Mahathir Mohamad ruled his country for 22 years and he came from retirement to contest election. To the shock of many, his party was declared winner on Thursday, 9 May 2018.
His opposition group, Pakatan Harapan, and a few others clinched 121 parliamentary seats and since 112 are needed to form a government, he will become Prime Minister again. He defeated Najib Razak’s party, Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition.
Nigerians and other world citizens must be wondering why a 92-year old man would leave the comfort of his home after leaving power, to contest election.
The first reason is that the incumbent was accused of corruption. In other words, he had integrity problem. According to a report by www.telegraph.co.uk, “ Mahathir Mohamad, 92, ruled Malaysia for 22 years and who pulled himself out of retirement to fight the prime minister, Najib Razak, he claimed was tainted by a multibillion dollar graft scandal… The elections were dominated by an investigation into allegations that billions were siphoned from a state investment fund, 1MDB, and laundered through foreign bank accounts. But the prime minister has consistently denied any wrongdoing and has been cleared of any offence by Malaysia’s attorney general. ‘We are not seeking revenge, we want to restore the rule of law,’ Mahathir told reporters, as he declared victory.”
The first lesson is that integrity matters a lot in politics. How many retired Nigerian leaders, notwithstanding their age, can Nigerians trust to come back and fix the country?
Malaysians were also nostalgic about what his government did for them, because as the records show, “During Mahathir’s tenure as Prime Minister, Malaysia experienced a period of rapid modernization and economic growth, and his government initiated a series of bold infrastructure projects.” Can Nigerians say that about their leaders?
During the campaign before the election that threw him up as PM, Dr Mahathir, as Telegraph puts it, promised to “overturn a controversial 6% goods and services tax, which has been widely blamed for rising living costs, and has counted as a black mark against the government.”
Do Nigerian leaders, past and present, follow the Constitution which says that the “welfare of the citizens shall be the primary purpose of government”? When the chips are down, the people will never forget the good done by a leader.
Another lesson to learn from the goings-on in Malaysia now is propensity of Nigerian leaders to cling to power. For Dr Mahathir Mohammed, the report shows that in one of the biggest U-turns of his 70-year career in politics, “he has signalled he is ready to hand over power to Anwar Ibrahim, an opposition icon who he sacked as his deputy in the 1990s.”
However, the new leader, when he was in power, had his own dark side! His accumulation of power affected the independence of the judiciary. He used the controversial Internal Security Act to detain activists, non-mainstream religious figures and political opponents including the Deputy Prime Minister he booted out in 1998, Anwar Ibrahim (he wants to hand over to him soon). Under Mahathir civil liberties were not free.
However, he was able to show the West that he could be his own man because he antagonised the economic policies of the United States, United Kingdom and Australia, which put him and his government in their black book. He accepted that hostility with a shrug because he saw and still sees himself as an “advocate of third-world development and a prominent international activist.”