KUALA LUMPUR – UMNO vice-president Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi greeted Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak as the party president arrived at the Putra World Trade Centre (PWTC) for a closed-door pre-council meeting yesterday.
The firm handshake and the smile on both faces clearly indicated that the country’s No 1 and No 2 leaders are the perfect combination to lead UMNO and Barisan Nasional (BN) in facing the 14th general election, expected to be held in the next few months.
In fact, PWTC, the venue for the current five-day UMNO general assembly starting yesterday, has been the ‘home’ for the two leaders as they opened and closed UMNO-related meetings and events organised by the main party and its three wings day and night since Sunday ahead of the party’s meeting proper.
It seemed that the prime minister has well coordinated with his deputy, who is also carrying out the duties of party deputy president, in handling the task of fulfilling those invitations.
This is the first time that the Najib-Zahid team will lead UMNO and BN into the general election battlefield, dubbed as the mother of all elections due to reportedly stiff competition faced by the ruling party in defending Putrajaya, the federal administrative capital.
But this is not the first time they have worked together as their ‘partnership’ has been developed since the past three decades when Ahmad Zahid was Najib’s political secretary from 1987 till 1993 when the latter joined the Cabinet for the first time as Youth and Sports Minister and later as Defence Minister.
“Leadership based on their long-standing friendship has given strength and unity to the party,” said former minister Datuk Seri Raja Nong Chik Raja Zainal Abidin, the Lembah Pantai UMNO division head.
Najib and Ahmad Zahid are always on the same page when it comes to managing the country’s affairs, from economic to foreign policies for the benefit of the people at large.
However, it has not been smooth sailing all the way throughout their journey as the duo have been tested through thick and thin, from the 1MDB and GST issues trumpeted by the opposition to the recent allegation made by an opposition leader that Ahmad Zahid was trying to topple his boss.
Najib himself had rubbished the ‘stab in the back’ claim as he personally knew his trusted lieutenant.
Cabinet and party supreme council member, Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek said good chemistry existed between Najib and Ahmad Zahid, and now the prime minister was not only seen as a leader with strong administrative and ruling capabilities but also as mentally strong in facing adverse challenges.
“(Ahmad) Zahid, on the other hand, is seen as a leader with the mastery of looking after the grassroots…meaning, if it’s a tree, Najib is seen as enabling the tree to bear fruits while Zahid takes care of its roots. Then only will the tree stand strong amid calamities such as storms,” he said.
Ahmad Shabery, who is Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister, described the Najib-Zahid team as the best combination that UMNO has had so far, thus they would be able to steer the party towards greater glory.
Party grassroots also share the same sentiment in wanting the two leaders to carry the BN and UMNO flags into the general election battlefield.
Balik Pulau division deputy chief Shah Headan Ayoob Hussain Shah said the party grassroots were comfortable with UMNO being led by the Najib-Zahid team.
In fact, all the three wings – Youth, Wanita and Puteri – supported the proposed no-contest for the party’s No 1 and No 2 positions at their respective annual assembly today. – BERNAMA