The former state Local Government and Housing minister is currently the longest-serving assemblyman in Sabah, with 30 years from seven terms.
The 65-year-old Hajiji made his foray into politics as part of a young generation of Sabah Muslim leaders under Tun Mustapha Harun’s Usno and won the Sulaman seat in the 1990 state election.
A year later, Usno president and former chief minister Mustapha decided to allow the entry of Umno to Sabah, with Usno dissolving and its members joining Umno.
Hajiji then contested on the Barisan Nasional-Umno ticket in 1994 and successfully defended the Sulaman seat in the subsequent elections until the last in 2018.
This time round, Hajiji, who led an exodus of Sabah Umno leaders out of the party to join Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia when it spread its wings to the state, will defend his seat for the eighth term with a new coat under Perikatan Nasional.
The soft-spoken “Mr Nice Guy” of Sabah politics is now being touted by Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin as a potential choice for Sabah Chief Minister should the Perikatan coalition win the coming polls.
“You may have been bored seeing me, contesting for the eighth time in Sulaman, but this time around it’s different – the state election happened because the Warisan Plus government faced problems and failed in administering Sabah.
“So this is a golden chance to change the state government.
“Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal has been using the ‘Sabah for Sabahans’ tagline but what I see is more ‘Sabah for Semporna’,” he said to supporters at PDM Tambalang in Kampung Bolong Baru during a campaign trail.
Hajiji said unlike under Warisan Plus, Perikatan led by Muhyiddin wanted to bring equal development and assistance to the people throughout the country.
“As a candidate here, I want to stress that Perikatan will bring Sabah to a new era, a new hope for all Sabahans.
“We will be able to reinvigorate the state’s economy, we are committed to modernising agriculture and fisheries, reviving tourism and developing the human capital.
“Perikatan will also create high-income job opportunities in business and entrepreneurship sectors,” Hajiji, an ethnic Bajau leader, promised.
He concluded that he had never abandoned Sulaman, where his home is.
“My door is always open, and I have never rejected the people here in the last 30 years,” said the Sabah Bersatu chief who hails from Kampung Serusup.
Hajiji will be facing Parti Warisan Sabah’s Datuk Aliasgar Basri and Parti Cinta Sabah’s Datuk Rekan Hussein, two lesser known figures in the political scene.
In the 14th General Election, Hajiji won with a 7,774-vote majority against candidates from Warisan and Parti Harapan Rakyat Sabah.
While he is a notably likeable figure across the diverse communities in his constituency, located under the Tuaran parliamentary constituency and about an hour’s drive from the state capital, concerns are still raised about his ability to bring further progress to Sulaman or Sabah if he does become the Chief Minister.
“It depends on whether he is a yes-man to federal (government), and able to highlight Sulaman and Sabah’s agendas.
“If he becomes CM, how far can he bring Sabah to move forward? As we know, there is still a development gap between Sabah and other parts of Malaysia.
“Nonetheless, he is an approachable leader who is friendly and easy to work with,” said a 40-year-old constituent who did not wish to be named.
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