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#NewswireEditorial: Seeing Through The Pact Between Olusegun Obasanjo & Buruji Kashamu



Credit: Vanguard

Credit: Vanguard

There was a time when many genuinely believed that Olusegun Obasanjo was the greatest president this nation had seen. Now he is fast becoming just a nuisance. Every man must know when to quit at the point when the ovation is loudest. Sadly Obasanjo never acquired the ability to listen and now that he’s old, it’s unlikely he’ll ever learn.

Just as he ended the year 2013, the former president began the New Year with a letter. He said in his latest letter addressed to the PDP national chairman, Bamanga Tukur, that he’ll consider withdrawing his activity with the PDP at local, state, zonal and national levels.
That is good news. But actually we have heard something like that before.

Recall in 2012, when Obasanjo announced his resignation as chairman of the PDP Board of Trustees, he said that he was doing so in order to have “a bit more time to devote to the international demand for me… and to give attention to mentoring across the board nationally and internationally in those areas that I have acquired some experience, expertise and in which I have something to share.” Many interpreted that to mean more statesmanship and less partisanship. It did not quite pan out like that.
Of course, Obasanjo had some international outings, but they were few and far between. You see, Baba as he is fondly called was no longer a hot commodity –the universally admired former military ruler who handed over to the Shagari-led civilian government had demystified himself after his second time as head of state. He did not totally fail as Nigeria’s leader from 1999-2007, but he didn’t pass either.
Back to 2012, and after his resignation, Obasanjo was still too involved in local politics despite quitting as PDP BOT chair. He had his ‘boys’ – especially from the South West zone – occupying senior positions in the party. The former governors of Osun and Ekiti, Olagunsoye Oyinlola and Segun Oni, who ‘won’ elections in the Obasanjo-Maurice Iwu orchestrated 2007 election sham but later sacked by the courts, were PDP national secretary and deputy national chairman respectively.
The foundations of Baba’s world shook when these men, as well as Bode Mustapha, the national auditor, were dropped, thanks to court verdicts and quick assent by Aso Rock and Bamanga Tukur. In addition, the faction of the party executive loyal to him was no longer recognised.

What must have burned Obasanjo the most is the fact that the person who funded the court cases against his ‘boys’ and who was single-handedly weakening his stronghold within the PDP, was a man called Buruji Kashamu. Kashamu was a rich man with several business interests in West Africa. However, his soaring political profile was the result of a barter deal he had with Obasanjo.

He traded his money to get influence – a simple, straightforward and common political arrangement.
It was because of Kashamu’s money and Obasanjo’s influence that Gbenga Daniel, the former Ogun governor was forced out of the PDP. Kashamu’s money (over N3bn according to him) funded Obasanjo’s war against Daniel, from the courts to grass roots mobilisation. At the end, the PDP fielding an old, Obasanjo imposed retired military officer lost woefully to the ACN’s Ibikunle Amosun in that state’s 2011 election. But Obasanjo and Kashamu took solace in the fact that they – and not Daniel – were in charge of the PDP’s structure.

Then things got really bad between the two men. Kashamu said it was because of Obasanjo’s greed, but Obasanjo is not known to have publicly commented on what went wrong. In fact, these days, Obasanjo tries to act like he never had dealings with Kashamu in the past. That’s not true.
What the former president did was what he knows how to do very well – FIGHT. He wanted to be in charge of the South West. Baba is a nationalist, but even a nationalist has to secure his close flanks. Even if trouncing Tinubu in the zone was becoming a bit tough, Obasanjo was not ready to also lose ground within the PDP, the party he had strode like a colossus for several years. He wasn’t going to let Kashamu ruin his show.

But Kashamu is no pushover – the man calculated that Obasanjo’s star in the party was fading, so he switched camps. He began ingratiating himself with Pres. Goodluck Jonathan and proving his worth, doling out the cash and mobilising the grassroots. He had a popular foundation/charity in Ogun state that distributed lots of freebies like cheap kerosene for the poor, Sallah ram and other goodies.

At first, even though Obasanjo wanted to fight, he still hoped that there was a way to salvage his relationship with Kashamu. So, in those days, when he criticised Kashamu, he said things like “some moneybags are trying to hijack the party.” Using a word like ‘Moneybags’ was not too confrontational, in fact, in Obasanjo’s own brand of garrison politics, calling someone a moneybag was like an offer of peace.

But as the Kashamu the ‘moneybag’ grew in stature and Baba diminished, he realised that he had a real fight on his hands. The letter to Jonathan in December was about that fight – the fight with Kashamu for the soul of the PDP in the South West.
It wasn’t about corruption in Aso Rock (even though we see that), neither was it about a snipers’ list (even though we have no evidence of that). It was about the politics of South West PDP, simple! Everything else was an afterthought.

Obasanjo must have felt that Pres. Jonathan wasn’t paying sufficient attention to his (Obasanjo’s) needs. He must have seen how Aso Rock was desperately fighting to secure the president’s own backyard especially in Rivers state and it must have irked him that Aso Rock seemed unmoved by his owP1n plight in the South West especially in Ogun.

To prove it, notice that in Obasanjo’s letter to the president, only two people were directly mentioned – Jonathan himself and Buruji Kashamu. At that point, Kashamu was no longer just a moneybag, he had become in Obasanjo’s eyes, “a wanted habitual criminal.” This is why supporters of the ex-president need to ask him at what point he realised that Kashamu was a habitual criminal. When he was building a formidable structure with the man’s money? Before then? Or after the man chose to back another horse in the race?

Even though the ‘drugs smuggling’ crime for which Kashamu was charged abroad occurred as far back as 1994, and even though Kashamu was first charged to court in 1998, and even though the case repeatedly came up in foreign courts when Obasanjo was president, he never made reference to these in his public statements and public appearances with Kashamu until late 2013 when the relationship between the both of them had irredeemably collapsed. We are sorry if in light of that we refuse to take Obasanjo seriously.

As for Buruji Kashamu, the fugitive who has somehow bought his way into the good books of two Nigerian presidents, it is his good luck that Nigerian leaders do not see the damage they do to the nation’s value and law enforcement systems when they choose to openly fraternise with men like him. His claim that the authorities were mistaking him with his late brother Adewale Kashamu, who he says was the drug dealer – and not him – is simply nonsense. All his press statements and adverts only attempt to deceive.

Consider this: A March 2001 letter from the then NDLEA chairman, B. Lafiaji, punctured Kashamu’s claims, stating clearly that “Alhaji Adewale Adeshina Kashamu, a wanted drug suspect was already dead by the time Buruji Kashamu was wanted by this agency in 1994, having died while attempting to run away from Customs investigation for involvement in drugs.” When that came into the open, Kashamu tried another tactic.

He produced purported letters from the NDLEA thanking him for being “helpful” to them in “fighting crime.” But his letters were later revealed by the NDLEA in November 2001 to be “bogus” and their contents “absolutely false.” A few months later, Kashamu produced yet another letter reportedly from the NDLEA’s lead prosecutor saying he was an informant for the agency. But a day later, following inquiry from the prosecuting authorities, the then NDLEA chairman, Usman Amali, stated that, “Kashamu has never been an informant or source for this agency, rather he is a fugitive drug offender on the run from arrest, please.”

Yet that is the man who has gradually become a mighty man in the nation’s ruling party, who has become an almost indispensable rock of wealth and influence strong enough to uproot a former president. Ironically, that former president, Olusegun Obasanjo, is to blame for the anomaly. His ugly creation has transformed into his probable destroyer… with a great deal of help from the man who now wears the hat in Aso Rock.


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