He snatched the sceptre from tyrants and now wants to upset the political applecart. Kashamu Buruji is widely discussed as the next best thing to happen to Ogun State politics. He is seen as epitomising a fresh bastion of hope for the turnaround of PDP’s shattered fortunes in the state. Buruji reveals his next steps in politics to Lanre Alfred and Jaiyeola Andrews
The conflict of interest ravaging the Peoples Democratic Party in Ogun State has overtime degenerated into an intractable crisis that has pitted three factions of the party against each other. In the midst of the conflict, however, Buruji’s rise to prominence appears to be the greatest source of worry to some party chieftains.
Nobody saw him coming. They simply saw him as a treasure trove to be exploited at will. And that could be blamed on his unreserved generosity. But Buruji says he is simply been humane. He says he learnt very early in life to always put others first and consider the collective interest before his,’ which explains his general disposition to people he meets in life, irrespective of their status and class differences.
Many of the party chieftains did not understand his intentions right from the moment he began to take active interest in party issues. PDP’s post-2011 election squabble notwithstanding, his name resonates as a major protagonist in the promising drive to revivify the PDP’s state chapter. Whatever the perceptions about him, Buruji remains a force to be reckoned with within the party.
OGD OMO ILU Foundation
Having joined the party few years back, his first intervention was the empowerment of party members across the state. At the time, he enjoyed a robust relationship with then Governor Gbenga Daniel. The relation was so strong that the non-governmental organisation Buruji founded for youth empowerment in the state was named OGD OMO ILU Foundation. Through the foundation, an assortment of cars, skills acquisition equipment, and huge sums of money were distributed to party members to support them and improve their welfare.
Born on May 19, 1948, Buruji, an indigene of Ijebu Igbo in Ogun State, is a Muslim. He is married with many children and grand children. He is the Chairman/CEO of Kasmal Group of Companies Limited, located at 33, Sanusi Fafunwa Street, Victoria Island, Lagos. He has over 500 employees working for the group.
Buruji is also the Chairman of Group Kasmal SAL in Republic of Benin. He has about 76 per cent share capital in the ultra-modern cotton ginnery – Societe d’Egrenage Industrial de Coton du Benin (SEICB S.A) in the Republic of Benin. His business experience, spanning over 20 years, has involved importation and exportation of goods, semi-finished and finished agro-allied products.
Seed of Discord
Buruji says some political enemies tried to sow a seed of discord between him and Daniel. Notwithstanding their mischief, he says, he continued his philanthropic gestures to party chieftains and succeeded in winning more hearts across the state. Consequently, he became a strong power centre in Ogun PDP.
In time, his Omo Ilu Foundation became so strong that many top stalwarts within the PDP began to identify with him.
He narrates, “In 2007, I supported Lekan Mustapha, who happens to be my brother, who was contesting for a senatorial position in Ogun East. After that, there were lots of problems between Jubril Martin Kuye group and the OGD group, which led to OGD’s problem with the G15 of the House of Assembly. At a point, the House of Assembly was literally shut down. Lekan called that there was trouble brewing among his group, G15, and OGD’s group and that I should try to intervene.
“That made me approach OGD and we instantly became very good friends. From there I decided to establish a foundation because a lot of people needed assistance. I have done empowerments in different countries of the world. I decided to do it for the good people of Ogun State. I gave out over 700 cars to people and some members of PDP. Also, I gave out 3, 000 motorcycles and grinding machines. A lot of people witnessed this and that was what brought me out to the limelight in Ogun State. And, of course, I tried to resolve this problem between the groups but, unfortunately, people that surrounded Otunba Gbenga Daniel did not understand me.”
The strained relations with Daniel continued even as the battle over the legitimate party executive raged between the Daniel-backed Joju Fadairo executive and the Dayo Soremi harmonised executive, which enjoyed the support of Buruji and other forces within the party.
Believe in OGD
Observers say the aggregation of the anti-Daniel forces ably led by Obasanjo was not able to conquer Daniel politically, but their breakthrough was accelerated with the intervention of Buruji who deployed his deep pocket and political sagacity. He offered the Soremi executive support until it was validated as the authentic one by the courts. Thus, the battle that swept Daniel and his supporters out of the party was led by Buruji.
“Otunba Daniel is a man I respect and cherish so very well. He is a very stylish man. It was a pity that people around him thought otherwise. I like him a lot. I speak to him very often and we talk about politics and all other things. I always tell him to come out openly so that people would know his true position. Also, we are all going to support him. I still believe in OGD regardless of our acerbic fight that made me practically take over the structure from him,” says Buruji.
With his looming image and influence, it was hardly surprising that the party executive deferred to him; and that really unsettled certain caucuses within the party, particularly, the faction that had fallen out with Daniel. The wary faction now sought to undermine Buruji’s influence within the party. However, that would prove even more difficult as Buruji had become a rallying point and favourite of virtually very important and influential party leader in the state. This tilted the odds in his favour in the jostle to reclaim the soul of Ogun PDP from Daniel and reposition the party in the state.
Buruji accuses Obasanjo of being behind the party’s troubles. According to him, whilst Obasanjo claimed that he resigned as chairman of the Board of Trustees (BOT) of the party to concentrate on international issues, he has been immersed in local politics brought a lot of negative influence.
Buruji recalls how Ogun PDP suffered a setback when the former BOT chairman suggested that Gen. Adetunji Olurin, former military administrator of Ekiti State, should be the leader and arrowhead of the party. “I disagreed with the idea because Gen. Olurin was new in the party. He lacked structure and political experience, and he may not command acceptance and loyalty. People felt that it would be another imposition. But Baba Obasanjo insisted on his proposal.”
Buruji proposes an all-inclusive approach to party administration, saying members would have a sense of participation, belonging and self-worth if they are given the opportunity to choose their ward, local government and state leaders at properly constituted congresses.
He pleads with Obasanjo to be the guardian of the process. Until then, however, the party will continue to flounder in the throes of disintegration caused by the intractable conflict among the three factions currently battling for the leadership of the party in the state. The first group comprises loyalists of Obasanjo. Prominent members of this camp include the failed PDP governorship candidate in the last general elections, Olurin, his running mate, Tunde Oladunjoye, who was jailed recently for contempt of court, and some pro-Obasanjo elders and lackeys. To this group, the chairman of PDP in the state is Senator Dipo Odujinrin.
The second faction consists of the self-styled “reformists” fighting Obasanjo and his group over lack of internal democracy at party congresses. This faction is led by Adebayo Dayo, who was elected as state chairman of PDP at the April congress and the pillar behind the group is the billionaire businessman-turned politician and party financier, Buruji.
The third group comprises aggrieved loyalists of Daniel, who raised a candidate on the platform of the Peoples Party of Nigeria, Gboyega Isiaka, against Olurin and the Action Congress of Nigeria candidate, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, who eventually won the election.
While the post-2011 election squabbles within the party highlighted Buruji as a major player in the party, critics fear that his influence might spell the end for PDP in the state. Whichever way one looks at it, Buruji has remained an attractive rallying point in the wake of the internal wrangling that is tearing the party apart.
“There are some good leaders working with me. We all take good decisions together. We have over 1, 000 leaders and I can tell you that the group I’m supporting, which is the Adebayo-led exco, is the genuine exco that is covered by the rule of law. We have over 70 per cent followers in Ogun State,” Buruji says.
The People’s Cause
The billionaire businessman says he would remain in PDP and fight against indiscipline and injustice. But that is not the only fight that faces Buruji. Already, he has spent over N3 billion to advance the cause of the needy and the arty in the state.
He says, “When I look at all what God has done for me, I am always happy. I receive over 300 text messages everyday from different people praying for me. I’m really close to my people in Ogun State. I love poor people; I don’t have rich people as friends. I prefer the poor. I eat and dine with them. I always pray to God that the money that I will have and will not able to share with people, He should not give me. That is my prayer every day.
“If I don’t spend money, I don’t get money, but when I give out I receive from God. I have been doing it for over 30 years.”
Buruji says his huge financial outlay for the party was confirmed in a recent interview by Odujinrin, who also acknowledged “that I provided the platform on which Obasanjo’s anointed candidates ran. He also said that I was fighting Obasanjo because he did not facilitate the appointments of some party members.
“The truth is rather than facilitate the appointment of vibrant, young and qualified party members, he went and brought some strangers. Now, that is a continuation of the imposition that we are fighting against. And it is capable of ruining the party in Ogun State because these strangers also do not think they are responsible to anyone, but Obasanjo.”
He continues, “The illegal PDP Exco being promoted by Odujinrin, Bode Mustapha and Tunji Olurin is simply a continuation of the lawlessness and impunity that were the hallmarks of the administration of their godfather, Obasanjo. These people are crassly lawless. They have continued to hold themselves out as delinquents in spite of two judgments of the Federal High Court, Lagos, and the Ogun State High Court, Ilaro, affirming and re-affirming the Engr. Adebayo Dayo-led exco as the only management body for the party in the state. The other day, Obasanjo hosted a purported PDP stakeholders meeting at his private hilltop residence with Odujinrin posturing as the chairman of the state PDP. It never ceases to amuse me what a man who does not have respect for institutions and constituted authorities at home will tell the outside world when he goes there purportedly to settle disputes.
“When we are talking of party organisation and mobilisation, some people are dropping names and living on past glory. They forget that the Wisdom of Solomon has nothing to do with the age of Methuselah. But I assure you that it will not stand. Sooner than later, they will have their day in court and they will be dealt with according to the laws of the land. I strongly believe that an individual, no matter how powerful, cannot be more powerful than God and the rule of law. And I trust that justice will prevail. It is the bedrock of democracy and good governance.
“It is incumbent on President Jonathan, and the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation to know that the survival of any government rests on the rule of law. Political parties are the engine room of any democracy. It follows, therefore, that if political parties do not have respect for the rule of law, then our democracy is endangered. But if the president sticks to walking the talk on the rule of law, the sky will be his limit.”
On his alleged membership of ACN, Buruji replies, “Is it not incongruous that someone who Odujinrin himself said is spending for the PDP would be a card-carrying member of the ACN? This is a complete lie contrived by some drowning men who have lost touch with reality. This is what you get when you yield ground to outdated politicians. But how can this be in a state where you have intelligent, vibrant and articulate youths who are in tune with what obtains in the global community. The digital age is highly competitive and it is the best and the brightest that will survive.”
“That takes me to the so-called empowerment forms which the impostors are selling to the already depraved and deprived people of Ogun State at the rate of N250. Unknown to our affectionate First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan, they are selling the form in her name, saying she told them to sell the form ahead of an empowerment programme she is coming to do in the state. We urge the relevant security agencies to investigate this issue, just as we appeal to the good people of Ogun State to shun these outlaws and remain focused and committed to the task of liberating our dear state from the vice-grip of those who see it as an extension of personal fiefdom.”
State of the Nation
Buruji blames today’s troubles in the country on the extravagant attitudes of yesteryear’s leaders.
“It is important to state from the outset that what we are experiencing today is as a result of the many years of decay,” he says. “President Goodluck Jonathan is striving to clear the mess. It is not a tea party and so no one should expect some quick fixes. For instance, some people spent billions of naira on electricity, yet we never saw the results. Now, with a more pragmatic and transparent approach to the project, electricity supply has increased. He has also allowed the institutions of state, such as the EFCC, the Police and other security agencies to function without any interference or coercion, unlike in the past when these bodies were used to harass and harangue perceived enemies of the powers that be.
“With the right choice he has made in the appointment in the police chief, the nation is witnessing a breath of fresh air in policing. Again, the emergency billionaires who dotted the nation’s landscape in the recent past are nowhere to be seen.
“It beats my imagination why some former leaders whose reigns are better confined to the dustbin of history would be pontificating on issues they could not address even when they were in office. At other times, they take delight in dabbling into areas they know next to nothing about, just because people are commenting.
“We, as Nigerians, have to be vigilant and do not allow those who were neck-deep in attempts to subvert the democratic process through the third term project to suddenly become apostles of democracy and democratic ethos. Without prejudice to the former president, one constant character trait that has been associated with him is that he betrays people. To stretch it further, he executes good and bad plots with equal ferocity. There is hardly anyone or group of people who have done him good that he did not betray. He has betrayed most of those who stood by him in the South-west, North-east, South-east and now the South-south.”
‘Obasanjo’s New Party’
Buruji also speaks on the alleged attempt by Obasanjo and others to form a new political party ahead of the 2015 general election.
“He has denied being part of such a plot,” Buruji says about Obasanjo, but queries, “was it a mere coincidence that the following week, IBB visited Governor Sule Lamido, one of those allegedly being propped for the presidency in 2015? And then, the week after, former Senate President, Dr. Joseph Wayas, also visited Lamido where he urged him to take a shot at the presidency in 2015.
“How come Obasanjo, who takes delight in commenting on national and international issues, has not deemed it fit to denounce the Wayas’ call? Nigeria, where are we headed for? The truth is, the hawk might have forgotten the harm it did but certainly not the mother hen. Obasanjo is arguably the richest former leader in Nigeria, what with the private jet with which he flies everywhere, the multi-billion naira Presidential Library, the palatial hilltop residence, schools and farms in almost all the states of the federation.”
“The other day, Obasanjo took a swipe at the currency restructuring and redenomination being proposed by the Central Bank of Nigeria, even when he introduced higher denominations in Nigeria than any other Head of State. Besides, he should not forget that the arrowhead of his then economic team, the world-acclaimed Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, ably assisted by other tested and experienced technocrats, now has higher responsibilities in the present government as the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy.
“What many may not know is that his comments were not altruistic. It is part of the grand plot to shoot down the President Goodluck Jonathan administration. For some inexplicable reasons, Gen. Obasanjo does not see anything good in the present administration. He seizes every opportunity to cast aspersion on the government even when as a former President and member of the National Council of State he has unfettered access to the president.
“Worst still, he has two ministers in the government – Amb. Olugbenga Ashiru of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. These ministers tend to his needs both locally and internationally, especially when it relates to agriculture. And of course, he does this to the detriment of the vast majority of party members and leaders who fought to keep the party afloat and handed him the diadem at the twilight of the last PDP administration in the state. This is the type of hypocrisy that we have had to contend with in Ogun State. And it is unfortunate that the ministers have also been sold to this aloofness.”
Buruji’s admirers believe that his reformative efforts offer hope to PDP in Ogun State after its latest misfortunes. But indications are that for now getting the feuding factions of the party together for any major reconciliation will be a tall order.