In an exclusive interview with Malaysiakini five months ago, Nazri Abdul Aziz stressed that he would exit politics when the curtain falls on Najib Abdul Razak's political career.
The then tourism, arts and culture minister had described the former premier as a “friend and comrade” with whom he had worked with for four decades.
The curtain fell on May 9, 2018.
Now, the once vocal Nazri, who has kept a low-profile since the general election, is asking Najib to move to the back seat and let his successor Ahmad Zahid Hamidi drive Umno forward.
The Padang Rengas MP said the former premier should emulate Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who stepped aside after Abdullah Ahmad Badawi succeeded him in 2003.
“Even though he (Mahathir) was the MP for Kubang Pasu then, he withdrew 100 percent to allow Abdullah to lead Umno and register a huge victory for BN in the 2004 general election.
“The same with Abdullah. When he passed (the baton) to Najib, he gave Najib the room to lead the party although he (Abdullah) was still the MP for Kepala Batas and we won the (2013) election,” he told reporters in Parliament.
Mahathir, however, did not remain silent for long and played an instrumental role in Abdullah's resignation and Najib's ascension following BN's disastrous performance in the 2008 election.
Meanwhile, Nazri said the current Umno president should be given the same space, failing which, it would be difficult for the party to forge ahead.
“Of course, Zahid will have reservations (telling Najib to step aside). This is not a question of loyalty. This is about love for the party.
“Right now, Najib has been charged and if he still does not relinquish the (reins) to the new president, it will be difficult for us. To a certain extent, we will be implicated in his case,” he added.
According to Nazri, it was the love for Umno which led Mahathir and Abdullah to steer clear after stepping down due to concern that whatever stigmas attached to them would affect the party.
“I think (Najib) should do the same if he loves the party... It is difficult for us because he is our former boss. But he must understand.
“Don't wait until we tell (him to step aside),” he said, adding that Umno has not committed any sins and it is Najib who has been charged in court.