South West leaders yesterday berated former President Olusegun Obasanjo over his derogatory comments against the late Senator from Ogun State, Buruji Kashamu.
Obasanjo had in a swift condolence message alleged that Kashamu who represented Ogun East in the 8th National Assembly used the instruments of law and politics to evade justice.
He said, "The life and history of the departed have lessons for those of us on this side of the veil. Senator Esho Jinadu (Buruji Kashamu) in his lifetime used the manoeuvre of law and politics to escape from facing justice on alleged criminal offences in Nigeria and outside Nigeria.
"But no legal, political, cultural, social or even medical manoeuver could stop the cold hand of death when the creator of all of us decides that the time is up," he said while praying that Allah forgive Kashamu's sins".
Obviously not amused by such comments from a former Nigerian leader, Human Rights lawyer, Chief Femi Falana (SAN), noted that although Obasanjo did not abuse African tradition by criticising the late ex-Senator, his hypocrisy should not be encouraged.
According to him, Obasanjo's message was rather, against the African culture to aid and abet a criminal suspect in his lifetime, only to turn round to attack him in his grave."
The learned silk urged the former head of state to "stop insulting the collective intelligence of the Nigerian people."
In his reaction titled, 'Matters Arising From Chief Obasanjo's Condolence Letter,' Falana stated: "Some people have said that it is against the African culture to speak ill of the dead. That is far from the truth. In the past, Africans spoke ill of the dead and exposed the dead if they were found to have engaged in abominable activities that brought shame to a community. In fact, the bodies of dead men and women who were found to have brought pestilence to a community were buried in the bush.
"Therefore, Chief Obasanjo has not abused the African culture by attacking the late Senator Buruji Kashamu for allegedly manipulating the law to escape justice at home and abroad. However, it is the hypocrisy of his message that should be criticised because it is against the African culture to aid and abet a criminal suspect in his lifetime only to turn round to attack him in his grave.
"In 1999, the British government had initiated moves for the extradition of Kashamu to the United States for trial for drug-related offences. But the evidence given in favour of Kashamu in 2003 by the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) under the Olusegun Obasanjo administration cleared the suspect of drug charges. Consequently, the British Court rejected the request to extradite Kashamu on grounds of uncertainty about his identity and freed him after five years in jail. Thereafter, Kashamu returned to the country as a free man and was admitted to the PDP as a full-fledged member. He funded the party and became a political leader.
"The national leadership of the party acknowledged Kashamu's immense financial contributions to the PDP. In 2014, as a result of political disagreements in the Ogun State chapter of the PDP, former President Obasanjo asked the national leadership of the PDP to stop extolling Kashamu as a political leader because he was "a habitual criminal wanted abroad to face criminal charges levelled against him... " But following the resolution of the intraparty feud, Chief Obasanjo mounted the rostrum in Ogun State, extolled Kashamu as a political leader and prayed to the Almighty God to reward him for his generosity.
"Upon Kashamu's sudden demise last weekend due to complications arising from COVID- 19 attack, Chief Obasanjo sent a sarcastic condolence letter to Governor Dapo Abiodun of Ogun State. While praying for the repose of the soul of the deceased Chief Obasanjo said that in his lifetime he had maneuvered "law and politics to escape from facing justice on the alleged criminal offence in Nigeria and outside Nigeria. But no legal, political, cultural, social or even medical manoeuvre could stop the cold hands of death when the Creator of all of us decides that the time is up."
In his comment, the national president of the Yoruba Youth Socio-cultural Association (YYSA), Comrade Olalekan Hammed, said as an elder statesman, Chief Obasanjo should not have reacted undiplomatically to Senate Kashamu's dead because none of the current and past leaders in the country is a saint, either in the executive, legislature or judiciary.
He said, "Let's remind Chief Obasanjo that he also escaped being investigated and punished through his influence over the $16 billion power project awarded during his regime.
"Nobody is too mighty to die. He may also escape judgement here on earth he can never override death. Only inhuman will use death to deride his fellow human being.
"He disappointed not only Nigerians but the international community that always perceives his word as philosophical and iconic. He should please maintain a position of an elder by minding his comments".
For Debo Adeniran leader of Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders (CALCOL), the former president lacks moral standing to make such a comment.
He said, "The statement could have come from anybody because some of us believe we have to dis-dignify dead people; some believe we have to pretend that the allegations against them have died with them; some of us believe that the evil that men do should continue to live after them and it should be written as part of their epitaph.
"Besides, the fact that Obasanjo is a no better personality, we are aware that when the going was good, Obasanjo and Buruji Kashamu or Esho Jinadu, as he is known in some quarters, were very close ally, and when they had common enemy in Gbenga Daniel and as a matter of some other political personalities, Obasanjo turned a blind eye to all those criminal activities.
"The United States of America government had been on the trail of Esho Jinadu for so long, maybe 2001 or thereabouts, Obasanjo is well aware of it.
"It is a good thing that Obasanjo mentioned it, but he also is writing his own epitaph, so that by the time he dies the same thing will happen after him because Obasanjo himself has been using manipulation of the processes to evade justice, there are several petitions against him. Buruji deserved what he got from his former paymaster."
Reacting to the statement made by the former president, chairman of the Appex Caucus of Ogun State chapter of the People's Democratic Party (PDP), Dr Remilekun Bakare, said although Obasanjo could have had reasons for reacting to the news of Kashamu's death, he should always bear in mind that human beings ought not to judge, but leave every judgment to God.
Bakare said Obasanjo's comments on the late Kashamu typically reflect the differences of individual responses to issues and as such, should be taken as his personal opinion.
He stated: "When you look at the two Holy Books, we were instructed not to judge anyone, but leave judgments to God Almighty. Late Senator Buruji Kashamu is gone to a place where we all will go one day. All I will say is that nobody can escape the judgment of death. At the appropriate time, all of us will pay the price.
"That is why we are individuals. The way I will react will probably, not be the way somebody else will react. Obasanjo might have reasons for reacting that way, but I will still leave judgments to God Almighty. At the appropriate time, God will judge us all."
For the national chairman of the S.O.S Mandate, Saka Ominiwe, Nigerians must learn to always speak the truth, saying that this is the only way to wipe out corruption in the country.
Apparently reacting to the outrage over Obasanjo's attack on the late Senator Kashamu, Ominiwe said, "we should always call spade a spade."
According to him, the late president is telling the truth which of course Nigerians do not like to hear.
He explained that there was nothing wrong with what Obasanjo had said about Kashamu, adding that whatever is said about the dead will be recorded against him by his Creator.
"We should call a spade a spade; when something is black, we should not paint it white. We should always say the truth as this is the only way we can successfully defeat corruption in Nigeria," he noted.
Corroborating his position, the publicity secretary of the pan Yoruba social-political organisation, Afenifere Yinka Odumakin said the statement from Chief Olusegun Obasanjo on Buruji Kashamu death was a good one.
He noted that the likes of Buruji should not be celebrated in the society and that he was a bad role model to the younger generation.
He stressed that, if Nigeria had strong institutions, he ought to have been put in the goal long ago.
The leader of the Yoruba group, Professor Banji Akintoye however, declined to comment on Obasanjo's statement about Senator Kashamu's death.
"I don't want to comment on that, the two of them had a personal relationship and he can make comment based on their relationship, I don't know much about Buruji Kashamu," he said.
Senator Femi Okuroumu, in his own reaction said, "Why do we need to be sweating over Chief Olusegun Obasanjo statement on Senator Buruji Kashamu death, he has bared his mind, why don't we just let the matter die. I don't see what I want to gain by over emphasising on the matter".
On the belief among the Yoruba that you don't speak ill of the dead, he said, "I don't agree with that statement because otherwise, people will be getting away with all those forms of murder. If people don't talk about it, then there will be no history. If we don't speak evil of the dead then we won't write about their bad behaviour and the future generations won't know about their bad deeds and the evil they did."