By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune News Editor
ADRIAN Francis, a decades-long friend of Obie Wilchcombe, said the former West End Grand Bahama and Bimini minister gradually embraced his role as minister of social services after initially feeling cold about the post.
Mr Francis, a former Guardian Radio and ZNS talk show host who befriended Wilchcombe for 36 years, made the comment on Facebook Live.
He said Wilchcombe initially saw the social services role unfavourably compared to his previous portfolio as minister of tourism in the two Christie administrations.
However, he claimed when Prime Minister Philip “Brave” Davis recently gave him the option to be the minister of Grand Bahama, minister of immigration or remain in social services, the 64-year-old chose to keep his post.
“He told the PM he wants to stay in social services,” Mr Francis claimed. “This the same ministry he had a problem with in his emotions initially. But he told the prime minister when he got there, I’m prepared to serve you wherever you want me, sir.”
Mr Francis said Wilchcombe wanted the National Insurance Board added to his portfolio, and he wanted to be responsible for ZNS.
“He said I think social services need two other ministries,” he recalled. “He said I think we need the social one, which is NIB, to get the people’s stuff speedily through the system.”
Mr Francis said before the 2021 general election, Wilchcombe was concerned that the Progressive Liberal Party would deny him a nomination. He was one of the last ratified on the party’s ticket.
However, Mr Francis said Wilchcombe recently felt he was becoming one of Mr Davis’ most trusted colleagues.
“Brave and Obie became very, very close over the last seven to eight months,” he claimed. “They became so close that Obie was almost Brave’s number two in his ear. Every ten seconds, the PM was on the phone to him. I was in his office almost every day, so I kinda know what was going on.
“All Obie kept on doing was pushing the foundation, pushing the PLP back to the foundation. Let’s go back to the people, and the prime minister began to buy it.”
Mr Francis said he last spoke with Wilchcombe on Sunday night. He said the two discussed the deaths of sporting legend Alpheus “Hawk” Finlayson and Clara Bethel, the wife of Housing Minister Keith Bell.
“He said, man Adrian, we gotta get to working because everybody dying,” Mr Francis said. “He told me call Mario Bowleg and tell Mario Bowleg we have to do a tribute for Hawk Finlayson in the legend’s walk.”
Mr Francis said Wilchcombe was excited after meeting Tyler Perry last week. He said the producer pledged to provide equipment to ZNS and help with staff training.
Mr Francis said Wilchcombe nearly died three and a half years ago and required surgery after his heart stopped for 47 seconds.
“I would take him food, feed him,” he said.
In 2009, Wilchcombe was connected to an alleged extortion scheme targeting actor John Travolta.
Mr Francis said that episode wounded him.
“It really caused him to stop –– even with some of his colleagues –– he became very kinda standoffish,” he said. “The John Travolta situation left a major stain in his heart, and some of the people who left him out to dry in the situation with John Travolta, it really, really messed him up.”
Mr Wilchcombe died on Monday.