- The Story Of The Strong Man Of OGUN Politics
Saturday 19th May, 2018, marked the 60th birthday anniversary of Senator Buruji Kashamu, the lawmaker representing Ogun East Senatorial District at the National Assembly, Abuja. As a phenomenon that he is, the name Kashamu rings a bell. It resonates with the young and old, even children. And this is not an exaggeration. During a recent “thank you rally” which was organised by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Ijebu North Local Government, children trooped out in large numbers to sing Kashamu’s praise. As if to be sure the children knew who they were cheering, someone in the crowd asked them who was in the banner being displayed, as he pointed to the Kashamu’s picture and they all chorused, “Kashamu” in unison.
Ordinarily, given his achievements in business cum socio-political arena these past sixty years, he needs no introduction. But, for those who may not know, until his foray into politics he was the Chairman/Chief Executive of Kasmal Group of Companies, an indigenous conglomerate with interests in hospitality, property, oil and gas, automobile and investment services. He was also the Chairman of the Group Kasmal SAL in Republic of Benin.
On the political front, although he prefers to be called a foot soldier of the PDP in Ogun State, the media often describe him as a chieftain of the party. At other times, they say he is the financier of the party in the state. Yet, others say his tentacles spread beyond his largely agrarian state of Ogun, especially when he was appointed as the Chairman, Organisation and Mobilisation Committee of the PDP in the South West zone of Nigeria, comprising the six states of Ogun, Lagos, Oyo, Osun, Ondo and Ekiti. To his political associates, he is their emancipator and a fighter for justice. Still, others call him “Authority” – in reference to his many victories against political opponents.
No doubt, as a man of many parts, he means different things to different people. He is like the proverbial elephant. Some say he is controversial. Others say he is generous. Yet, some say he is genial and humble, yet firm; industrious and courageous. He is frank, almost to a fault, others would say. But, for those who have worked closely with him over the years, he is not just a boss but a leader, a father and a friend. He is down-to-earth. You would wonder when you see him throw banters and crack jokes with his aides, reeling in laughter. For him, like the Scottish philosopher Thomas Carlyle said, “a great man shows his greatness by the way he treats little men”.
Senator Kashamu started his business life as a teenager and realizing his great flare for business, he took courses in Business Studies at Pitman College in the United Kingdom to prepare himself for the enormous task of business management and actualization. He later enrolled for an Executive Diploma in English Language at the University of Lagos, Akoka, Yaba, where he bagged a Diploma in English. Now, he has his eyes set on taking up a degree in Law.
As a shrewd businessman and industrialist, Senator Kashamu has about 76% share capital in the ultra-modern cotton ginnery in the Republic of Benin; the Government of the Republic of Benin and some private banks jointly owned the remaining 24% equity shares of the cotton factory.
Senator Kashamu has been involved in the business of importation and exportation of goods and commodities for over 40 years. For him, the saying that the height by great men reached and kept was not attained by a sudden flight could not be truer. He maintains such a high energy level and tight schedule that see him stay awake till late in the night, every day. He calls you up at anytime so much that you wonder if this man does not sleep! He is, in one word, a workaholic. Like he would always say, “I believe in action, not grammar”.
Senator Kashamu is also a philanthropist of note. It could be safely said that his philanthropic gestures smoothened his foray into politics. Those who know him say giving is his second nature.
In 2009, he floated the Omoilu Foundation, a non-profit organisation he set up to empower the needy and give hope to the hopeless. Little wonder when a friend asked him why he gives without hesitation, he says “the only thing I do not want to do is to disappoint my God. Let me also confess that the more I give, especially to the poor and needy, the more God blesses me. The prayers of the poor, the oppressed, the voiceless and the down-trodden have been my saving grace and staying power.”
Some have likened Senator Kashamu to the late businessman cum politician, Chief MKO Abiola. Not in terms of the financial war chest, colour and reach but his courage, charm and generosity. They say not since Abiola left the political scene they are yet to any individual take the political stage by storm – in a most audacious and dramatic manner.
Not many gave him a chance when he happened on the political scene in Ogun State. They asked how old he was in politics. Others would simply say “what does he know about politics?” “Where is he coming from?” When all those could not do, his detractors launched a campaign of calumny to cast aspersion on his person. They sought to haunt with some of the trials he had had in his eventful life. This is in spite of his exoneration by the courts. But like one who does not mind the noise in the market place, Senator Kashamu has remained unbowed.
Imbued with an uncommon native intelligence and a sharp memory, Senator Kashamu has his own unique approach to party politics and organisation. To anyone who cares to listen, Senator Kashamu says he is not “your usual politician”. He believes that the welfare of the people is whole essence of not just government but party politics. Anything short of this, he says is “ofo ojo keji oja” (which literally means deceit in his native Yoruba Language). To him, like Napoleon Bonaparte said, “Impossible is a word to be found only in the dictionary of fools”.
A clear-headed and highly calculating individual, Senator Kashamu’s foray into politics began in 2009 when former Ogun State Governor Gbenga Daniel and other chieftains of the PDP in Ogun State invited him to help mediate in the intra-party crisis that nearly crippled the government and party in the state.
He soon established a platform then known as “OGD OMO ILU” through which he sought to rally all the various contending interests. His intention was to get everybody to support the then Governor Gbenga Daniel-led government. But alas! The very elements that caused the initial feud he was meant to mediate in swung into action and things fell apart. Yet, he was able to establish that what was at the roots of the crisis was the indifference of the government of the day to the people’s welfare. Pronto, he helped many to set up their businesses. Others, he gave vehicles and cash, ranging from N200, 000 to N1m and above per person. The foundation soon metamorphosed into what many called the “Omoilu Movement” as it spread across the 20 local government areas in the state.
Again, on realising that no nation or people can be greater than the level of its human resource, Senator Kashamu also made education one of the cardinal objectives of the Omoilu Foundation. Now, besides empowering people from all walks of life with over 800 units of vehicles and 1,500 motorcycles, a good number of indigent youths are on the foundation’s scholarship in various private and public institutions across the country and beyond.
Senator Kashamu has shown that one does not need to hold public office before he can impact on the welfare of his people. With an unwavering belief in God and commitment to a noble cause that outlives mortality, he has demonstrated that in politics, as in life, the age of Methuselah has got nothing to do with the Wisdom of Solomon.
With his wide business exposure and an uncommon touch that confounds his admirers and critics alike, Senator Kashamu has arrived with a bang and there is no sign he is about to quit the stage anytime soon. Indeed, those who know him too well say with his advent on the political arena, the politics of Ogun, nay the Southwest would not remain the same again. They attribute this to the uncommon passion he brings to bear on anything he commits himself to.
He is a multi-linguist who speaks French, English and Yoruba fluently. A detribalised Nigerian and an employer of labour, Senator Kashamu has shown that he is not just a man destined for greatness and born to lead, but packaged for the moment. During the 28th March, 2015 National Assembly election, he contested to represent Ogun East Senatorial District in the Senate on the platform of the PDP. He won the election, defeating his closest rival with over 15, 000 votes. He is the highest elected official of the PDP in Ogun State being the only PDP senator from the state and one of the four PDP Senators from the South West geo-political zone.
On his legislative agenda, Kashamu says his experience has shown that there is the need to build stronger institutions in Nigeria. With stronger institutions, we would be able to combat corruption and other social vices in the country. “We cannot fight corruption and other socio, political and economic crimes without a stronger, incorruptible and unbiased law enforcement and judiciary in Nigeria. In this regard, my interest is to work towards proposing bills that will strengthen our various institutions. It is my belief that where we have stronger institutions, there will be respect for human rights, due process and accountability. When you have a system that works; it is good for the government and the governed,” Senator Kashamu said.
As at the last count, he has sponsored four bills which are at various stages of passage in the National Assembly. They include the Mental Health Bill, the FRSC Act Amendment Bill, the National Security Tax Fund Bill and the National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency, NESREA, Act Amendment Bill.
While the Mental Health Bill seeks to provide a frame work for the admission and treatment of persons with mental health conditions, the FRSC Act Amendment Bill is meant to protect the sanctity of our Constitution by ensuring proper delineation of duties and responsibilities between federal and state agencies on traffic issues for optimal performance and effective service delivery.
Perhaps drawing inspiration from the success of the Security Tax Fund in some states and abroad, the National Security Tax Fund Bill seeks to devise new ways through which the security agencies can access additional funds in order to make them more efficient and responsive to today’s security challenges.
The intention of the NESREA Act Amendment Bill is to rejig the enabling Act setting up the agency and make it come to terms with present realities as they relate to the environment.
Besides this, in his nearly three years at the Senate, Kashamu has attracted over 30 projects to the nine local government areas that make up Ogun East Senatorial District, including skill acquisition centre, roads, building and equipping of schools, among others. Talk of quality representation! On this occasion of his diamond jubilee anniversary, there is no better way to celebrate the man who has become the issue in political and social circles in Ogun State and beyond than to wish him many more years of prosperity and service to humanity – in good health and sound mind. 60 hearty cheers to Baba Sheri!
Austin Oniyokor is the media aide to Senator Kashamu.