Zahid Hamidi a leader from young, says ex-schoolmate
BAGAN DATOH, July 30 — Omar Sofian always thought the nine-year-old boy he went to school with more than 50 years ago would do well in life.
Despite the high regard, little did Omar expect the intelligent and well-spoken boy — the man Malaysians know as Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi — would rise to the rank of deputy prime minister and become the second most powerful man in the country.
Omar, now 66, said he knew Ahmad Zahid when he (Omar) was in Year Six in SK Sungai Balai, Rungkup.
“After school, we attended classes at Sekolah Ugama Manbail Ulum, nearby.
“It was a 2km journey from our homes. We would cycle together unless it was raining,” he recalled.
Omar, now a farmer, said the young Ahmad Zahid stood out among his peers, impressing teachers and fellow students with his strong work ethics and friendliness.
“He was interested in the pursuit of knowledge but would always be open and welcoming to his friends.
“I remember he won poetry contests and student leadership awards at religious school,” he said.
Omar said it was Ahmad Zahid’s leadership qualities that made him the honorary head of the local bara’an group during Hari Raya celebrations.
The bara’an tradition, which some claim is Javanese culture, involved groups of children dressed in their finest Raya clothes visiting neighbourhood homes.
“In those days, we would gather and move from house to house, celebrating Hari Raya with the villagers.
“You have to remember Ahmad Zahid was only nine but we trusted him with leading the group even though some of us, including me, were older than him,” said Omar.
After primary school, Ahmad Zahid continued his studies at SM Agama Izuddin Shah, Ipoh, and SMK Tengku Ampuan Rahimah, Klang.
He went on to obtain his first degree, masters and later a doctorate in communications.
Ahmad Zahid began his career in politics in 1984 when he was elected Bagan Datoh Umno Youth chief.
Even as he rose steadily through the political ranks, Omar said they maintained close contact.
“He is just as friendly as he was in those days when we used to walk to school together and spend our time playing marbles.
“I wish him every success. I hope he continues to protect the people and develop the constituency and the nation.
“I hope that I can see him during his next visit to the constituency and relive some of our good times together,” he said.