“Dim chance for Najib to get back on the road to power”

WHEN jailbird Datuk Seri Najib Razak walks out of prison as a freeman in 2028, he might be greeted as a hero who has returned to reclaim his place in the galaxy of political stars.

But hold on. The former premier is no political prisoner but a felon who has been convicted and jailed for embezzling a huge amount of money (RM42 mil) belonging to SRC International Sdn Bhd.

He is supposed to serve a 12-year jail sentence, but the Pardons Board has commuted it to six years. So Najib has only to stew for four more years in prison before he can see a new dawn in his life. He might even be released earlier.

It is unlikely he will fade away from the political scene because here is a man who passionately feels he is a victim of injustice.

The only way to seek redress is to regain political power and take revenge on all his political enemies. The politics of revenge is a common tactic among fallen leaders.

To his diehard Bossku supporters, Najib is still a force to be reckoned with. Even if they must wait 12 long years for their boss to be freed, they will keep the flame alive for him.

Now that the sentence has been halved, their hope for his return to the pinnacle of power has been given a tremendous boost. Even if he cannot seek public office soon, he can still jump into the political arena at a late age.

After all, his mentor former premier Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad began his second stint as prime minister (PM) at the age of 92. And the very old doctor – now 99 – is still capable of hurling brickbats at his opponents.

Dr Mahathir Mohamad (Photo credit: AFP)


All-season Najib

But what can Najib offer to the people if he dares to enter the race for Putrajaya? Can he re-make himself into a lily-white fighter against corruption? Can he sell himself as a re-invented leader and come to fight for freedom? Freedom from what? Can he unveil a new blueprint for a morally better Malaysia?

UMNO may want him back to re-build the broken party and re-capture its glory days. Najib’s standing in the party has not diminished; in fact, its leaders are solidly defending him despite all the bad publicity he has received at home and abroad.

UMNO may stand by him and probably welcome him back as its president, but will the people in general rally around his tattered flag?

Nevertheless, the political rehabitation of Najib can be said to have started as soon as he was given a commutation. How can UMNO re-package the former PM to make him smell good?

It is a tricky situation: on the one hand, the tide of opinion is generally against this VIP (very important prisoner) who is also implicated in the related mega-billion-ringgit 1MDB (1Malaysia Development Bhd) scandal described as “one of the world’s greatest financial scandals”, and for which he is still on trial.

On the other hand, sympathy and nostalgia may sway public opinion to overlook his misdeeds and get him back on the pedestal.

Many may find it too complicated to understand the labyrinth of corruption in the 1MDB narrative and may overlook the damage it has inflicted on the country and go cast their lot for Najib. To them, there is nothing to be ashamed of (malu apa bossku).

Moreover, UMNO may take a soft approach by gradually and subtly introducing Najib to UMNO events where he can forge fresh rapport with the audience. He can pump hands, slap backs, carry babies, take selfies, make small jokes and have small talks while all-time grinning from ear to ear.

Najib can also fall back on his favourite medium – Facebook – to chat up politics and simultaneously take swipes at his political foes inside or outside the government.

To make it more palatable, he may go one step further by profusely offering apologies for being responsible for the downfall of his once-venerable party. Perhaps he will even show repentance for his wrongdoing.

Here comes the new Najib but how can he and UMNO win over the hearts and minds of the majority of the voters who threw him out of office in 2018?

Whichever approach is taken, it will be an insurmountable task for Najib to get back into mainstream political life or on the “road back to power”.

Even UMNO image-makers can do very little to restore his credibility. His crime has left a black, indelible mark on his public service record. – Feb 9, 2024


Philip Rodrigues is a former journalist.

The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.

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