Obasanjo and his KashamuphobiaArticles/Opinion Thursday, January 16th, 2014
By Kayode Ojo
Until recently, the name Prince Buruji Kashamu did not ring any bells nationally. Within political circles in his own corner of Ogun state, he was seen as one of ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo’s political muscle-men who helped fight his local political battles. The billionaire businessman was encouraged to empower youths in the state and mobilize them for Obasanjo’s faction of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state. For his troubles, he got rewarded with a place around the king’s dining table.
Things have today changed, like they sometimes do in politics, and both men have found themselves on opposite sides of the raging political battle in the South West. From the two letters written by former President Obasanjo, first to President Goodluck Jonathan, and second to the leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party, we now know Kashamu has become such a big factor in South-West politics. The surprise is that his profile has become so big that the former President considers him a threat to his continued stay in the party on whose platform he became the leader of Africa’s most populous nation?
This is no mean threat when the personality of our former President is considered. Since Kashamu’s name features in the first and second epistles, he must be that important to so attract Obasanjo’s venom in both letters addressed to the President of Nigeria. In thesecond letter especially, the former President said he was withdrawing from the activities of the party due to the imposition of Kashamu on the South-West PDP as its leader. With this, it is obvious there is much more to his Kashamuphobia. I use Kashamuphobia with caution because, like all military Generals, Obasanjo is not easily given to fear, let alone express it openly.
Obasanjo is not only an army general who has seen gunfire, he is also a former democratically elected President who has witnessed all sorts of political intrigues. When combined, what one gets is a man most unlikely to retreat from a battle as he has done over one ‘small boy’ called Kashamu. He is disgusted, no doubt, with the political system within the PDP, and especially in the South-West where his influence has so diminished that he is being made to report to some minions.
For a man who prefers the driving seat all the time, and who insists in all affairs in which he is involved, that he be recognized as the path-finder, OBJ’s disgust within the PDP is understandable. For a man used to the tradition of barking out orders that must be obeyed, it is easy to understand too, why he finds it detestable playing the second fiddle. His problems with the President Goodluck Jonathan, and recently his party, stem from one’s refusal to take orders and the other’s refusal to recognize his pre-eminence. So is Kashamu really Obasanjo’s problem or is he simply a convenient pick to divert attention from the consequences of his overbearing attitude?
His first epistle to President Jonathan – all of 18 type-written pages – arose because the young man he helped into Aso Rock has grown up so much that Baba’s words would no longer have the effects of law, both in their party and in the affairs of state. The second one, with a threat embedded thereto, arises because the PDP leadership allowed “a known habitual criminal that is wanted abroad to face criminal charges” to become a political leader of the PDP in his South-West zone. If those are not like dipping fingers into Baba’s eyes, then what are they?
There is no doubt OBJ has, within a short while, lost so much influence within the national leadership of his party. After losing out on the South-West zonal executives of the PDP which were sacked by the courts, his political protégé, Olagunsoye Oyinlola, succeeded in playing himself into political irrelevance within one year of being foisted as the PDP National Secretary and ultimately ended up in the opposition All Progressives Congress. Beyond those, the former President has since lost grip of affairs even in his last stronghold, his native Ogun state, and while he was still licking his wounds, a man who was contented running his errands was propped up to lead him. Haba!
At this point, we must ask, where is this Buruji Kashamu coming from and why is a man of OBJ’s standing worried so sick about his rising political influence, so much that he is openly waging such a campaign against him? Not much was known of the man before now but the account of his long-standing relationship with Obasanjo suggests he has been around for a while. So when and why did the grapes turn sour? Obasanjo is definitely frightened about his estranged political ally who knows so much about him; as a loose cannon, he has reasons to fear that their sour relationship may lead to further disgrace. What led to the estrangement is another matter altogether.
Obasanjo was indeed hypocritical in saying he was uncomfortable with Kashamu in the PDP because of his principles and decency. As the questions have been asked, why did his principles not count when he deployed the young billionaire to fight Gbenga Daniel and wrest from him the PDP which he handed over to him? And where was decency, when he publicly praised his efforts in the party especially after Kashamu reportedly rolled his formidable political machinery in favour of the governorship ambition of Gen. Adetunji Olurin, Obasanjo’s political godson? Kashamu claims he has made several huge donations to causes being promoted by the ex-president; so why did the Ota farmer not flinch at such effrontery?
The claim that Kashamu is the leader of the party in the South-West has also been described as preposterous, coming from no less a personality than the ex-President who is conversant with his party’s leadership structure. If the explanation by the party national chairman, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, is anything to go by, Kashamu is a creation of the void that exists in the South-West zonal leadership of the PDP. Not only did he make himself useful to the party, he has worked tirelessly in rebuilding it in the face of near collapse. It is in that capacity that he was made the chairman of the PDP Organisation and Mobilisation Committee in the zone.
The most disturbing aspect of Obasanjo’s reference to Kashamu is that of a serial criminal who was allegedly indicted in the United States. This is in spite of Kashmu’s statement that no request had ever been made regarding his extradition for any offence, and having challenged him to produce such a request, if there is any. Kashamu was not called names when he almost single-handed built up the PDP in Ogun state, empowered PDP members with vehicles, grants and working tools, and worked with the ex-President in fighting his political battles.
Baba’s fears are totally unfounded. Though he may choose to forget, this scenario has played out elsewhere, in Anambra state to be precise, where he sidelined the PDP leadership in favour of Chief Chris Uba who was prepared to do his bidding –albeit at great cost to the party – during his tenure as president. Today, with Obasanjo out in the political cold, he has probably forgotten that what goes round comes around.
Ojo sent this piece via Kayodeojo64@yahoo.com
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