So it is time to write Abdullah Badawi’s political obituary.
An Umno man all his life – because his father was, that pretty much set the tone for a man who was never meant to make great things, just too nice a guy to be jettisoned when the ‘great things’ boat embarked on its journey.
Now made to walk the plank, everyone seems to turn around and think the rot will end with him going off. Badawi was not brilliant – never leading us to unsurpassed measures, but because of his limitations neither did he drag us down to the depths to which we are in now.
His relatives and friends are said to have prospered under him. And so did the relatives and friends of the last guy. Badawi was never in front, he was just an affable guy – which made him a nice fit for the foreign minister portfolio. If you did not have to suffer for his economic management, then you would he is a swell guy.
The last two years has been a ceaseless sms and mail frenzy, with everyone more than happy to carry reports, news and jokes on how ridiculous Badawi looked. He became the standard pinata for everything that went wrong in the country.
Albeit the fact as head honcho he is responsible for the overall direction of the country, he is not solely responsible for the country’s growth or lack thereof.
In 2004 Malaysia, things were surreal. Mahathir just left office. Anwar was still in prison and very little had changed from the Mahathir days.
Yet in the May election, a craziness swept the nation, which to me is more baffling that the turnaround this last election. BN ended with a mind-numbing 90 percent seats in Parliament. There were wins, wins and wins.
No one knew enough of Badawi, but they were more than willing to give him the vote. The reformist because he produced a manifesto and said he was everyone’s PM.
Badawi has always been everyone’s everyone. He is the dude in the gang which members wished would buck up, but because he was a nice guy – they’d overlook the inadequacies.
The Malaysian people voted above and beyond the influence of a bias media in 2004, and no matter what happens from now on, Malaysians have to take collective blame for the last four years – we gave him a free run with no sense of worry.
It is one thing Umno relented to a leader who fits the expectations of Mahathir – passive and ineffectual – another for the electorate to blindly vote based on wishful thinking.
Were we that desperate for hope? Did we not realise that he was still keeping a man in prison (even if Mahathir put him there first) for his political convictions whilst he ran for our votes the first time around?
Let’s not wash our hands so easily.
The Badawi era had its virtues, but the policy-induced political ignorance and disinterest of the people will make them forget him very quickly. Once the joke smses end, so will the joke, and who was the butt of the joke.
The number of Malaysians remembering Hussein Onn, Dr Ismail and Razak are minute. They just know them as hospitals, residential villages and major motorways. And in a very short while Badawi will just be the name of one of the five major corridors or a religious school in Kelantan.
But he is no Gorbachev, even if he has presided over the period of change.
Abdullah is the accidental prime minister, as some considered Hussein Onn when the double quick demise of Ismail and Razak – left him with the job rather than anything else.
And there are huge differences between cleverly changing policies in the face of American pressure and internal subterfuge, and Badawi just letting things happen.
Therefore there was more space for everyone check, but it also let all his lieutenants go crazy in politics and business. Footprints lead to keris incidents, a little toyol in Selangor. suave son-in-law and less than impoverished relatives.
This was no man seeking reform, this was one man seeking less responsibilities and more of the perks of office – he was a civil servant and still is.
But that is his contribution, he took his foot of the pedal and things happened, since people were not used to that much latitude for such a long time.
The brickbats will have to stop now. The man is going, going and soon gone. We have to respect his private life. However his friends who are in politics and business will have to endure the scrutiny while they remain, and if the trail leads back to Badawi whether he realised or not, he will be culpable.
The next five months will be a long dance with some rushed music. Wonder if he will spend time polishing off the fingerprints, settle scores or complete phases of his good intentions. The latter I hope, and then a prayer that his replacement would continue. I know, I know, wishful thinking.