Overand Padmore has never paid any mind to the view, at least for the Mighty Sparrow (Slinger Francisco), that age is just a number.
“I cannot say I have given it any thought one way or the other. But in the context of my own age, as far as I am concerned, once you are able to do something, I have no problem with it,” he says nonchalantly.
It is in this context that Padmore, 86, has again answered the call to serve.
He is Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley’s pick for the position of education officer in the People’s National Movement’s (PNM’s) internal election on September 30 and the oldest of the 30 candidates contesting the poll.
And while there may be some buzz as to why he would want to re-enter the political fray well into the twilight of years, Padmore said age should never be a deterrent is one feels capable at fulfilling a particular task.
Further, the veteran politician, still sprightly and intuitive, said he had never offered to contest the post but was invited by Rowley to do so.
“The only initiative that came from me without reference to anybody was the decision to join the PNM, I took that initiative,” Padmore said in a Sunday Newsday interview.
“All of the major decisions to come into the Government in 1970 was at the invitation of the prime minister (the late Dr Eric Williams).
“All of the different steps I have taken along the way have been done at the invitation of the political leader and prime minister. And I have never declined to serve when asked to do so.”
Having served as education officer in a previous incarnation, Padmore brings a wealth of knowledge to the position, which he feels, would serve members and those contemplating joining the party in good stead.
“Whenever you go back to the party’s annual convention documents, you would see the report of the education officer, as of all officers. We submit comprehensive reports to the annual convention.”
He recalled that during his tenure as education officer, he had organised lectures about the origin and history of the PNM, its role in the process toward independence in 1962, responsibility of party members and the characteristics of good citizenship.
Padmore, who filed his nomination papers early last week at Balisier House, Port of Spain, is being challenged for the post by the much younger Clayton Blackman, a senior lecturer at College of Science, Technology and Applied Arts of TT (COSTAATT) and President of the TT Police Retirees Association.
Padmore claimed he did not know Blackman but said he was not afraid of his sole contender.
Born in 1932, Padmore attended Queen’s Royal College before entering the public service.
He last worked at the Central Statistical Office before moving on to the University of Toronto, Canada, where he graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science and Economics and later, a Masters in Economics.
Padmore found work as an economist at the Ontario Department of Labour in Canada and later joined the TT High Commission in Ottawa.
On his return to TT, during the 1970 Black Power upheaval, Padmore received an invitation from this country’s first prime minister Dr Eric Williams to join his government.
“Therefore, I moved from diplomat to politics and remained there until the people in their wisdom retired me 1986,” he joked.
Padmore first served as minister of petroleum and mines and the minister of industry.
He was elected a member of the House of Representatives after the 1971 general election, serving in a number of portfolios, including minister of national security on two occasions, from September 1973 to September 1975 and March 1985 to December 1986.
More recently, he was appointed national security adviser to late prime minister Patrick Manning in 2002 and temporary government senator from October 2002 to September 2007.
Asked how the PNM of today compared to that of years gone by, Padmore said: People always ask that question in terms of how has the PNM performed and my answer to that always has been, ‘How have we as a society performed? Not only the PNM as a political institution in the society, but we as citizens.
“Have we matched the demands we have made of the party? Have we in our own actions and activities?”
He added: “The answer you have to come up with is mixed. It is one thing to say you are in power. You didn’t do this, you didn’t do that and then think of the challenges and the sheer negativity of trying to do modernising things which always have a dislocating impact.”
Padmore observed while everybody wanted change, nobody wanted to contribute to that change.
He stressed, though, the time had come for people to think long and hard about the issue of productivity.
“To the extent that we have run an economy with the hope to bring prosperity to our citizens, we have to think again about our attitude toward efficiency. That is the Achilles heels of our aspirations.”
Padmore added: “We can’t get anywhere if we operate with the mindset ‘I must get paid and what I put in for the pay is incidental.’”
He said productivity was one of the more urgent challenges confronting the country.
“When you listen to the rhetoric of people who claim to be fighting for the small man, you get a kind of impression that if you are a Government in this country you can change the world by doing this or that.
“But the world does not work like that. There is nothing that we do that is of such vital importance that if we stop doing it the world will stop. We have to adapt to the conditions that are out there.”
Padmore said at present, TT does not have strong bargaining positions in anything regarding international economic activity and as such citizens must redouble their efforts to put the country on a growth path.
“So, it is our brain power and efficiency that will cause us to make our way in the world. If we can’t bring those to bear, we will always be in trouble.”