Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil’s decision to contest Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz for the Wanita UMNO top post, March next year, came as no surprise to me.

But, some quarters may wonder, why only now? Why didn’t she do it earlier? Was it because she was pushed too far?

Or was it a carefully planned strategy all along?

Before the announcement, Shahrizat were called names and some Wanita members even laughed at the possibility of her going against Rafidah, as they claimed and assumed that she just wouldn’t dare. “She doesn’t have fighting spirit. She is afraid to take risk. She is so scared of Rafidah, bla, bla, bla.”

As I see it, Shahrizat was holding to the belief that patience and perseverance will ensure success. While the public had interpreted her silence as an act of “fear”, Shahrizat was perhaps, waiting for the perfect timing. The more patient she is, the more she understands the tricks of the opponent and her supporters.

Some observers may look upon Shahrizat as the underdog, but Shahrizat is no bimbo! Hey, she was a lawyer and a magistrate! From the beginning, although Shahrizat had said she would abide the transition plan, she was already signaling her plans by allowing nominations of her for the chief post.

I believe Shahrizat knows too well not to fight fire with fire as it will usually end up with ashes.

As a former lawyer, she knows that the key to success is patience. You get chicken by hatching the egg, not by smashing it. Shahrizat also knows too well that anger can be a destructive. So, she lets Rafidah do that part (continuously vexing her anger publicly).

Let me borrow some quotes from Jill Devine, author of a motivational book, Timing is Everything.

“It's true that what you sow you reap but what we forget is that there's supposed to be a space between sowing and reaping: it is not an instant process. If you try to reap in the wrong season, you reap frustration. If you try to reap in the wrong season, you do NOT get what you expect and you don't reap what you sowed. It's for this reason most ancient religious texts speak of everything having an order and a season.

Don't mistake delay for denial by life. Timing is everything - for this reason, patience is a vital ingredient in success planning. Patience will give you keys to the kingdom!”

Shahrizat has been the deputy of Wanita UMNO for eight donkey years. As the saying goes – Rome was not built in a day! Do you think that all these while, Shahrizat has been spending her time knitting blouses while listening to Rafidah’s naggings and letting the old lady running things her own way?

As for Rafidah, the iron lady should know to quit while she is still at the top, and now is the right time to do so. As a minister, I can’t deny that she has done well. But as Wanita leader, what has she done to increase the representation of Wanita UMNO in the cabinet?

Rafidah has been in power since 1984, except for one term when she lost to Datuk Seri Dr. Siti Zaharah Sulaiman in 1996. She came back stronger the following term, and put an end to Zaharah’s political career. But Rafidah is 65 now, and not getting any younger. This is the era of the new millennium. Today’s women know what they want.

In The Sunday Star, dated 23 November, Rafidah were quoted as saying “She (Shahrizat) can’t even win a parliamentary seat, how can she hope to lead Wanita UMNO”.

I feel that the comment is unfair.

Shahrizat lost the parliamentary seat because the votes were decided by the people of Lembah Pantai, consisting of supporters from various parties. Her opponent, Nurul Izzah Anwar won mainly because of the Anwar factor, protest votes from the community who were angry at BN and young voters who wanted to see change. In this case, Shahrizat was a victim of circumstances.

The battle for the top post in Wanita UMNO is a different game. The votes of who will lead the party will be decided by Wanita UMNO members only, who mostly are above 40 years old. Get the drift?

In the same paper, Rafidah were also quoted as admitting that she had told Shahrizat several times that they (Rafidah & Shahrizat) will discuss together who should be appointed the administrative posts and who would be in the Exco.

Hold on! Who does Wanita UMNO belongs to? Who decide the leaders? Rafidah’s statement sounded as if the party is or has been practicing a different kind of system, which is akin to the feudal system (where a leader has control over several “excos” or delegates, etcetra, etcetra…)

Now is the time for Wanita UMNO to stop bitching. It’s the time for soul-searching and preparing the party for the future challenges. Wanita UMNO members have to ask themselves this question - Would you prefer to continue wearing the shoes that you have been wearing for ages, or would you like to try the one pair of shoes that you have bought a long time ago that you kept safely in your cupboard because it’s too nice and expensive?

Wanita UMNO should give Shahrizat a chance to show what she can do in three years. If she delivers, well, that’s good. If otherwise, they can always call back Makcik Rafidah (I am sure she will be ever so willing) or find a new leader? Well, you have tolerated Rafidah for 24 years, so, what is giving three years to Shahrizat?

As for Shahrizat, now is not the time to be nice anymore. It’s the perfect time for her to come out from Rafidah’s shadows, keeping in mind that, by challenging the iron lady, she has also angered Rafidah’s supporters. So, Shahrizat, keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.

As for Datuk Kamilia Ibrahim, who has won the number two post uncontested, she should be smart enough to influence her supporters, who they should support, for the future of Wanita UMNO, and for her own sake.

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