The secrets OBJ and I share —Dr Kashamu

LANRE ADEWOLE was part of a media session with maverick politician and billionaire businessman, Buruji Kashamu. His feud with Obasanjo is a tale both sides are not tired of telling.

On Monday, 13th October, Ogun State-born controversial billionaire businessman and politician, Buruji Kashamu should ordinarily be in an expansive mood. Cambridge Graduate University, at One Broadway, 14th Floor, Cambridge Massachusetts, in the United States of America bestowed on him that day, Doctor of Philosophy in Humanity (honori causa). His aide had taken the pleasure of sharing with the journalists in attendance, copies of the signatories to the letter covering the award. The institution’s president and a professor of Law, Tim Howard and the Director of operations, Ankur Mehta signed the letter. An inquisitive journalist slightly set him on the edge when asked if the institution’s existence was verifiable. “Did I go looking for them? I don’t have an American visa and I don’t even understand the American accent as well as British and India accents when they speak. You have just been given their complimentary cards. You can check yourself, abi wetin concern me”, with his sharp response drawing laughter from the gathering.

On how he was picked for the first-of-its-kind award, the founder of the Omo Ilu Foundation explained, “They said they were not looking for people who keep billions in their homes but those who have touched lives across the world. I simply received a letter from them. I didn’t go there looking for honour. They said they heard about me and how I have been affecting lives positively. I guess they have an African representative or something like that. I am the first person in Nigeria to be picked for this award. If they decided to choose me, I simply thank God for it”.

That was all about what was celebratory on a night that champagne should flow. Twenty-four hours to the media gathering, Kashamu’s nemesis, former President Olusegun Obasanjo had got into his usual tirade against the businessman, repeating the sustained line that “he would not accept an indicted drug baron (meaning Kashamu) as his leader in the South-West zone” while responding to the plea by the national leadership of the PDP to return to the party.

While suspending himself from all the activities of the party, Obasanjo had said he was principally stepping aside from the party because of the national recognition for Kashamu as the South-West leader of the party.

Kashamu refuted the claim, “I am not the leader of PDP in the South-West. Leadership is in hierarchy. I am just the chairman of the Organization and Mobilization Committee for the zone.

But the battle between them as confirmed by Kashamu was more confined to their home state. Tracing the genesis of the crisis, the businessman explained that he and Obasanjo became irreconcilable after the governorship election which PDP’s candidate, Tunji Olurin, anointed by Obasanjo, lost to the incumbent. “Though we told him his candidate was too old and that people would not vote him, we still supported him after he used me to take the party machinery from former Governor Gbenga Daniel. After the election, he tried to hand the party over to Senator Odujirin and we said no.”

The battle has since raged with Wadata Plaza seeming to take Kashamu’s back, obviously to Obasanjo’s wrath. “You know anyone that does not do the bidding of Obasanjo would be in his black book”, Kashamu quipped, even as he insisted that PDP would not need the former president again and that it was a shame that the national leadership apologized to him and begged for his return.

The hotelier now delved into a labourious explanation of the alleged mistaken identity that led to his name being linked to hard drugs, his legal travails, the eventual quashing of the international warrant of arrest and how his involvement in emancipative political activities has brought the matter into the fore again years after he had been internationally-cleared and the unrelenting efforts of Obasanjo to take him out of circulation through an illegal extradition.

It was an effort that took celebratory smile off his visage and for those hours of explaining, occasional blasting of Obasanjo, production and sharing of legal documents regarding the extradition matter, the international award was completely forgotten.

With a voice growing louder as he got more animated, Kashamu was completely certain that he would have stood no chance if Obasanjo were to be president and they were beefing as they are currently.

The issue that got him agitated most was Obasanjo describing him as a moral and integrity burden to PDP. With an accent to his pronunciation of the word “integrity”, the PDP points-man in South-West was uncontainable in his blasting of the former president. “Obasanjo is...(unprintable). Who is Obasanjo to talk about moral integrity. If he had it, he would know what is called rule of law. He should know the process of extradition and international warrant. It does not concern presidents of countries. It has something to do with Attorneys-General, the police and the judiciary,” he alleged.

Is Kashamu a mere pawn in a presidential chess game? He absolutely feels so. “Obasanjo called us to his house and said we are not going to support Jonathan for second term and that it would be over his dead body that Jonathan would do a second term. He said he would tell us who to support and that was why he planned to take over the South-West through his boys like Olagunsoye Oyinlola as the national secretary, Segun Oni as the South-West leader and Bode Mustapha as the national Auditor.”

“Or negotiate”, a journalist interjected. “No” Kashamu continued with his exposé, “he was planning to bring in a respected Northern governor but as God would have it, that same person joined others to endorse Jonathan for the second term” obviously referring to the Jigawa State governor, Sule Lamido.

“Why does he hate Jonathan so much. He didn’t create him. If he had powers to stop him from being president, he would have done it. But the man has been ordained by the Almighty Allah. Obasanjo can do whatever blackmail he wants, it would have no effect on Jonathan. Jonathan is a good man, he has done a lot of things in Nigeria.”

A journalist at this point asked if Obasanjo and Kashamu could ever be together again, given the degeneration of their crisis. “One thing is certain, I won’t go and beg Obasanjo. He loves playing god but he is not God. Don’t forget I had sued him for libel demanding N20 billion. The case is for tomorrow. He is not my father and I pray I don’t have his kind as a father.”

Another journalist rhetorically inquired “but you two used to be great friends”? Though Obasanjo has refused to acknowledge their past romance since the crisis started, the Ijebu-Prince again did, on this night like before. “Obasanjo used to be my father. He used to be my associate. I have gone to his house, have eaten there. I have helped him to look for his agbada and sokoto to wear.When Obasanjo was in the government, I was going to his house in Ota. I was going to his house every week, because one of my brothers from Ijebu-Igbo who was one of his aides, an SSS officer by the name Adebajo, was then living in the heart of Obasanjo in his house. His room was next to Obasanjo’s and I used to go and meet Adebajo in his room in Obasanjo’s house to the extent that Obasanjo sent me to do some jobs for him when he was in government. I did the job for him and I carried the report and gave to an aide I don’t want to mention his name, on Obasanjo’s directive.”

Kashamu then decided to indulge in a bit of kiss-and-tell especially on OBJ’s women.

Maybe Kashamu would have been eternally grateful to Obasanjo who as president collaborated with then president of Benin Republic Mathew Kerekou to provide him with institutional support by asking NDLEA and Interpol in Benin to testify in his support in London, which helped his case in London courts between 2000 and 2002, leading to the quashing of the international arrest warrant, but for the resolve of the former president to be using what he calls “a non-existent” case to harass him.

As a proof of his international clean bill of health, he provided journalists with a letter from the German embassy in Lagos, clearing him for visa, after establishing that the international arrest warrant had been withdrawn by Interpol. The letter dated 6th June 2008 was signed by First Secretary, Matten.

Before the session closed, Kashamu said, “Obasanjo introduced me to almost all the PDP leaders like the Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Akinwunmi and that time, I was not a moral issue. Then he had integrity to relate with me. I fell out with him about two, three years ago.

But does anything worry the Ebora Owu? Kashamu says he is poised for a fight-to-finish and by the time he was through with his nemesis, served cold drinks had returned to the pre-cooling state. And that was when the Ijebu big-man could laugh again.


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