Former Nigerian president, Olusegun Obasanjo, has responded to the criticisms that have trailed his controversial condolence message on the passing of Buruji Kashamu, a former senator and leader of the Peoples Democratic Party in Ogun State.
Mr Obasanjo, in the condolence message, said late Mr Kashamu, who was wanted in the U.S for alleged drug offences, was able to escape justice but could not evade death.
“Senator Esho Jinadu (Buruji Kashmu) in his lifetime used the manoeuvre of law and politics to escape from facing justice on alleged criminal offence in Nigeria and outside Nigeria,” Mr Obasanjo said.
“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.
“May Allah forgive his sin and accept his soul into Aljanah, and may God grant his family and friends fortitude to bear the irreparable loss,” he added.
Several Nigerians have attacked Mr Obasanjo for his remarks which they say demonstrated disrespect for the dead.
A former governor of Ekiti state, Ayo Fayose said, “He (Obasanjo) should also remember that his own end will come too and nobody knows how the end will be.”
Mr Fayose who took to Twitter to post his comment said the former president was not a saint, and should, therefore, stop behaving like one.
“Can Obasanjo say in good conscience that he did not at some point collaborate with Kashamu and most of the things he (Kashamu) did politically were not with his collaboration?” Mr Fayose said.
“I thought that our culture is that every fight ends once one of the parties die?” Joe Abah, a policy analyst, said of Mr Obasanjo’s comment.
Bola Tinubu, a former governor of Lagos state and a national leader of the All Progressives Congress, in his condolence message, said people should be kind to the dead since everyman would die someday.
But Mr Obasanjo in his response to the criticism told PREMIUM TIMES, Sunday, it was okay for people to mourn every death but that the living, including himself, must draw the right lessons from the lives of those who have died.
He said it is only in doing this that societies can make progress.
“When I was growing up, in our community, when anyone known with bad character died, we usually only mourn him and bury him. No eulogy. No praise-singing.
“There is an English saying that urges us never to talk ill of the dead. But in this case, we are not talking ill of the dead. We are only drawing lessons from the life and history of the dead. I am not gloating over his death. It is sad for anyone to die and we must mourn him.
“But we must learn from such a passage. There will be bad lessons. There will be good lessons. But we should not just be praise-singing or eulogising the dead, especially when there is no need to do so.
“We should not cover up bad histories and conducts so that the right lessons can be learnt,” he said.
PREMIUM TIMES told Mr Obasanjo that were already suggestions by his critics that on his passage, he might be mourned in the manner he did Mr Kashamu.
The former president responded, “As you know, I say my mind as truthfully as I know them and in line with my convictions. People are free to say whatever they want about my comment. I don’t begrudge people for holding opinions on whatever I say or do.
“Let people say whatever they like when I transit. Now that I am alive, am I not being abused? Whenever I transit, let people say whatever they know or think about me. Let them say it as it is. What my maker thinks of me is what matters most,” he said.
Mr Kashamu, a controversial politician who for years was wanted by the U.S government for alleged drug offences but managed to beat repeated extradition attempts, died in Lagos Saturday from coronavirus complications.
He was buried on Sunday in his home town, Ijebu-Igbo, Ogun state.
Obasanjo Versus Kashamu
Mr Obasanjo had in a January 7, 2014 letter to the leadership of the PDP and then President Goodluck Jonathan, announced he was withdrawing from the then ruling party following the elevation of Mr Kashamu, whom he described as “a wanted habitual criminal” as the South-West leader of the party.
In that letter, Mr Obasanjo said he personally found the South-West PDP’s celebration of Mr Kashamu, who was a major financier of the party, unsavoury.
“Politics played by any national political party must have morality, decency, discipline, principles and leadership examples as cardinal practices of the party,” he said. “I have attached here recent documents that clearly indicates that you extolled PDP Zonal leader in the South West of Nigeria and an indigene of Ogun State, who is, to say the least, not a credit to the party as a member let alone being a zonal leader.
“While I believe that a good and truly national political party must be a microcosm of the nation in its membership, made up of all sorts of characters from near-saints to near-satan, I also believe that on no account should a known habitual criminal that is wanted abroad to face criminal charges levelled against him be extolled as a political leader in a respectable and wholesome nation-building political party.”
Mr Kashamu tore back at Mr Obasanjo at the time While arguing that the former president had no moral right to attack anyone, the politician said Mr Obasanjo used him to wrestle power from former Governor Gbenga Daniel, who was then a thorn in Mr Obasanjo’s political career.
He said Mr Obasanjo dumped him thereafter and then began plotting his extradition to the United States.