Senator Buruji Kashamu, governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Ogun State in the March 9, 2019 election, in this interview with the Editor, FOLORUNSHO HAMSAT, speaks on what he has been doing since the election, President Muhammadu Buhari’s performance, PDP’s plan to challenge the judgment of the Presidential Election Tribunal and the situation of the PDP in Ogun State, his mission in politics, among other issues.
What has been happening to you since you lost the governorship election in Ogun State?
A lot has been happening. As you are aware, I am an entrepreneur and an employer of labour. I have been in business for decades before I ventured into active politics about a decade ago. So, after my stint at the Senate, I simply returned to my businesses of cotton ginnery, hospitality, real estate and entertainment.
Did you foresee your defeat before you went into the election?
Nobody will reasonably commit so much into a cause like I did with the intention of losing. My participation in the election was more of a struggle against impunity, injustice and the overbearing attitude of some of our political actors. I hate injustice with a passion. I can give anything to fight injustice. We put in our best. But the protracted court case had adverse effect on our supporters and mobilization efforts. We thank God that the Rule of Law prevailed and we were on the ballot against the expectations of the lawbreakers.
Where do you stand now politically?
Since I joined active politics, I have remained in the PDP. The important thing is that, by the grace of the Almighty Allah, I love my people and my people love and appreciate me; thereby making me to be of significance to whatever political calculations that may emerge. However, I strongly believe that there must be an end to campaign and election for governance to thrive. After an election, any genuine political gladiator must partner with the government for the development of the society and the advancement of its people. That is why I am in politics. It is about my people’s welfare and certainly not out of want of what to do.
How would you rate the performance of President Muhammadu Buhari?
I genuinely believe that the President has good intentions and he is doing honestly well to improve the well-being of Nigerians. Aside of provable infrastructural development and concerted efforts on security, I am particularly delighted at the Buhari’s administration’s efforts to bring succor to ordinary Nigerians by making local government administration viable. It is an open secret in Nigeria that governors had castrated the local governments by depriving them access to their statutory funds. This has turned into a serious economic strangulation at the grassroots which prompted me into making the declaration during my electioneering that I would never touch local government funds if elected as governor. I salute President Buhari for having the rare political courage and patriotism to save the Nigerian masses through the NFIU monitoring of local government funds. I strongly believe that sooner than later the people will feel the impact of this initiative.
Let’s have your assessment of the anti-corruption campaign of the present administration.
The fight against corruption is one that we must all support if Nigeria is to survive. We must not politicize or trivialize it. But it cannot be overstated that corruption knows no tribe, religion or race; it is also not limited to any political party. We are all culpable. We appoint our relatives and favour people who are ready to grovel at our feet. We do not reward merit. Everywhere you turn, mediocrity is the order of the day. The only way to fight corruption is to take personal responsibility, live and lead by example, and I think this President is excellently doing so. More importantly, I think this present administration has made us to realize the need to do away with the extravagance of the past. Now, we must work and live within our means. Let’s not just preach, let’s practise what we preach. We can earn a decent living by identifying and taking on opportunities around us. Before now, many Nigerians see political office as an opportunity to become billionaires. Others simply become billionaires overnight by working with government. Some politicians spend their time cutting deals and sponsoring people to look for government tenders. All of these must stop if we are desirous of a new and prosperous Nigeria. This cannot be done by the government alone. We, as citizens and stakeholders must gird our loins and lend our full support to the fight against corruption. Another way to fight corruption is to end impunity. When we talk about corruption, the tendency is for us to think only in terms of financial corruption. But, when political leaders go against the laws of the land as if no one can hold them accountable, it is corruption. It is happening in my party, the PDP, with respect to the party structure in Ogun State. We have to be able to end impunity and say it does not matter who you are, where you are from and who is your godfather.
What is the situation of the PDP in Ogun State? Recently, a unification meeting was held but you and your followers were not there. What happened?
The fact is: I am not in competition with anyone. So, for those who see me as their political opponent and enemy to the extent that when my mother died, they could not even call or send a text message, let alone visiting to commiserate with me, I wish them well. Yet, a few days after, they arranged a so-called unification meeting by themselves, with themselves and for themselves. But like the late Chief M.K.O Abiola said, “It is impossible to clap with one hand!” I remain one of the financial members and leaders of the party in Ogun State by virtue of my contributions to its growth and sustenance as well as being its governorship candidate in the 2019 election. I am also one of the pillars of the party in the South-West and Nigeria. You would agree with me that those who play politics all-year round do not have any second address. Most of them are more or less riding on the shoulders of others. But, as an entrepreneur and employer of labour, I need to face my businesses; channel my time and resources to more productive ventures and allow those who have been elected to deliver on their mandate. When it is time for another round of congresses or elections, we will go to the field and the people will decide.
Now, talking about the so-called unification rally held by some elements, led by a former member of the House of Representatives; I would just say that the young man is very sociable. So, in my view, what they had was a social gathering. There was no way a PDP meeting would be held without the custodians of the party, as represented by the Engr. Adebayo Dayo-led State Exco, knowing about it. However, I must say that I felt thoroughly embarrassed that someone could use that forum to announce his plans to contest to be the Governor of Ogun State in 2023 even when those elected have barely spent three months. It is nauseating, to say the least. You would want to ask yourself if this is truly about service or selfish interest. When you even realize that the incumbent Governor of Ogun State is from the same ward, local government and Federal Constituency as the fellow, then you would know the real enemy of the Remo people and the generality of Ogun State. This was the same guy who signed away the interest of his people for patronages and positions, and directed his supporters to vote against his kinsman as well as his party even as a PDP member of the 8th National Assembly. So, it is clear that his ambition is driven by his selfish interest, lacking in focus.
You recently held an A-list funeral ceremony for your mother, the late Alhaji Wulemotu Kashamu, why did you hold such a big party?
As a Muslim, I believe that it is the almighty Allah that gives and He is the one that takes. My mother was a wonderful woman and we could not have done less than to honour her the way we did. Let me again use this opportunity to thank all my leaders, friends and associates who stood by me and my siblings during the period.
What is this news about ICPC recovering some constituency project items from your office?
Nothing was recovered from my constituency office in Ijebu-Ode. Rather, the items that were handed over to ICPC officials on the 25th of September, 2019 at the constituency office in Ijebu-Igbo, Ogun State were items that were delivered by the contractor sometime in 2017. This is not a peculiar case as contractors always look for a safe and convenient place to keep items from where they are moved to the project sites or locations.
However, as the distribution of the items and execution of the various projects were ongoing, I discovered that my former Senior Legislative Aide (SLA), Hon. Onadeko Onamusi abused his position and influenced the award of 18 out of the 21 constituency projects to two of his companies. He was immediately relieved of his appointment and the matter was reported to the ICPC which charged him to court. So, it should not be difficult to understand that there was no way the distribution of the items could have continued since they had become a subject of litigation and could be used as evidence. Immediately the reports came out, we issued a press statement telling our side of the story and I have personally written to ICPC stating the facts and I believe that the matter has been resolved.
How would you react to the loss of the petition of the presidential candidate of the PDP at the presidential election tribunal and his decision to challenge same at the Supreme Court?
It is part of the development and growth of our democratic process that when people are dissatisfied with the outcome of an election, they can challenge same. It shows that both the petitioners and the defendants have faith in both the democratic and judicial process. It is within their rights to do so. However, when a decision is made one way or the other, as democrats, we are bound to accept and obey the decisions of the court, having submitted to its authority abinitio, and support whoever wins. After all, it is the almighty Allah that chooses leaders. As followers, we need to support our leaders in our own little ways, knowing that whatever we do or fail to do will invariably contribute to the growth or otherwise of our country.