•Reveals BURUJI KASHAMU’s Last Days
Aare Remi Bakare is one of the closest politicians to late Senator Buruji Kashamu up to the time he died, a few days ago. He was the Head of the Campaign Team of Buruji Kashamu Organisation. This made them to be very, very close. So close were they that they became best friends. Both had mutual respect for each other. And he was one of the few loyalists who could tell Buruji the truth and he would listen. Interestingly, both share a lot in common. They always hold on to their beliefs. They also have the tenacity of purpose and they are dogged in their pursuit of what they believe in.
Unknown to many, he was one of the last set of people who interested with Buruji and both had several conversations towards his last days on earth. Unknown to many, Remi Bakare was one of those Buruji Kashamu gave specific instructions to on what to do before and when he is gone. He also told him about the future of Ogun PDP and what his faction should do when he is no more.
Last Thursday, Aare Remi Bakare told City People matter-of-factly that Buruji Kashamu knew he was going to die and he told him so, during a few times they spoke. How did Bakare take the news of Buruji’s death, we asked him?
“It came as a rude shock, “he replied. “But the fact that he had been warning me of his impending exit reduced the severity of the shock. Kashamu happened to be someone who I would say had an uncommon grace in the sense that he knew he would go and he had informed me days before. So, as a result, it wasn’t much of a shock, though one would have loved to have him around. For the next 3 to 4 decades, but he was prepared for his death.
What does he mean by that, we asked him? “The first time he told me, it was on the phone. He called me and said Remi, look, I am leaving you people. And he said these are the things I want you to do. And he told him to keep quiet. Don’t say such a thing like that again. I told him. Don’t worry, God is in control, bla, bla, bla. And then he called again. He called me several times on his sickbed. Every time he called me while, on the sickbed, he kept saying to me, Look, Remi, I am leaving you. And I kept on assuring him, look, you are not going anywhere. And the last time he called me, he said, Remi, call my lawyer. I want you and my lawyer to go and see OGD, and he gave us instructions on what to do and he said “this is likely going to be the last time that I will be speaking with you. And I said, look…And he said Remi, listen to me and do exactly what I asked you to do. A few hours after, he went into a coma. To God Be The Glory.
Do the messages he sent to OGD have anything to do with what OGD said a few days ago, that he had some messages from Buruji about the party? “Oh, yes. Basically, I happened to be the convener of the messages,” he replied. When it now happened and Buruji had passed on, how did you now feel? “It is natural that you will feel sad,” he said. “When somebody passes on, and even if he is not personally known to you, you will feel naturally sad. But because I have been prepared for it, the shock wasn’t really as intense as it would have been if it had come as a real surprise. But the truth is, I still believe it is a nightmare, wishing one way, or the other, I will still see him. It is sad. I feel so sad. The truth is that since he appointed me the D.G of his Campaign Organisation, we had that bond and we became friends. I doubt if there was any week that we wouldn’t see. He would be the one to call me and say, Remi, where are you? Come. We need to see bla, bla, bla. Almost every weekend, we were always together.
He was a misunderstood man. That is how I will put it. That is what I will say. If anyone had the opportunity to get closer to him, you would discover that he was a man with a real spirit. He was always willing to assist people. He would go to the extra mile to assist people, even people unknown to him. I think he was sent to this world for a purpose. And that propose was to help the downtrodden. And I think he did his best.”
How did their paths cross, politically, because both of you were not earlier in the same party?
He explained it. “Put it this way, all along, I was with Aremo Osoba. I was even called Arole Osoba, meaning, the person who will take over from Osoba and so on. In 2011, when the Governorship ticket was given to Ibikunle Amosun, I was asked to take the Senate ticket, I said No. All I prepared for was the governorship. And I said I would rather remain a member of the party, which I did. So, during preparation for the 2015 election, a decision was taken, that Osoba Group should leave APC, I made it clear to everyone that if you are into politics in Nigeria of today, you are either in APC or PDP. I do not believe in any 3rd force. So, that was how I parted ways with the Osoba Group, but we remained extremely close. Aremo Osoba remains my father. We talk regularly. And all the people in that group we still see ourselves as belonging to the same political family. It was only on Principle that I said if you are not in APC, let’s go to PDP. I will say majority felt otherwise and we have all seen the result. That was how I came into PDP. Before I joined PDP officially, Kashamu had sent for me. He said, look, Remi, we see you as a viable candidate, somebody we can use, come and joun us, but I did not answer his call. So, when eventually I joined PDP it was through Otunba Gbenga Daniel. In that year, the governorship ticket was handed to GNI. That was 2015. I went to Buruji. He said Remi I cannot give you the ticket because you came through OGD. I said ok. No problem. But I am such a person when I say this is where I stand, I won’t move an inch unless the need arises. So, that was that I remained in the party.
And then Gbenga Daniel wanted to be the National Chairman of PDP. At that point we all did all we could to make him the National Chairman. But we had somebody in our state who was vying to be Governor who opposed Gbenga Daniel’s ambition. He was strongly opposed to Daniel’s ambition. He decided to go with the other group. It was at that point that instead of having 2 factions in PDP, Buruji and OGD, you know had the 3rd faction, which was the Adebutu’s faction. So, at a point in the OGD Camp we said to ourselves, we could not continue this way, splitting the party. So, it was decided that the OGD’s Group should talk to the Buruji’s Group and see how we could come together. I happened to have led the OGD’s Camp to that negotiation. So, that was my closest contact with Buruji. And in the cause of that negotiation, Buruji offered to make me the D.G of his campaign. I first turned it down. Then, I went back to my leader, OGD. I told him and OGD said go and take it. So, more or less, I was there, on the approval and at the behest of OGD. That was how the journey started.
After the campaign, Buruji himself called me and said look, Remi, I do not see you as a political ally. You are indeed a friend. Because you did a few things I never expected. If I had listened to people, I wouldn’t even have appointed you. But you did things beyond my expectation, and I wanted us to be personal friends. And that was how our friendship started. And till the last day, I stood by him and I promised to carry on because he was a very faithful friend. He could be stubborn. Once, he says look, this is the way to go, he would continue to insist on that, especially if you were not able to convince him, he would stand firm and say ‘No way’. But if you were able to present a superior argument to his, he would accept yours. Atimes, people often wondered and they always asked me, Remi, how were you able to cope? Because at a point, I happened to be the only one who could change his mind on certain things. And it was simply because we had studied each other. We thank God.
How has he, Remi Bakare, been able to juggle his so many, roles in the world of business with politics? Many also don’t see Bakare as your run-of-the-mill politician because he too could be so blunt and rigid, when it comes to changing his position on issues.
At what point in his life did he start being politically inclined?
“Let me put it this way. You don’t change the townhouse from outside. So, if you believe that things are not being done the right way, the best thing is to try to see if you can get to that corridor of power, and do things the way you think is right. It has not been easy, but the truth is, some get it without fighting for it, others have to fight for it before you get there. But I am not tired. It’s all for the love of the people because I discovered that if you really love your people, you won’t say you don’t want to go into politics. If you think Politics is too dirty, and you leave it for those dirty people, the dirty people will govern you, they will make the rules, which you must obey. So, it’s better you go in there, and see if you can change the system. And if you cannot, it would not be for lack of trying. That is it”.
“I do not see myself as a politician. I see myself as a professional who found himself in politics.”
Can he recollect at what point he began to take interest in politics?
“It was as far back as 1979 when I was a student. I played an active role when I was in Yaba College of Technology before I travelled abroad. I played an active role during the Awolowo and Shagari era, as a student and as a member of the Youth Wing. And in 1993, in Ogun State, I did a lot during the Abiola June 12 annulment saga, though from the background because I was in the financial services industry. I couldn’t really come out openly, but I was really assisting people from Ogun State, doing my own bit. Along the line, in 2005 some people came and said Remi, enough of all these, you just have to come in and join mainstream politics. And I remember in 2007 elections under AD I contested for a Senate seat against Iyabo Obasanjo. And we all knew what happened. That was it. In 2011, I indicated an interest in contesting the Governorship under the same party. We transformed from AD to AC and ACN, I didn’t get the ticket. And here I am today.”
What lessons has he learnt from politics and his political journey so far especially the politicking that went on pre-2019?
“Let’s try and leave out the nitty-gritty of politics from this our discussion. It will be a disservice to the dead”.
“After some days we could come back and then talk full politics”. So, each time he looks back and reflects on the passing away of Senator Buruji what always comes to his mind?
“Haa! It is a hard one. All I can say is that Buruji was a very unique person. I am not sure we have 2 of his type in this country”.
How? Why did he say that?
“I am not sure. I say this because most rich men spend out of their abundance, but Buruji could go out to borrow money to assist people. That is one thing I still don’t understand. He was ready to get himself neck-deep in debt just because he wanted to assist. He hated seeing people suffering. I think he was just sent to this world to fulfil a purpose which he did and I think at the right time, his creator called him, if he is to be assessed based on that, I think he scored an A. All I can say is that we are all imperfect. May God look the other way when it comes to his imperfections, and look at all the people he helped, look at people he rescued from the claws of death, and so on by investing in their medicals and so on. And we pray that Almighty Allah will grant him Aljona Fidau.
Why does he think Buruji Kashamu was misunderstood?
“Oh, because some people would tell you, he was a controversial man. He is this. He is that. He is not straight forward. But I have a different view. I know him. I have interacted with him sufficiently enough. Believe you me, he is an extremely straight forward person. With Buruji Kashamu, you know where he belongs. If he is not going to do something he would tell you, straight away. He would tell you, no, no, no this is not workable. And if he was going to do something he would tell you, yes, we are going for this and this is how we are going about it. He was a very, very principled person. He hated being cheated. And he hated other people being cheated also. He was a man who could use N1 billion to fight a cause of only N1,000 if he felt somebody being cheated.
Most of the battles he fought were not his battles, they were not for his benefit. So, there were times you start to wonder why was the man fighting this battle or battles? I think that was what he was sent to do on earth”.
So, how are his followers in the party taking the death of Senator Buruji Kashamu?
“Haa! How do we take the death of our leader? But, what do we do? If God says its time, could we question Him? The answer is No. He is gone. He had left us, we have to face reality and move on”. How will Buruji’s death affect the politics of the PDP and Ogun State? “It will affect it positively,” he said. “We all know where PDP stands today. The law has defined who is PDP in Ogun State. It’s for the National body to face reality and stop backing the wrong horse. If the National body of the PDP wants the PDP to exist in Ogun State, and they want it to go back to its winning ways, let them do what is right. We are ready to talk with them. If their problem is Buruji, he is no more. So, let us talk. Let them talk to the right people. But as long as they continue to back the wrong horse, the problem would be there. So, the problem is not that of Buruji, if people think Buruji is gone and that is the end of the problem of Ogun PDP, it’s a lie. No, they are lying. The problem is between what is right and what is wrong.