Obasanjo should Please Forgive My Past Mistakes


Buruji Kashamu, the senator representing Ogun East Senatorial District, cannot be lost in the crowd. He is stout, so is his politics. He does not run away from battles. That may be why he is determined to fight his being extradited to the United States of America by the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA. He has maintained his innocence claiming he was not the one that was convicted for drug related offences. Records show that NDLEA once went to the United Kingdom in 2002 to testify in favour of Kashamu and even in 2013, deposed to an affidavit that Buruji was not the same Kashamu that was indicted by a US court. Earlier this week, NDLEA promised to pursue Buruji’s extradition to the US at all costs. Kashamu tells Samuel Ajayi that he may have stepped on powerful toes in Ogun State politics, who are helbent on punishing him
There seems to be a  renewed interest in getting you extradited to the United States. What is your reaction to the statement by NDLEA to push for your extradition?
There is no case as far as I am concerned. The spokesman of the NDLEA is making mistakes if you ask me.  If he had taken his time to study the whole matter, he would not have spoken in the manner he did. There are reasons for this.
Can you give us reasons for this?
If they were to follow the law, they were not supposed to even entertain the matter. There is a treaty among Nigeria, Britain and the United States and this has some terms. One of them was that when a matter is six years old, you cannot re-open it because it is statute-barred. Number two, is that you can only extradite a fugitive. I am not a fugitive because I have never entered into America in my life. I have never applied for their visa. Never in my life have I visited America. A fugitive is someone they are looking for who is running from one country to the other. Some who had been tried and acquitted are no longer fugitives. Number three says that anybody that has been arrested within any of these countries that are party to this treaty, if you sentence or acquit the person, you cannot rearrest that person. When this case was going on in London, the same NDLEA sent two of their officers (showed a document to back this up) and this they could not have done without going through the attorney general of the federation’s office to obtain a fiat which would permit them to give evidence. And this they did. One of these officers was one Dan Asabe and the other was Femi Oloruntoba. They went there to testify in my favour to tell them over there what they had in their records. They testified that it was not me but my brother. It was on record that NDLEA came there and gave evidence. I was exonerated and that it was my brother.
Was you brother staying there?
Yes. If not, how would he be involved in this matter? When they came to the UK to testify in my favour, it meant they were representing the government. However, I was acquitted and I came back and was doing my business. Then I entered into politics and people started looking for what to use against me.
When you are into politics, you know what you face. I went to court here in Nigeria and I took NDLEA up that they should come and explain why they wanted to entertain extradition. This was in 2013 or 2014 or so. They reconfirmed in an affidavit (which he showed) that I was not the one that was accused and that I have been cleared. The same NDLEA swore to an affidavit that I was not the one and they even wrote a letter that to that effect. Now they have turned around because I was having problem with some people. That is unfortunate.
You think this is all political?
This is purely political. How can it be possible that I was acquitted and NDLEA even testified on my behalf and now same agency wants me extradited? If the case was dismissed, how can you bring it up again? They will continue to lose because the case will always be dismissed. The fact that I have won the case in London which they did not appeal was the main issue there.
Why is America  now asking for your extradition. Are they part of the politics?
You should understand more than this. First, can a court in America give a judgment and someone will go to another country and say he was not happy with it and the judgment in America should be set aside? If not that they are saying we are not serious, how can America say our judgment should not be respected?
But you were  the one who instituted the appeal  in the US which you lost?
You see, when they came to my house here and did what they did then, which was like trying to kidnap me, it all started. If you recall, I have many cases over there in the US trying to clear my name. I have been battling them over there and I have been taking them to court until I clear my name. I was even the one instituting cases over there. Now back to the issue at hand, the extradition request has been dealt with here and dismissed. What the NDLEA and the attorney general should do is to appeal. What the NDLEA spokesman is now saying is that, the laws of the land have tied their hands and that if the road is clear, they would still pursue the extradition. But even at that, he was wrong. This was a case that his agency had testified in the past in my favour. NDLEA officers even participated in the case. Are they trying to ridicule their own agency? Even when I went to court here, NDLEA officers swore in an affidavit that I was not the one. This was in 2014 and today, you are pursuing extradition.
You said this was all politically motivated. There are politicians in Ogun State who don’t like you?
When I believe in something, I pursue it. I focus on it. May be the kind of energy and resources I put into my political activities, there was no way I would not step on toes of people; knowingly and unknowingly. They have their ways of doing politics. They believe the pot belongs to them and so when someone comes and takes the pot and breaks it and expose all that have been going on to the people, they will not like it. But the people like it but the core politicians who cannot do what I am doing will never like it. That was exactly what happened.
I have always been a messenger of the Almighty God, sent to empower people. When I entered into the politics of Ogun State and by extension, the South-west, I discovered that many people were having problems. People were dying because of common N2,000 or N5,000. There was no way I would look the other way and pretend as if I did not see this. It was when I joined politics that I discovered this and I decided to increase the activities of my foundation, the Omo Ilu Foundation. This even had nothing to do with politics. I have over 500 that I paid their hospital bills. If I make N100,000 today, I spend N60,000 on the foundation.
There was a lot of bitterness  when you won the senatorial election…. (cuts in)
Do I tell you something? Even my party men were buying votes against me. All of them ganged up against me. They shared themselves into all the local governments and recruited people and were buying votes against me. It was not about my power but that of Almighty Allah.
What exactly did you mean when you said  three to four people would have to be killed before you are arrested  and extradited?
They were talking rubbish. How could I say that? I addressed them and when we were speaking off record  and they twisted my joke out of contest and made a headline out of what I said.  It is such a betrayal. I don’t know what I did to The PUNCH. Some of you take your time to study a situation but others, whenever they see my name they want to destroy it. What happened was that we were joking that if there is no law in the country, then each person will have to provide his own security. Like me getting about 40 OPC members to guide me because there is no law to protect me. And when they come for me, three to four persons will have to be killed. We were joking and they decided to take that as the news.
Reports also claimed that it was former President Olusegun Obasanjo that was behind your travails.
Baba Obasanjo is my father and I know he is annoyed with me and I can only continue to ask God to touch his heart to forgive me. Whatever he thinks I might have done to him in the past, he should forgive me. I have been with him before and I have served him before. But we are not perfect as humans. Perhaps, the mistake I made was to follow the former president (Goodluck Jonathan) and if there was problem between the two, I should have kept my distance. But I am someone who does not shy away from the truth. That was just me.
What is happening to PDP?
My issue is not about supporting Makarfi or Modu Sheriff. I told my people that if Makarfi calls meeting, they should go. If Modu Sheriff call a meeting, they should go. We have problems in PDP all over the place but any time I discuss with any faction, I discuss with them as members of PDP. My belief is that if there is misunderstanding, the leaders should be able to call these two guys together and resolve the issue and move forward. I don’t believe in this divisive politics that Makarfi is better than Sheriff or vice versa.
But PDP cannot have two leaders
If we call the two together, they will have to step down and you pick a neutral person. But when 20 people are behind this person, and 10 are behind the other person, then the problem cannot be resolved. That is the problem. Look at South-west. Fayose wants to control the structure of the party in the zone and I said no, he cannot do that. Instead, let you, Baba Bode George, myself, Mimiko and others sit down and sort this thing out. He will say yes, that is okay. But he will be asking his loyalists like Mulikat Akande to pick form for National Secretary or Olayinka, his aide, to pick form for National Publicity Secretary. He is one of the governors. He has upper hand over us because he always closes the deal at the topmost level of the party. When he does, when we are having, say a convention, he would have put the names of his own people on the list and automatically, he has taken the structure of the party in the zone. There is no way someone like me will allow this. The reason is that this put more fuel in the fire at the national level.
What do you think is the way out?
The way out is for all the leaders to come together and forget about their interests. Let them forget about the ambition to take the structure of the party at the national level. Many of these levels are doing negotiations behind because they want to become vice-president and that is why they must struggle to control the structure of the party at the national level. They will never tell you this but that is the problem. They have to forget about their ambitions and put the interest of the party first. If they are not willing to do this, then it will be difficult.
What is your candid assessment of the division in APC?
APC is not divided. What I do know is that PDP is divided. If our leaders don’t put their acts together, they will be the loser. At the national level, it is not APC decamping to PDP but the other way round. I just read that some PDP governors are planning to decamp to APC. Is that division for APC? The party is swelling and you are saying they are divided.
But it is a known fact that in the history of this country, people always decamp to the ruling party, that is very bad.
Everyone has different problems in their homes. You are a family man but I don’t know what your home looks like when you dress and come out. You can be a troublemaker and you are still able to hold your house together. It might be that truly you are a troublemaker because you don’t tolerate nonsense. You said APC is divided, how did they manage to win Ondo State? How did they manage to win Edo State? When they beat you up, you say it is ‘ojoro’. You can say instead of using bare hand to hit your face, they use stone. But we are not able to put our own house in order. Is that the problem of anybody?
Is it true that you are trying to defect to APC?
If I say what is in my mind, people will say it is because I have problem presently and that is why I am saying that. But I believe I don’t have any problem. You cannot cage me. Apart from this thing we are wearing, we are nothing. We can die at any time. You cannot control it when death comes. Someone called me by 9am that he would come to me and by 10am, I learnt he was dead. Back to your question. If I tell you what is in my mind, like I said, you will say it is because I have problems. But let me tell you, PDP members, leaders and followers are not the kind of people that will say something and follow it. Like taking a decision now and follow it to logical conclusion. This is what APC will do easily. If we are doing campaign now, you see our people being laid back and lethargic unless you incentivise them. This is not so with APC. They are ready to make sacrifices and even trek a kilometre to achieve their aim.
But they are populated by former PDP members now.
My brother that is not totally so. Before this APC, AD, AC and ACN had always been like that. You saw their primaries here where our president asked that people should not be given money and they still voted for him.
(Cuts in) But money changed hands and everyone knew that.
We knew those who really spent money. And if some people went behind the man to spend money on his behalf, he wouldn’t know.
Are you planning to defect to APC?
What is this? (pointing to PDP flag behind him). I have passion for PDP. I don’t want PDP to die. You know my struggle in PDP and I don’t want it to die in South-west and even nationally. I am not defecting to the APC of any other party. But I pray that God should touch the minds of our leaders so that they can do the right thing. I don’t have any plan to betray PDP or defect to another party or betray the party. But only God knows tomorrow. I want our leaders to recognise ‘strikers’ within the party. If they don’t do that, there is no way a ‘striker’ will not look for another club. Those who currently call themselves strikers are empty barrels. They don’t even go beyond their states. How can Fayose be criticising and rubbishing the government and the presidency? You are the only governor of the party in the South-west yet you don’t protect the interest of the Yoruba people. You don’t go to other states in the South-west to galvanise party members and yet, within the next 18 months, you will be planning to leave office.
Why can’t Modu Sheriff sacrifice his personal interest for the interest of the party?
Can you allow people to put you to shame? Sometimes, I reason with him and sometimes, I don’t. If leaders want PDP to move forward, there are ways they know how they can handle both Modu Sheriff and Makarfi. But because most of them, not all of them, are consumed by selfish interest, they will not. They want to control the party structure and many of them want to be vice-president. I know about three to five leaders who want to be vice-president. If the control of the party structure will not be in their hands, they won’t allow peace to reign. If they call the two of them together, in the presence of whole members of the party and ask them to resign, withdraw their cases and allow a neutral person, the whole world will now see who does not want the progress of the party. If Modu Sheriff does not back down, he will never see me with him again.