A woman recently said to me, “Dr Ryan, I read all your columns. Tell me, ‘Wey Jack Warner come out from?’”
I did not know much, but I promised that I would try and provide an answer for her and others like her for whom Warner is an enigma.
What follows here does not represent my own view of Warner, whom I barely know. (He once gave me an Emancipation Day award on behalf of the United National Congress). It does not signal that I have gone green or plan to do so. It is based mainly on Jack’s own account and interviews with a few of his former colleagues. It says nothing about his career as a football official, nor does it deal much with his party politics. What it seeks to do is to give the reader a fleeting glimpse of the unfamiliar side of Jack, who most agree is an extraordinary personality.
Some see Jack as an Anansi character.
Others see him as a consummate fraudster, a sweet-talking charlatan, a power-
hungry, hubristic narcissist or as a benevolent, charismatic phenomenon.
Which characteristic predominates?
Warner was the proverbial prophet who had no honour in his own country except after he successfully engineered Trinidad and Tobago’s inclusion in the World Cup tournament in Germany in 2006.
Then the whole country agreed with then prime minister Patrick Manning that “there was one thing on which we all agree. He made us all proud and brought our country together at the same time,” something Manning confessed he himself was “unable to do”.
In the process of attempting to demystify Warner, I consulted his autobiography— Zero to Hero—and found there-
in much that helps us to understand what makes him tick.
Warner credits his mother for much of the success he has achieved.
To quote him, “Stella was the woman who mothered and fathered me, and no one will ever take that away from my heart.”
He is remembered by some of his teachers as a disciplined person who stuck to whatever tasks he set himself. He always knew what he wanted to achieve and was always well organised.
The fact that he did not seem to need much sleep was also noticed.
Perhaps he was a “lagahoo” from early life!
He was also said to have boundless energy.
“Where some would need six hours, he could sleep for one or two and be fresh as anyone else.”
His capacity for work was said to be “alarming”.
As his wife recalls, “I was amazed that he could find the energy to go to church every Sunday. As our friendship grew, I realised he believed that his life was not entirely of his own making and that he had much for which to be thankful. He was said to be popular with students—who saw him as a great teacher—fellow teachers, and the ladies. He knew that there was a force much stronger than he was that was running his life. He had to say thanks and give praise to that force. Attending mass was an addiction. His determination came with the conviction that what he was doing was his destiny.”
In terms of his involvement in Trinidad politics, he found time to dabble in the Black Power movement and also to join the special reserve police.
Jack also joined the National Alliance for Reconstruction. He was never favourably disposed towards the People’s National Movement.
He joined the UNC in 2001 and was one of its financiers, along with “Ish, Brian, and Steve”.
Asked in 2006 whether he had any ambition to become the prime minister, he replied that that was “not in his plans. In the first place, I am not sure that I can be paid to take on that responsibility, and secondly, I still have quite a bit to do in football”.
Warner has a deep commitment to being charitable, and it is said that he also routinely helps sporting and other groups who need sponsorship. He also helps children to whom he gives scholarships. Over 100 and possibly more are said to depend on him. He however does not encourage publicity about all of his donations, believing that, “If you give from the heart, there is no need for publicity. It discredits you.”
Warner’s Grenada-born wife, Maureen, agrees that her husband might not always have done things the right way, but says he believes that whatever he did was not done selfishly.
(This comment came before the issue of the earthquake aid funds to Haiti which rankles many a breast)
Maureen however believes that Jack would never have achieved all that he did if he was dishonest or only concerned about himself.
“What he achieved and where he eventually reached was not something that a selfish person would have attained. You have to have more than personal ambition or desire to do what he did.”
Maureen believes that there is a “spiritual side” to Jack which has made him what he is.
“Somebody upstairs loves us...God has helped us.”
His former associate Chuck Blazer describes Jack as being “bright. Most people don’t give Jack the credit he deserves for his intellect. He continues to surprise people as they get to know him. It is for this reason that Dr Havelange always kept him at his side. And Blatter has done the same”.
Jack’s narrative projects him as one of the most successful and substantial black entrepreneurs in the country.
He is not merely a FIFA millionaire as is widely believed. He was and still is a very determined businessman for whom the word “failure” does not exist.
Once he begins something, it was “not easy for him to stop”.
He also believes in divine intervention and that his Creator is always with him. There is however also an element of “luck” in his career.
“Vaulting ambition, a series of good luck, grasped opportunity, intellectual charm and a never ending desire to work elevated him from being in front the classroom and propelled him into FIFA’s hallowed halls.”
As to whether he was a “hero” or not, his view was that it was all up to history and to his Creator.
“Whether I am a ‘hero or zero’ is neither here nor there. History will eventually decide who Jack Warner was.”
Jack will no doubt, in time, be psychoanalysed, not only because he is an important political leader who pleads mea culpa and asks the country to forgive him some of his trespasses, but also because he provides interesting case material for political psychopathologists.