Spring cleaning one’s room is similar to embarking on a treasure hunt, unearthing precious items lurking under the bed or in the dark corners of a closet. During one such recent endeavour, I stumbled upon two books, and sandwiched between them, was the mangled remains of a cockroach.
It is not certain if an unfortunate accident had befallen the cockroach in a case of being at the wrong place at the wrong time or if the poor creature was the victim of a cold-blooded murder.
As for the two books enveloped in a blanket of dust, one was Niccolo Machiavelli’s The Prince. It is a political treatise penned centuries ago but still relevant. It speaks of tyrannical statecraft and reminded me of Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
The second book was Paolo Coelho’s The Alchemist, which narrates the travails of a shepherd in search of his personal legend. This reminded me of Anwar Ibrahim.
Trapped in the middle, the squished cockroach bore a striking resemblance to Najib Tun Razak.
There are times when I feel a tinge of fleeting sorrow for the prime minister. But such moments are few and far in between. He desired the position. It was not thrust upon him. Therefore he must accept the consequences it entails.
The prime minister appears to be the opposite of King Midas, since all that he touches turns into horse manure whereas his wife, like the Greek mythological ruler, is rumoured to possess an insatiable appetite to turn all that she touches into gold. But like Medusa, she turns them into stone instead.
Najib is gasping for breath under the crushing weight of being the prime minister of a nation, whose electorate is now wiser, being the president of Umno, whose members are refusing to transform and being the husband of Rosmah Mansor, an alleged connoisseur of the dark arts.
Adding a few more pounds to his burden is the civil service, replete with racist Little Napoleons adamant on derailing the prime minister’s transformation freight train. .
The Mahathir curse
Then there is Mahathir, who even Rosmah could not put a spell on.
Some have blamed it on fear, others dementia and a few are convinced that it is pure evil that runs through his veins. But whatever the reason that motivates him, the former premier continues to add to the list of wrongs which the current premier wants to right.
Mahathir has blamed all but himself for the conundrum that Barisan Nasional finds itself in and for the people’s disenchantment with the ruling coalition.
He is the chief architect of the towering discontent. His despotic rule, his castration of important institutions, his muzzling of the media, his enrichment of cronies and his racist mindset were the building blocks.
It is Mahathir who provided the impetus for the Reformasi movement when he unleashed brute force against the protesters. His admonishment, humiliation and incarceration of Anwar as well as having him battered blue and black earned the latter the sympathy and support of the people.
While he never fails to point out how his successor was responsible for Barisan Nasional’s 2008 electoral debacle, he never mentions how Abdullah Ahmad Badawi also secured the ruling coalition’s biggest ever mandate in 2004, a year after Mahathir stepped down.
He should reflect on the reasons for the 2004 election outcome and ask himself if it was a celebration of votes over his departure.
Apart from their own sins, his successors are also forced to bear his as well.
The M&M plot against Najib
So it comes as no surprise that the rumour mills are churning out tales of another conspiracy in the making, with Mahathir engineering the fall of Najib and the rise of Muhyiddin Yassin.
Najib is too liberal, accommodating and lenient. He wants to win the hearts and minds of the people with carrots, and not sticks. Mahathir disapproves of this method. People should be whipped into submission with threats.
And so he sees a glimmer of authoritarian hope in Muhyiddin, who is too old to play second fiddle for another term. Perhaps in return for the top post, the latter would help the former’s son rise up the political ladder.
Muhyiddin too wants to become prime minister but has no charm, charisma or a track record to boast about. He hangs like an albatross around Najib’s neck.
He has earned a reputation of being a racist with his “Malay first, Malaysian second” proclamation and his feet-dragging over the Interlok saga. His coming to power is feared as much as Anwar taking over the reins when the latter served as Mahathir’s second in command.
The grapevine has it that Najib’s camp is striking fear in the hearts of non-Malay voters in rural areas about the horrific prospect of Muhyiddin becoming prime minister.
These voters are being told that if BN fails to secure a two-thirds majority, then Muhyiddin’s faction would push for Najib’s head to roll and the nation would lose a prime minister who has been sensitive to the needs of the Chinese and Indians. This campaign is said to be effective.
Even BN component parties are uncomfortable with the notion of Muhyiddin replacing Najib and have on numerous occasions described the latter as the best prime minister thus far, who is generous with allocations.
This argument is not without basis. Since becoming prime minister in 2009, Najib has gone the extra mile with regard to convincing the Chinese and Indians to return to the BN fold. The sincerity of his actions is debatable but expecting such values in a politician is puerile.
Given a choice between Najib and Muhyiddin, many would pick the former. Perhaps Muhyiddin would fare better if he is pitted against Rosmah, Mahathir or Ibrahim Ali.
The opposition too could launch a similar campaign, telling these voters that BN has no chance of securing a two-thirds majority and therefore Muhyiddin would become prime minister after the polls. And the only way to prevent this from happening is by voting BN out of Putrajaya.
Losing federal power could also be a blessing in disguise for the ruling coalition as it would rid it of the curse of Mahathirism which has plagued BN for decades.
But one wonders if its leaders would still remain with the coalition and function as an opposition or would Mahathir and Co board the next flight to Argentina.
As for Najib, his gravest errors were not to call for the general election sooner before the cows came bolting out of the NFC barn and falling into the two-thirds trap himself.