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Ready to work - Clarke prepared to give his all to St Andrew North West, Jamaica

Published:Saturday | March 10, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Dr Nigel Clarke on the campaign trial in St Andrew North West.
Dr Nigel Clarke gets a hug from a constituent.
Dr Nigel Clarke (right) and JLP leader, Prime Minister Andrew Holness, after the preliminary vote count in NW St Andrew.

His victory was not unexpected, not with the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) holding the seat since 1980, and supporting his campaign with personnel and resources.

Still, Dr Nigel Clarke is humbled by his win in the by-election for the St Andrew North West constituency and is well aware that the hard work has just started.

"I come with a sense of responsibility and an obligation to do my very best to address not only the needs of the constituents, but Jamaica on a whole," Clarke told The Sunday Gleaner last week.

"One of the touching moments during the campaign was meeting a group of young men in Maverley who appealed to me and one said, 'Boss, me jus' waan go back a school. Can you help me?' I said to him, 'Are you serious? Do you really want to go back to school?'

"He responded, 'Yeah, mi jus' waan go back a school. Mi drop out from grade nine and I jus' waan go back'. Another one said, 'Me too. Same ting wid me. All mi want is a chance. So you have to promise me one ting, when yuh come in you have to support some evening class that we can finish we education'. They weren't interested in any handout. And right there and then I said to them 'absolutely'," recalled Clarke.


Stayed away from promises


The recently sworn in member of parliament said he stayed away from making promises on the campaign trail but could not help but respond to this group of young men who not only recognised the value of an education, but were willing to come forward and appeal for an opportunity to complete their education.

According to Clarke, it is this level of desire to develop the lives of others that fires his passion and purpose.

"I fundamentally believe in empowering Jamaicans. The more we are, the more we can do. So my mission is to broaden their experiences and opportunities ... it's all about feeding minds and empowering lives.

"I have worked with a lot of young people to prevent them from dropping out of school through the programmes I have established and developed, and coming into contact with these young men from Maverley was just touching," added Clarke.

He said his passion for capacity development was inculcated and fostered at home by his father, the late Justice Neville Clarke, and his mother Mary, who, after years as a teacher, went on to become Jamaica's first Children's Advocate.

"My father had a powerful impact on my life. He was a proud Kingston College man. He taught us from early KC's motto, Fortis cadre, cedre non potest (The brave may fall but never yield) and was a great force in my life.

"He taught me the value of hard work, never to give up. He encouraged independent thought, and so I learnt from early to have my own opinion, and he in turn was never threatened by my opinions," said Clarke.


Passion and purpose


According to Clarke, having stepped into his new role as MP and squarely into public service, he is carrying all these values, beliefs, mindset and drive, along with that passion and purpose to bear on his office.

"I bring a very unique range of experiences, a range and breadth that comes with an understanding of the various parts of the story, having had a life outside of politics. I also bring an urban and rural identity, having been raised in both Kingston and Westmoreland.

"My private-sector leadership experience covers a range of sectors. I have built companies dealing in consumer goods, tech products, agriculture, bulk commodities, manufacturing, real estate, financial services and banking. I have deep leadership experience in all these sectors, something that is not often represented in Parliament."

His academic and business acumen aside, Clarke has vowed to bring another aspect of his personality to the floor of Gordon House, that of tolerance and respect.

"For me, it is always important to be respectful of the opinions of others. Present your arguments in a way that it expands the conversation rather than shutting it down ... that is good faith. I'm not a magician who will suddenly change everything.

"But I am in charge of myself and my own conduct, and even in the face of orchestrated political opposition it is important to recognise the validity of arguments posed, and even if those arguments are couched for a political purpose and intent. I think the Jamaican people are now at a stage where they want to see an approach that considers all arguments and responds to all," said Clarke, who is married and the father of two children who are 10 and 13 years old.