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By Ade Oluwo
If the late Buruji Kashamu had not wiggled his way into the murky labyrinth of Nigerian politics he probably would have been doing a very long time in an American prison cell. Perhaps as he lay on a hospital bed struggling for life in his final moments the Senator who represented Ogun East would have asked himself over and over; “What does it profit a man to gain the Whole World only to lose his life in the bargain?”
Buruji was a true son of primal survival who found himself too sparsely educated to make any meaningful impact in his immediate environment that is so Certificate conscious. He therefore gravitated into being a quintessential hustler. He did not read books, but read people like books to exploit their weaknesses. An accomplished psychologist without the benefit of the training he slipped through the cracks rising to be a prolific Drug Baron. Much of what is known of him is through the memoirs of Ms Piper Kerman; “In 1998, Kerman was indicted for money laundering and Drug trafficking and she pled guilty. Starting in 2004, she served 13 months of a 15-month sentence at the Federal Correctional Institution in Danbury, Connecticut. During her sentence, she built her website “The Pipe Bomb” to document her life behind bars.”
In her write-ups the person referred to as “Alhaji” is said to be Buruji – her employer; “Kerman’s best-selling memoir about her experiences in prison, Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison, was published by Spiegel & Grau on April 6, 2010. A television adaptation of the same name created by Jenji Kohan, the Emmy award- winning creator of Weeds, premiered on July 11, 2013, on Netflix and aired for seven seasons. ‘Orange is the New Black’ has received critical acclaim and won four Emmy Awards.” The late “Distinguished” Senator has always denied Piper Kerman’s portrayal of his good self as “Alhaji”
Every thing about Mr. Kashamu was shrouded in hushed tones. What he however lacked in academic prowess he made up with “native intelligence” His political Sagacity saved OBJ from the punishing grip of former Ogun Governor, Olugbenga Daniel. Back then Baba Iyabo was colour blind to the source of the funds Buruji Kashamu used!
What lessons can we learn from the vicissitudes of Buruji Kashamu? It is chiefly the dictum of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe; “Everyone holds his fortune in his hands, like a Sculptor, the raw material he will fashion into a figure” Buruji never completed Primary School. Same with Adams Oshiomhole. Like both of them the rest of us are all therefore products of our choices and not circumstances. As Hausa people would say; “Babu maraya sai rago”
The choice Baruji made is called “paltering” which is defined as “the devious art of lying by telling the truth” The truth is Buruji had to survive. The lie however is that he didn’t have to be a Drug Baron. Niccolo Machiavelli [1469 – 1527] disagrees in; The Prince – “Any man who tries to be good all the time is bound to come to ruin among the great number who are not good” as the fundamental challenge here is the definition of “good” Which one of us can truly confess of never engaged in any “deal”? This ranges from using one’s position for personal or group advantage from Madam shortchanging Oga’s Chop money meant to be spent at the Market for foodstuffs for the family diverted for “Welfare” to her siblings or anything “PP” in contracts or supplies carried out by those that approve same or even receiving any form of “prior” appreciation or appreciation “after the fact” To do “deal” includes violating “Bail is free” and tight fisted tithers “robbing God” among many other self serving behaviour including stout refusal to be accountable.
What I find interesting is the mixed bag of tributes now being showered on Buruji ever since his passing. Let me start with Reuben Abati, the ace host of; This Day Live – “I am completely heartbroken. Senator Buruji Kashamu was my political mentor” The former Presidential aide continued – “He was a very simple man who was grossly misunderstood by his political opponents. His persona, his politics was indeed grossly misunderstood but those who knew him personally met a man who loved Nigeria dearly and was unapologetically public-spirited. He enjoyed giving other people opportunities. He was humorous, kind- hearted, large- hearted and genial. With his death, Nigeria, Ogun State, Ijebuland and the people of Ijebu- Igbo have lost an illustrious son, who demonstrated courage, talent and creativity in everything to which he applied his energy.” Senator Ben Murray Bruce has lamented about losing “a good friend” noting up to Mr. Kashamu’s death they were “inseparable” OBJ said in his own condolence accurately but ironically put it; “Senator Buruji Kashamu in his lifetime used the maneuver of law and politics to escape from facing justice on alleged criminal offences in Nigeria and outside Nigeria,”
It is however important to note former Ekiti Governor Peter Fasoye’s question – “Can Obasanjo say, in good conscience, that he did not at some point collaborated with Kashamu and most of the things he [Kashamu] did politically were not with his collaboration?”
Buruji nicknamed “Eso Jinadu” in Fuji Songs also used his Omo Ilu Foundation to distribute Charity, award Scholarships, settle medical bills and empower denizens not just in his immediate Ijebu Igbo Constituency but Ogun State at large. To give a veneer of legitimacy Kashamu was posing as having made money from producing Kamsal, a Cigarette brand, in the Republic of Benin; “He was arrested in the United Kingdom with $230,000 in cash. Mr. Kashamu claimed that his 1998 indictment by a grand jury in the Northern District of Illinois for conspiracy to import and distribute heroin in the US was a case of mistaken identity. He claimed that the person involved in the alleged offenses, to which a dozen people pleaded guilty, was his deceased younger brother, who resembled him closely.”
In conclusion; is there is an Eso Jinadu in all of us? We might argue, deny and rebut that categorization but the signs and symptoms of “deal” is very apparent in our lives in one way or the other by either direct participation or being indirect beneficiaries. The scale and magnitude of which might not be that of Buruji but nevertheless still “deal” in definition!
Death is such a grim reaper. It neither cares nor gives a damn whether you sprayed dollars at Owambe parties or you are so broke that you can’t afford the next meal. Such is life!