By Oluwagbemileke Takuro
With Nigerians yet to recover from the death of the president’s Chief of staff, Abba Kyari and that of the immediate past Governor of Oyo, Abiola Ajimobi, both of whom passed away earlier this year as a result of complications of COVID-19, the news of the death of the former Senator Esho Jinadu, popularly known as Buruji Kashamu, has thrown Nigerians once again into a state of mourning.
Buruji Kashamu passed away on Saturday, the 8th of August 2020 at the age of 62 years after fighting for his life at First Cardiology Consultants Hospital in Lagos.
He was born on the 19th of May, 1958 in Ogun state and started his education there but moved to Lagos to further his education in 1972. He obtained his diploma in English from the University of Lagos. Kashamu spent the early years of his life in Nigeria but moved to the United States of America (USA) where he stayed for some time.
Years after this, he finally moved back to his home country. In 2014, he decided to further his education and acquired an honorary Doctor of Philosophy in Humanities from the Cambridge Graduate University, USA. This post graduate degree aroused the curiosity of many because he still had allegations against him in the country the degree was acquired from.
This led to investigations which revealed that the degree was gotten from a graduate school that was accredited only by an unrecognised higher education accreditation organisation – International Accreditation Organization (IAO), so his honorary degree may have been considered void.
Kashamu was a wealthy business man and the Chief Executive of Kasmal Group of Companies in the Republic of Benin. He also owned a lottery company named Western Lotto. He developed an interest in politics and became a member of People’s Democratic Party (PDP). In 2015, he was the party’s candidate for the Ogun East Senatorial seat in which he emerged as the winner and served for three years.
In 2018, following the order from Court of Appeal, Ibadan on account of his engagement in activities that were considered unacceptable to the PDP, Kashamu was among the four Ogun State PDP members who were expelled from party. However, he didn’t give up on his political career and went ahead to state his interest to be the party’s candidate for 2019 Ogun state gubernatorial elections but lost to the current governor of Ogun State, Dapo Abiodun.
For years, Kashamu had unsettled criminal allegations laid against him. This began in the year 1998 when Kashamu was declared wanted by the United States government on account of being suspected as the Kingpin (nicknamed ‘Alaji’) of a gang involved in money laundering and drug smuggling. He denied these claims and insisted that his identity was being mistaken with that of his late brother who he shared similar physical features with, Adewale Kashamu. In 2003, he was held down in United Kingdom in order to be extradited to USA but this was stopped for many reasons including his claim that he had a striking resemblance with his late brother.
However, the USA did not give up as they were certain that Kashamu and not his brother was the Kingpin that was wanted. This series of event was part of the inspiration behind Piper Kerman’s memoir, Orange Is the New Black which was later adapted into the popular television series with the same title.
About 17 years after Kashamu was declared wanted by USA, the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) and the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) tried to extradite him to USA so justice can be served but the process was brought to a halt. Some NDLEA officials visited his place of residence in the early hours of the morning to get hold of him but Kashamu didn’t surrender himself.
Instead, he locked himself up in the toilet for 6 days and this process was stopped following a court order obtained by his lawyers. Kashamu, as in the beginning when these charges were placed on him, denied these claims and insisted that it was his late brother with whom he had a striking resemblance was the suspect and not him. Following a ruling in Federal high court Abuja a year after, it was stated that for his extradition to take place it would have to be started afresh.
Kashamu’s death was a heavy blow on a lot of people. Many expressed their grief and reached out to the loved ones of the bereaved to offer their condolences. One condolence message that got the social media community talking was that of one of the past presidents of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo. Using one of his commonly employed means of communication – letter writing – Obasanjo sent a letter to the Governor of Ogun, Oladapo Abiodun where after starting it with his condolence message, he made his point known that Kashamu’s death should be an eye opener to those who like the deceased, have employed various means to escape judgement. He went on to state that no legal, political, cultural, social or medical maneuver could save such people from death in the long run.
While some considered this a harsh ‘condolence letter’, others agreed with and praised Obasanjo for defying the adage that urges us not to speak ill of the dead as death should not stop the ‘truth’ from being spoken.
If Idi Amin was a Nigerian many here would be eulogizing him & asking folks not to “speak ill of the dead”.Kashamu was a fugitive.Fact!Kashamu manipulated the law to suit his own agenda against his party.Another fact.Kashamu is dead.A fact that does not change the previous facts.
— Mazi Gburugburu (@Mazigburugburu1) August 9, 2020
Obasanjo and Kashamu used to be on good terms but few years up until his death the relationship turned sour for reasons best know to both parties.
However the likes of Tinubu, Fayose and other Nigerians didn’t consider the grudges that weren’t settled before Kashamu’s demise sufficient for Obasanjo to bash the dead. His utterances were also considered hypocritical because based on history, Obasanjo’s hands are not exactly clean.
Buruji Kashamu was finally laid to rest on Sunday, 9th of August 2020. Even with Obasanjo negative remarks on the deceased criminal records and in this era of social distancing, many sympathizers still showed up for the funeral ceremony to pay their last respects.