THERE has been quite a bit of self-denial coming from Pakatan Harapan leaders in recent weeks. But one thing they cannot deny is that Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, the man that Pakatan leaders are trying to send to prison, has made waves wherever he goes.
Najib and his Bossku tagline have gained amazing momentum on social media.
His Facebook postings on his Langkawi visit have drawn likes touching six digits.
A picture of him eating nasi lemak bungkus with some locals at a warung in Langkawi received a mind-boggling 104,000 likes.
The Facebook picture was accompanied by what seemed like an innocuous comment: “Have you had breakfast? Life can be simple. If hungry, eat. If thirsty, drink. If missing someone, say it. If liking someone, let it be known. Why be so complicated?”
The likes could not stop pouring in.
It was quite daring of Najib to head for Langkawi last Friday or as they say, to enter the lion’s den. He caused ripples from the moment he landed at the airport – people there could hardly believe their eyes.
And business almost came to a standstill when he visited the pasar malam in Kuah, the island’s town centre, looking for apam balik.
But his apam balik posting on Facebook was also a dig at his detractors – some Pakatan leaders had lodged reports, asking the police to monitor Najib’s presence in Langkawi.
The pictures of people taking selfies with him at the Kuah pasar malam came with the comment: “Anyone knows where the counter is to apply for a permit to take selfies?”
The man once seen as a “bangsawan” or aristocrat is finally hitting the right notes.
He put up at a modest motel along Pantai Cenang. He jumped into the front passenger seat of a taxi, whereas in the old days, he would have automatically settled in the back seat.
The taxi picture came with another poke at Pakatan: “So, who’s going to make another police report? I’m just looking for the best laksa in town.”
Many thought the Bossku phenomenon would fizzle out after the Cameron Highlands campaign. But it has not slowed down, not even after the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) slapped him with three new charges of money-laundering two days after the by-election.
The joke in the wake of Najib’s Langkawi visit is that MACC officers would be waiting for him at KLIA with more charges.
MACC, which started off so well, has unfortunately become rather predictable when it comes to Najib. It is being used like a sledgehammer and the overkill is starting to backfire.
Former Jelutong MP Jeff Ooi, a forerunner in the use of social media, has been watching the Najib gameplay.
“He has time on his hands, and he is playing the disrupter role. He has an audience in the Malay heartland where Pakatan is weak, and he is trying to lock up the Malay ground for Umno.
“He has little to lose. If he fails, he takes the blame, if he succeeds, his party shares the credit,” said Ooi.
Najib has also emerged as a key opposition voice, tapping into the growing Malay discontent about the government.
“Najib is now a polar attraction to Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad. One is asking Malays to abandon Umno, the other is telling them to stay with Umno,” said former Umno MP Tawfik Ismail.
At the same time, said Tawfik, Najib is trying to regain his image, to show that he is down but not out.
“Pakatan came in with so many promises and he whittled it down, one by one, from the shrinking Ringgit to the national debt.
“He also has a better grasp of issues than the current crop of Umno leaders. He sees the big picture,” said Tawfik.
According to political commentator Khaw Veon Szu, many are seeing another side of the former prime minister.
“I don’t think people miss him, it’s just that he has captured the imagination of those who find that life has become tougher than before.
“They can see he has many flaws. But he also understands their problems and he has become their voice,” said Khaw.
It is possible that his growing social media fan base likes the way he pokes and nudges the ruling coalition.
He uses contemporary language, and it is possible that he has eclipsed even Khairy Jamaluddin among the Gen X and Y.
His attack style is unlike the harsh tactics of the former Opposition. He does not use crude language and he is not into the technicalities favoured by DAP’s Tony Pua or what the Malays regard as the “Cina apek” style of Lim Kit Siang.
He has a civil yet stinging way of taking on his opponents.
A few days ago, Najib let go a double shot on Facebook: “MenHEN masih on leave ke? Saya ucapkan Selamat Tahun Baru Cina kepada pahlawan mansuh AES.”
It was a dig at DAP’s Lim – known as ‘Menteri Hal Ehwal Najib’ (MenHEN or Minister of Najib Affairs) for his fixation on Najib – who was taking a break from blogging after the by-election.
The lunar greetings for “pahlawan mansuh AES” (anti-AES warrior) refers to Transport Minister Anthony Loke, who protested against the speed camera system when he was in the Opposition, but reinstated it after Pakatan came to power.
A new and fascinating form of political warfare is going on in social media between Najib and Pakatan leaders.
It is something Dr Mahathir is unable to match. He has too much on his plate and he is too old to master the new art of warfare.
The Prime Minister still depends on the traditional media of print and online portals whose audience has been outclassed by the power of social media.
But will the Bossku trend come to an end when Najib’s court case begins in April?
“A lot of incriminating evidence will be aired, the media will play it up and the trial will be watched globally,” said Khaw.
Dr Mahathir is probably hoping that the trial will stop the Bossku phenomenon in its tracks.