VISITORS flying into Kuching are greeted by a billboard on the main road that says: “There is a new thing in town and it’s called Adenan fever”.
Everyone on the Barisan Nasional side has jumped on the Adenan bandwagon or as the slogan goes, “Team Adenan is ready to serve”.
Posters and billboards of Tan Sri Adenan Satem are everywhere.
In Tasik Biru, which straddles a town known as Bau, there are more posters of Adenan than the handsome candidate Datuk Henry Harry Jinep.
There is a big church topped by a crucifix being built along the road to Bau which is also the hometown of Adenan’s wife.
The tiny roundabout on the edge of Bau town is actually a Buddhist shrine while a quaint green-domed mosque is located down the road.
These sort of things are a way of life in Sarawak and Adenan is committed to making sure that it does not change.
There is a week more before Sarawakians go to the polls.
Adenan is on a roll. He is having the kind of election campaign that politicians can only dream of.
There has been so much goodwill for him that his adversaries struggle to find something negative to say about him.
On a rainy Friday night, he attended a gathering to rally support for SUPP president Datuk Dr Sim Kui Hian, who is contesting in Batu Kawah.
It was the first time he was coming out so directly for SUPP, which was almost wiped out by DAP in the last state election.
Adenan’s gestures towards the Chinese community are well-known by now. The Chinese vote ran off in the 2011 state election largely because of their discontent over Tun Taib Mahmud.
Nevertheless, there was a stunned pause when Adenan began his speech with: “I am Adenan Satem, I am not white hair.”
“White hair” is the term the Chinese coined for the silver-haired Taib. It was Adenan’s way of telling his Chinese audience this was a different administration and it was time for them to put old grudges to rest and move on.
He told them that he did not want Umno to come to Sarawak, he did not want the Chinese to be called pendatang, he wanted to help Chinese schools, he did not want that ridiculous lain-lain category for minority groups in government forms.
There was loud applause when he said: “How can the Chinese be pendatang when everywhere you go, you can see old Chinese graveyards? Your ancestors are buried here. In Sarawak, there are no pendatang, there are only citizens of Malaysia.”
The list went on and all of it more or less explains why there is an Adenan fever in town.
Adenan has systematically neutralised the accusations that he is too close to Umno.
He said that when Umno leaders come, they bring funds to help the state grow. Umno, he said, does not come to open political branches in the state the way DAP, PKR and PAS are doing.
“If my mandate is big, I can tell KL, you listen to me, I represent Sarawak. But if I am weak, they will say, aiya, who is he?” he said.
Adenan, said a Kuching-based journalist, is a classic case of how not to judge a book by its cover.
He is not the best looking person, he walks like an old man, he always looks as though he is deep in thought and he is not a natural smiler.
Yet he has a really sweet smile and, more important, he thinks before he opens his mouth unlike most politicians who speak first and think later.
“He does not make long speeches, he keeps it simple and to the point and it works. He also knows his audience, he is quite masterful in that sense,” said the above journalist.
Then there are all those witty tongue-in-cheek quips from him.
“So many people tonight. Last time, there were not many people when there is a SUPP function. I don’t know why, maybe they like me,” he said.
When he noticed Dr Sim smiling, he said: “I knew his father, he used to call me Ali Nan Sa Tin. But the son pronounces it really well.”
It looks like Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak has also caught the Adenan fever.
The two men seem to have a synergy going on in this campaign. The Prime Minister covers the rural and hard-to-reach constituencies while Adenan tackles the black seats in the urban area.
Reporters covering Najib say he is walking with a spring in his step and has not stopped smiling since he landed in Sarawak.
He has picked up a few Iban words and despite the punishing schedule, he looks like he is really enjoying the campaign.
The outcome of the Sarawak election will as crucial for Adenan as it is for Najib. A big win will send an important message to the rest of the country that Barisan is here to stay.
Some have joked that Najib is like an “ATM machine”, churning out funds for Sarawak.
Well, good for Sarawakians because it is about time that Sarawak gets the funds it deserves to catch up with the rest of the country.