Najib Razak, A Cautionary Tale For Future Leaders

ByArshad Mahmud

“In the final analysis, we have regarded all circumstances in this matter. We respect and we are considering to say that the applicant is the author of his own misfortune,” the Court of Appeal.

The day Malaysia lost its momentum

It was troubling. Malaysia lost its “Maverick”—Tun Mahathir had willingly stepped down. “Lama sangat dah. Lama sangat dah.” he expressed to his colleagues as they bent the mic away from him.

The annual grand meeting of UMNO exploded into confusion, cries, and calling for Tun Mahathir to not step down. I remember seeing the reaction etched on Malaysians from all races.

Some cried. Some looked on in desperate worry. Some were wide-eyed in shock. We could all agree on one thing, we didn’t see this coming. And worse…

We were not ready.

At the time, Malaysia was on track towards Vision 2020. To become, finally, a developed country.

Who else is there?

This is the question UMNO leaders would often repeat. “Siapa lagi?” When the question of leadership arose. UMNO and its leadership have enjoyed being in the shadow of Tun Mahathir. With little care to learn from him how to run a country while being a voice for ASEAN on the global stage.

In the shadows, I’ve heard, lies a mountain of gold where dirty men mine.

The shoes to be filled

Tun Mahathir left big shoes to fill. Malaysia was known as the Asian Tiger. The country that defied the IMF and shocked the world with its economic progress. The country whose leader was outspoken against Israel and the hypocrisy of the Western world.

Despite being direct, Malaysia continued to maintain a neutral approach between the powers in the West and the East. Malaysia had set the example for all countries within SEA.

We were the standard.

“Pak Lah” stepped in as Prime Minister. Despite his well-mannered and laid-back persona, the nation and the elites were worried if he could steer the Asian Tiger towards Vision 2020.

His era was short-lived and Najib Razak swiftly took over. It seemed, for a time, that he was the right choice. Having come from a respectable lineage and the legacy of Tun Razak… many anticipated that Najib Razak to make Vision 2020 a reality.

There was a lot of hope for him. He had the legacy, the charisma, a good track record, and the proper look. On paper, Najib Razak was a perfect choice.

He was, in all accounts, the chosen one.

People came to me saying he was a good choice. Recommending him. But when we chose him, to our surprise, we saw something different. — Tun Mahathir when questioned why he chose Najib Razak

The war on two fronts

I’ve come to realise, that in politics, there is a war on two fronts. One is fighting to be perceived as capable by the public, and the second is manoeuvring the countless plots between politicians, elites, and foreign parties.

Najib Razak was loved by the people, especially those in his home town. I’ve personally seen him, when he came to visit Jengka, Pahang. I was there for my studies. At a glance you won’t consider him a Malay, he is fair and surprisingly tall.

Najib had control over the war on this front. Public perception.

On the second front, is a game of chess. Unfortunately for Malaysia, his wife was his chess tutor. Or it seemed so from the shreds of evidence shared by SPRM, those close to Najib Razak, and the infamous audio leaks.

Lesson for future leaders

You have the public who hates his guts. Then you have his townsfolk who always has something good to say about him. “Dia prihatin dengan kita. Memang dia buat kerja.” are among the sentiments.

He is deeply loved and hated.

Najib Razak by character is someone who means well. And is loyal to his friends.

But these traits are overshadowed by his need to please his wife. On the occasions we know of, we see him doing anything in his power to please his wicked wife. Which is arguable, the major reason for his downfall.

This type of man is not unique. Many foolish men marry wicked women.

It is unfortunate that one of them became the prime minister of Malaysia.

(In writing this, the author recounts memories in Pahang. The author had the pleasure of listening to village gossip. Those who claim to know Rosmah’s family, her origins, and how she became the wife of Najib Razak. There is much to be said, but the author has decided to focus on the lesson instead.)

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