By Yinka Odumakin
Senator Buruji Kashamu died of complications arising from COVID-19 on Saturday and was buried on Sunday in his Ijebu-Igbo hometown with our irresponsible society shunning all protocols on coronavirus by allowing a large crowd of hangers-on to mill around his corpse with possibility of mass infections and subsequent deaths. May his soul rest in peace.
But we will not succumb to the blackmail by two categories of people that we must call a thief a chief in the order of the censure former President Olusegun Obasanjo has come under for grafting an epitaph for the deceased.
One, are those under some misleading injunctions that do not elevate societies and the second, are successful crossovers from the world of crime to mainstream who were defending their base and not necessarily the deceased.
This country was shocked years back when Senator Nuhu Aliyu, a former Deputy Inspector General of Police, raised a point of order on the floor of the Senate, screaming: “Mr President, there are criminals in this chambers.” At the end of the day, he was stopped from saying what he saw.
What happened was that he saw on the floor of the Senate, somebody he once arrested for armed robbery but who managed to escape justice in the Nigerian way. He asked the fellow what he was doing and he responded that he was a senator. He had crossed over.
If an epithet was to be written for Lawrence Anini and that man could influence it, you may have something like: “Here lies the remains of Chief Lawrence Anini, an indefatigable entrepreneur.” It is horrifying that criminals have taken over our political space since General Ibrahim Babangida’s search for new breed opened up the space for the new breed. Erstwhile full time criminals now realised that politics is the new crime where the possibility of doing time is so slim.
Kashamu was Eso Jinadu and you will hear Aiyefefele praising him with that name in several records released years back as a stamp of his past world. But like some of his peers in America, he had to drop that name to start a seeming clean life. A lot of Nigerian young people in the early ’70s emigrated to America not to seek the proverbial Golden Fleece but to pursue life in crime. They were mostly drop-outs. Those who were going abroad for serious study were mostly children of the elite who went to England.
By the time our politics became so accommodating of criminals, they found their way back home and used dirty money to take over everywhere. Their modus operandi is captured mostly in a portrait of Kashamu done by SaharaReporters in July 2017 under, “Buruji Kashamu: How Notorious Drug Kingpin Became Senator With Forged Certificates”. According to Sahara Reporters investigations: “Mr.Buruji Kashamu, the drug lord wanted in the United States for heroin trafficking and senator representing Ogun East Senatorial District, used forged educational qualifications to contest and win election to the Nigerian Senate in 2015.
“Mr. Kashamu, known in the social circles as ‘Eso Jinadu,’ remains the subject of extradition proceedings in the United States. A range of evidence unearthed through Sahara Reporters investigations showed that Mr. Kashamu cooked a series of academic qualifications to mask his sparse education background to con the Independent Electoral Commission, INEC, to accept he was qualified to run.
“In the affidavit in support of personal details, deposed to before the Commissioner of Oaths at the Ogun State High Court Registry, Ijebu-Igbo on December 15, 2014 and received by INEC three days later, Mr. Kashamu claimed to possess General Certificate of Education, GCE, obtained in 2006; and an Executive Diploma in English for Professionals, EDEP, obtained from the University of Lagos Department of English in 2014.
“In the completed INEC CF 001 forms and sworn affidavit, exclusively obtained by SaharaReporters, Mr. Kashamu claimed to have earned seven credits including English Language but tactically blurred the subject section apparently in collusion with INEC officials. His examination number, as shown by the result he claimed to have obtained from the West African Examination Council, WAEC, was 5251320057.
“As proof of his cooked Executive Diploma in English, the wanted heroin baron, manufactured a letter, which he claimed was signed by Mr. Adeyemi Daramola, Coordinator of the University of Lagos EDEP programme. The letter, which bears August 11, 2014, states that Mr. Kashamu participated in the programme in the 2012/2013 academic session and completed his ‘final project’ in May 2014. It lists his Matriculation Number as 12213002.
“He passed by procuring a Merit in the examination. He will be presented with his certificate at a graduation ceremony later this year. Meanwhile, he should be accorded all the privileges of the diploma,” the confected letter states. However, admission requirements into the programme obtained by SaharaReporters from the Human Resources Development Centre of the University of Lagos include the possession of a credit pass in the English Language.
“However, a WAEC modulated examination result obtained by SaharaReporters shows that Mr. Kashamu scored F9 in English Language even though he was reported to have written the exams through a paid mercenary.
“This implies that there was no legally valid way he could have qualified for admission into the programme let alone receive certification. It also offers an uncomplicated indication that Mr. Kashamu lied under oath, an offence punishable under Section 118 of Nigeria’s Criminal Code, and which carries a penalty of 14 years in prison. ”
In January, the United States Seventh Circuit Court of Appeal sitting in Chicago upheld the extradition request of the US Drug Enforcement Administration to bring Mr. Kashamu to the US to stand trial for his role in 1998 heroin case which was later adapted into a television series titled ‘Orange Is The New Black’.
For long, Mr. Kashamu had been well known on the Lagos party circuit, where Fuji musicians sang his praises and those of other dodgy characters, notably fraudsters and drug barons.
He was known as “Eso Jinadu.” He disappeared from view on return from the United Kingdom in 2003, where he managed to wriggle free of a US extradition order. He initially stayed off the radar. But apparently persuaded that going into politics could get the monkey of the extradition off his back, he joined the then ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, where he set up what he called “Omo Ilu Foundation”.
Funded with money made from drugs, the foundation provided copious cash, rice, and even taxis as inducements for prospective voters in Ijebu Igbo, his hometown, to join the PDP. 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 offences, to which a dozen people pleaded guilty, was his deceased younger brother, who resembled him closely.
Among those who pleaded guilty was US citizen, Piper Kerman, whose prison memoir was adapted for Orange Is The New Black. Mr. Kashamu maintained that the UK court saw that the US had withheld evidence that a principal conspirator in the said drug importation had been unable to identify him in a photo lineup. It was on that basis that the UK court refused a request from the US for his extradition in 2003 and freed him after five years in jail.
Last year, Judge Richard Posner of the Chicago Court of Appeal 7th Circuit quoted the US Justice Department as saying that the prospects of Mr. Kashamu’s extradition had improved. It added that if it is proved that Kashamu was the ringleader of the heroin cartel, he could face up to life should he end up in jail and challenged him to come to Chicago to prove his innocence in court.
He escaped extradition till he died largely on account of being a fawning supporter of the government in power though a member of PDP. Now that we know that people of his ilk would not want us to write their true epitaphs we must continue our naming and shaming so that our young ones don’t see them as role models.
It’s a shame for my corner of the country that such a man took Senator Abraham Adesanya’s seat at the Senate and represented Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s senatorial district. I was at Pa Adesanya’s burial in Ijebu-Igbo. I was not sure we had the crowd that bade Kashamu farewell; we have a duty to thin them out.
I once asked a prominent Ijebu-Igbo man the meaning of Kashamu and he told me it was the nickname of the deceased father, a local corruption of “Catch am” which he was given jumping fences. This must come to pass!
By Yinka Odumakin