By Taiwo Ajala
Buruji Kashamu’s invincibility finally came to an end on August 8th 2020, on a life support machine inside the intensive care unit of First Cardiologist Consultants in Obalende Lagos.
Kashamu, a politician of no mean repute whose brutality on the fields of politics
was as enormous as his frame had been on a mission at the hospital for some days.
It was not a mission to silence and humiliate his political opponents or try to win back his seat at the Nigerian senate, it was a fight to
save his own life. For the first time since he appeared on the political scene, Kashamu lost a battle, this time, forever when he
died of covid-19 complications after being hospitalised for some weeks.
A life in controversy
No one could possibly be able to tell the real story of Buruji Kashamu because of the different layers of controversies it was embroiled.
From his celebrated case of extradition to the United States as a wanted felon and heroine kingpin to the case of forged certificates.
In politics, he was brutal and had a reputation for winning when the
odds were stacked high against him, much thanks to his endless supply of controversial money and a heart as large as his torso.
But in-between the controversies and somewhere in the middle of it all
is the real story of Kashamu, a man hitherto unknown, who appeared first on the social circuits, then on a national political stage,
supported by unknown billions of naira and a heart for philanthropy.
What Kashamu wanted us to know about him was very simple. He was the Chairman/Chief Executive of Kasmal Group of Companies with interests in hospitality, oil and gas, automobile and property. He was also the Chairman of Group Kasmal SAL in the Republic of Benin a company that
manufactured and sold the Kasmal brand of cigarettes. It was in cigarettes manufacturing, he said, that he made a fortune so large, he could buy up a whole political party in Nigeria.
He was also a politician and strong member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) which ruled Nigeria for 16 years from return of democracy in 1999 to 2015. It was on the platform of the PDP that he won his
‘landslide’ election to represent the good people of Ogun East senatorial district in 2015.
Kashamu would also want us to know he was a man of great philanthropic persuasions. Through his Omo Ilu Foundation, he empowered many of his
kinsmen, first in his Ogun East district then in the state as a whole.
He was known to regularly give out food items, paid pending bills for
others and also empowered many people with cars for transportation.
The testimonies about his kindness is legendary. A twitter user,
@poojaMedia said: “Sleep on Buruji Kashamu. He said to me during my presentation for WesternLotto. Is that thousands not too small for this project, oya make it million now. Less than 10 minutes, he turned my business around, even in death I will forever be grateful.”
A life in the shadows of heroin
But the real Kashamu, though a politician and socialite who was never absent at the scene of the highest society events was a man who lived in fear of his past, that is if that past really existed. His travails with the law began in 1998 when he was arrested on
drugs-related charges as he tried to enter the United Kingdom with $230,000.
In 2003, he was acquitted of the charges but long enough for the United States to request his extradition after he was indicted by a Grand Jury in Northern Illinois for conspiracy to import and distribute heroin in the US.
That was where reason ended. Kashamu claimed that the indicted fellow was actually his split-image brother who had since died in the Republic of Benin. On technicalities, the British government refused to release him to the Americans and he found his way back to Nigeria and bought for himself a lifetime of immunity in politics aided by his
But if Kashamu thought he could make new friends in politics and live happily ever after, he was grossly mistaken as he was soon to be embroiled in a bitter political fight in his state and against a former President, Olusegun Obasanjo.
His adversaries, digging into his past said his real name was Esho Jinadu and that he forged his Senior Secondary School Certificate to contest the 2015 Senatorial elections. Kashamu had continuously denied
that one, he was a drug dealer and two he was ever involved in any forgeries. No court has also convicted him of any criminal activity too.
The Nigerian government had promised many times to extradite Kashamu to the US but the clever politician had always had a way out either through the filling of several judicial ex-parte motions or through
grit and brawn.
On May 5 2015, a detachment of heavily armed officials of the National
Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) mounted a two-day siege at his Lagos residence, Block 21, Plot 100, Oladipo Omoteso close, Lekki Phase 1, Lagos. In a high octave attempt to forcefully arrest and drag him to the airport and put on a free ticket to Chicago, the operatives failed in the last clear attempt to get their man.
Covid-19 and a death so cruel
Former Senator and media guru, Ben Murray-Bruce announced the death on
twitter: “I have just lost my good friend of forever to #COVID19.
Until his death, Sen. Buruji Kashamu and I were inseparable. He died today at First Cardiology Consultants, in Lagos. May his gentle soul rest in peace. I pray his family and loved ones the fortitude to bear
this heavy loss.”
Since then much encomiums have been pouring in for the late politicians including tributes from his political opponents. Former Minister for Aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode said: Shocked and saddened to
hear about the passing of my friend and brother, Senator Buruji Kashamu as a result of Covid-19. May the Lord honor and reward him with a place in heaven & may He forgive him of all his sins RIP my old friend. You fought a good fight and we shall miss you.”
Ogun state governor, Prince Dapo Abiodun said: The death of Senator Buruji Kashamu hit the depth of my being when I received the unfortunate news just now.”
Former governor of Kwara state and former Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki described him as a kind man: “I am devastated to receive the sad news of the passing away of my former colleague and friend, Senator Buruji Kashamu. He was a kind and compassionate man, always
ready to make himself available in support of any of his colleagues.
With this attitude, he won the hearts of many.”
Since February 27 when the index Covid case was discovered in Lagos, Nigeria has since recorded 45, 687 cases with 936 deaths and 32,637 recoveries.