, his emperorship, that he was unable to discern that the political culture was changing on him. So dazzled was he by his own bright light that he could not see that large segments of the population were no longer willing to leave it to the Government and most of all to the Prime Minister to determine what they should accept and how they should interact with the Government. Manning had become so enthralled by his own eminence that he adopted the habit of referring to himself in the third person as the "Prime Minister." He cultivated his eminence with such reverence that it was adopted by his wife Hazel. She infamously concluded once that "the Prime Minister has spoken" and therefore all argument and contention on any matter that he so concluded on had come to an end.
One result of Manning's over-blown ego is that he did not think it important to add lucid and rational arguments to any decision taken by his Government, more likely himself. Whether the matters were related to an industrial strategy which involved the establishment of a large smelter industry that displaced whole communities and the way of life of people, or the forced acquisition of a recreational facility of a community, he would tell these communities to find another playfield for their children and disparagingly dismiss the culture which placed value on: "agouti and manicou, bodi and pumpkin." Then there were his presidential ambitions. They consumed him as he angled to get the required parliamentary majority which would allow him to unilaterally alter the Constitution to, like Napoleon, crown himself emperor. Political leader Manning systematically eliminated all possible opposition to his absolute rule within the PNM and gathered around him sycophants and those without political experience and a base to be able to pose a challenge to his dictatorial rule. In the process he stymied the evolution of a modern political party with serious institutions and a focus other than being an election machinery to put an oligarchy into office; but more of this another time. Keith Rowley was the only one Manning was not able to dominate and ditch and it was Rowley who instigated the process which ultimately resulted in his downfall. Early on Muriel Donawa-Mc Davidson gave a clue to Manning's ambitions and the directions he had mapped out for the "Patrick National Movement." Going back to the first known time when he wanted to eliminate Penny Beckles, Valley called him a "vindictive man." The penny should have dropped early on when he ordained himself as "Father of the Nation," usurping the title of Eric Williams.
His "overvaulting ambition," ego, hubris, as referred to by many commentators, got Manning into perhaps his most serious trouble with the national community. It led him to expend billions, and without consultation and justification, on the hosting of two international summits. He determined this was good for the country and therefore the decision was made and implemented with force and vengeance. But to achieve his ambitions to stand amongst world leaders (incidentally during the campaign he could not help but crow about this distinction while dismissively saying that his major opponent could boast of no such distinction) he went on a spending splurge: NAPA, Hyatt, the Diplomatic Centre the out-of-proportion mansion that is the Prime Minister's residence, inclusive of a private concert, all in an attempt to "big-up" himself amongst world leaders. Indeed, he had said that as host Prime Minister he needed a private jet to fly around to world capitals to make preparations for the summit; he only backed away from yet another extravagance in the face of stout and determined public antagonism to such wasteful expenditure. To achieve these ambitions, Manning established a structure (the special purpose state enterprise) to hand total power to one man to ensure that the building infrastructure to host the conferences was finished on time to realise his ambitions; forget about the cost.
In the face of all odds, so great was his burning ambition that he was prepared to "see no evil, hear no evil" in regard to Calder Hart. When hard evidence about alleged collusion in the award of contracts to Sunway surfaced, Manning defended Hart and urged everyone to reject the "jilted lover" story of the former husband of Sherrine Hart. He believed without question what was told to him, all because he had the vision of himself on a world stage dazzling before him and would allow nothing to get in the way of that all-consuming ego. What role religion in all of this? Mr Manning, whether feigned or genuinely convicted, used it for political purposes. He cultivated the large and growing evangelical movement, including state sponsorship of the Divine Echoes. He even let it drop that his next mission in life would be a pastor.
Unlike in 1995 when he could lay blame against a few of his associates for leaking the date of the early election to the opposition and so allegedly causing the PNM to lose, Mr Manning kept this one to himself to retain what he said was the element of surprise over his opponents. But there are those who say that maybe there was spiritual inspiration, even guidance in this matter: "I am sorry for him, but he is to blame, he used to boast about this dame, he used to say that she is divine, but for Patrick, brother well he take a six for ah nine" (The Hawk–1960s). These matters must now be instructive to the new regime so we will continue.