by emeka mamah
There was a twist in the account given by suspected drug dealer, Kashamu Buruji, over his relationship with President Goodluck Jonathan and former President Olusegun Obasanjo, yesterday.
Kashamu said that he was tried and discharged over his drug case in London, pointing out that he now had a clean bill of health.
However, the Chicago Tribune, reported yesterday that Kashamu’s case was still open at the Chicago Federal Court, USA.
Kashamu, a chieftain of the PDP, had said while defending himself against allegations made by Obasanjo, denied being a drug dealer, saying that he worked for the former president and dined with him for over 30 times.
I worked for Obasanjo – Kashamu
“I was arrested, I won the case in a London court where they said it was mistaken identity. I returned to Nigeria to continue with my business before I joined politics. I went for interpretation of the judgement I won in London and at the end of the case, I got a clean slate. I am not a drug dealer, I am a business man and so, whatsoever Obasanjo is saying, is cheap blackmail,” he said.
However, the Chicago Tribune in its yesterday’s edition reported that ‘’Kashamu’s:’Orange is New Black’ drug case,’’ was still open in a Chicago Federal Court.
Addressing a news conference in Lagos Thursday, Kashamu maintained that Chief Obasanjo used him to reclaim the PDP machinery from the former governor of OgunState, Otunba Gbenga Daniel.
Faulting Obasanjo’s claims, he said: “In the 18-page letter, Obasanjo said, ‘how can the presidency be working with me?’ It is not the fault of Obasanjo. Obasanjo was my partner in 2010 and in 2011. It was obvious to everybody that I was working for Obasanjo, he was using me to fight Gbenga Daniel. Daniel had already disgraced Obasanjo in OgunState. I was the one that risked my life for Obasanjo and I spent over N3 billion before I could take over the control of the PDP in OgunState.
I took back the party machinery from Daniel and returned it to Obasanjo. It was also Obasanjo who introduced General Olurin to me and asked me to work with him to win the 2011 governorship elections in OgunState. But I told Obasanjo that Olurin was an old man and that we could not win the elections. He said, ‘my son, my partner, go and work with him.’ Everybody is aware of this. Then, I and Iyabo worked together.
“I dined with Obasanjo in his house over 30 times, I have entered Obasanjo’s bedroom, living room and also his office. Obasanjo was the one that introduced me during the South-West meeting of the PDP held in his house to the Minister for Police Affairs, Caleb Olubolade, Akala, Segun Oni and many other leaders.
He was telling them to thank me that I assisted him in fighting Gbenga Daniel to a stand still. Obasanjo was my partner. I spent over N3 billion to return the PDP structure in Ogun state to him. It was also Obasanjo that introduced me to the National Working Committee of the PDP then.
’’Obasanjo introduced me to Baraje. Obasanjo was the one that took me to the Presidency and said I was the one fighting on his behalf in the South-West and that I was the one mobilizing for him in the South-West and that with me, we can deliver the South-West for the PDP. Baraje is alive.
“So, how can Obasanjo turn around and say that I am a drug dealer? When he was using me, he did not know me as a drug dealer. When Obasanjo was in government, almost 60 percent, including some former governors and former Senators that surrounded Obasanjo were all drug dealers. When the time comes, their names will be mentioned.
“I am a clean businessman. When they said I committed the offence they are talking about, I was the richest person in BeninRepublic. What is my business with dealing in drugs? I have always been a businessman and I have over 800 people working for me both in Nigeria and in BeninRepublic. I do not know anything of this allegation levelled against me.’’
But, commenting on her prison memoir, ‘’the Orange is the New Black,” by one of the accused persons in the matter allegedly involving Kashamu, Piper Kerman, the Chicago Trbune stated yesterday that, ‘’With her prison memoir and the Netflix series that followed, Piper Kerman may have spun gold from the youthful crime that nearly ruined her life more than a decade ago, but the heroin trafficking case that upended her Ivy League world is still an open book at the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse in Chicago.
’’With a mix of comedy and drama, and packed with tales of lesbian sex and inmates abused by guards, the edgy, fictionalized version of Kerman’s life in prison has become one of the hottest shows in Hollywood this year. But in the real story behind the experiences of the fictional “Piper Chapman,” the central character is the accused drug kingpin, a Nigerian businessman and political boss who has avoided U.S. authorities for 15 years.
’’Buruji Kashamu, who is frequently given the royal title ‘Prince’ in African news reports, claims he was targeted in a case of mistaken identity. Rather than being the international drug smuggler known as “Alaji,” he says he was actually a U.S. government informant who provided information about terrorist attacks on the U.S. before and after 9/11.
’’The U.S. attorney’s office in Chicago won’t say much about the case because Kashamu is still wanted on charges alleging his drug ring moved millions of dollars worth of heroin from Europe and Southeast Asia through O’Hare International Airport during the 1990s.
’’The case has frustrated prosecutors here, in part because they once had Kashamu in their grasp but lost him. English authorities arrested him when he landed there in 1998 and held him for five years during extradition hearings. Ultimately, however, British courts let Kashamu go after ruling that Chicago prosecutors had tainted their eyewitness identification evidence by failing to disclose that one of his co-defendants failed to pick him out of a photo line-up.
’’Over the years, a series of Chicago lawyers have argued on Kashamu’s behalf, most recently in an unsuccessful 2011 appeal to the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals attempting to have the charges dismissed.
’’Kashamu claims the real ‘Alaji’ was his dead brother and that he has been mistakenly identified by everybody involved in the case. The government has argued that those claims are absurd, given that the witnesses include his former American lover and her sister, who recruited Kerman into the ring.
“We’re still trying to figure out ways we can fix this for Buruji,” said his Chicago lawyer, Scott Frankel. “They’re trying to bring this guy back and then have a bunch of people who haven’t seen him in years testify that he’s the guy.
’’In her book, Kerman makes a few references to ‘Alaji,’ but she never mentions Kashamu by name and says she never met him. But her girlfriend “had stayed at his compound (in Benin) and been subject to ‘witch-doctor’ ministrations and was now considered his sister-in-law.”
Published in 2010, five years after Kerman was released from a federal prison in Connecticut, ‘Orange is the New Black’ immediately drew attention from Hollywood. By early 2012 — just a few months after appellate judges in Chicago refused to dismiss Kashamu’s charges — Kerman had sold her story to Netflix…
Netflix officials announced this fall that “Orange is the New Black” will finish the year as the company’s “most-watched” original programme.
While Kashamu’s lawyers try to clear his name in Chicago, he has become a player in Nigeria’s chaotic politics, according to African news reports. He runs a faction of the ruling People’s Democratic Party, PDP, near the capital, Lagos.
’’Recently, newspapers there have reported that the Nigerian courts are reconsidering whether to extradite Kashamu to the U.S. Such a decision would be unlikely, and the development is more likely a bargaining chip in some dispute among competing players of the PDP, said John Campbell, a former U.S. ambassador to Nigeria who is now a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.
While Kashamu has remained free, 14 other people in the case have long since been convicted, served prison time and been released. All but one pleaded guilty. Most were like Kerman, Northeasterners without criminal backgrounds, recruited into the smuggling ring with,’’ promises.