Dexter Nicholls, the Movement for National Development (MND) candidate for Diego Martin West, is up to the challenge of going up against the Prime Minister who has represented the constituency for the PNM since 1991.
No government has ever put their primary focus on so-called safe seats and MPs for those areas tend to neglect them while parties put all their effort into fighting for marginal constituencies, Nicholls told Sunday Newsday.
As with those other “safe seats,” Diego Martin has been disregarded. He said he has lived in and around Diego Martin for 42 years and has been an avid cyclist for over 20 years. He has therefore ridden all over the three Diego Martin constituencies – West, Central, North East – has seen with his own eyes that nothing has been done.
“I’ve seen how Diego Martin has developed in terms of housing but human life has been neglected throughout the whole Diego Martin region. My decision really was brought about by challenges I’ve faced in my own personal journey.
“I look at our PM and see how condescending he is, how he treats people with disdain. It really triggered something in me. I said, ‘How could we have a leader like that? How could you neglect the area you are the representative for in Parliament and have it so terrible?”
Nicholls said he went through a lot in his agriculture business, JZAD Estate. Mainly a cassava farmer, he repeatedly suffered from praedial larceny, loss of equipment, and other problems. He wanted to “lift himself up” but when he tried it felt as if people were pushing him back down.
So he prayed on the matter and decided to lift others up instead. At the time of that decision, politics was the furthest thing from his mind. However, at the beginning of this year he met former AG and leader of the MND, Garvin Nicholas, and they began to talk.
“I always heard people complaining and when I asked, ‘Why don’t you do something about it?’, they would say they are afraid of being victimised, or that their business would suffer.”
Also, he has always been inspired by people like Muhammad Ali, Martin Luther King Jr, and Nelson Mandela, and King’s quote, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter,” spoke to him. And so he agreed when Nicholas asked him to work with the party.
He said it was the start of a journey to something positive, and to get people to understand the importance of their collective voices.
“I want people to understand we are the ones who could make the change. We are the ones who the politicians and our representatives need and they are accountable to us. I want to get the people of Diego Martin to understand how precious TT is, how we could get true, meaningful, long-term jobs into Diego Martin through innovative agriculture, the creative industry, and eco-tourism.”
Another aim is to help develop the youth of the country. He said they had a lot of factors that were keeping them from developing and succeeding such as crime or being stereotyped because of where they live.
He was motivated “to do something” when he saw the talent of TT’s youth and yet they had nowhere to channel and progress with it. He said stadiums and community centres were being built but most of the times the buildings were empty. He said TT needed more sports programmes and established career paths for youths to follow so they could progress to national and international careers.
This he wanted to start in Diego Martin and eventually initiate throughout the country.
He said while it was not possible to bring back the old time days, the MND would like to back the old time ways when people had morals and values, when they stood for things they were passionate about, and worked towards goals together.
“I know Garvin and the MND will make a difference. We would reach people who have been silent for a long time. People need to search deep inside to understand we can not be silent about things that matter.
“While I don’t believe in violent protests, people protest because they are unheard. I believe we need to get up as a nation sometimes and demand more from our representatives and hold them accountable. Instead we wait for another election to come. For five years we sit and we wait and take that pain while they just have fun with us and seek their own interests.”
He said while MPs were supposed to represent their constituencies, they did not ask the constituents’ opinions when they vote in the Parliament.
“We need to be able to handle criticism. I think the government we have right now, both parties, can not take criticism. They become very defensive when approached about key issues.”
Therefore, the MND plans to launch a cellphone app that would be given to every eligible voter in Diego Martin. It would track what MND MPs were doing “on the ground.” People could also connect and communicate with the three representatives – Nicholas, Myron Bruce, and Nicholls for Diego Martin Central, North East, and West respectively – through the app.
Nicholls was born in Arima and attended Arima Boys’ RC School, Fiver Rivers Junior Secondary and then Mucurapo Senior Comprehensive School when his mother moved to Diego Martin with her nine children when he was 14.
He did many jobs of the years including loading trucks, equipment repair, and merchandising, and spent 21 years “in the corporate world.” The company invested in their employees so he had the opportunity to attend a lot of training courses such as finance, management, and public speaking, which fed his thirst for knowledge.
In 2011 he started to become disenchanted with his job and bought a piece of land close to Sangre Grande with agriculture in mind as a back-up plan. He felt food security would be important if there was a war or there was something to interrupt imports. One Friday he told his wife he had enough and resigned on the Monday.
Since then he has been running an agriculture and processing business. He hoped the things he learned over the past nine years would be able to help others as he would like to modernise and improve the sector.