The death of a fellow human being is always a sad event and very unsuitable occasion for gloating or exacting revenge. Such attitude becomes more compelling where the deceased is younger or departed in tragic circumstances like fatal accident or victim of the current coronavirus plague.
Senator Buruji Kashamu died recently, admittedly, a controversial figure. Throughout his life, I neither saw nor met him in person. All I grasped of him were either on television screens or pages of newspapers. But I supported his legal pursuit against extradition, both in exercise of his right under Nigerian constitution and Universal Declaration of Human rights as well as enhancement of rule of law. Irrespective of eventual verdict of guilt or innocence, these are rights routinely exercised by any citizen anywhere or of any country facing extradition to another country. Chief Anthony Enahoro wrote his book Fugitive Offender following his unsuccessful battle against the request of Tafawa Balewa government to the British government in 1963 to extradite him for treason trial in Nigeria. Enahoro’s eventual extradition caused such a row in British parliament, such that members of both sides in parliament had to force an amendment of Britain’s extradition treaty with Nigeria.
Two of his Action Group colleagues were initially lucky from 1962 to January 1966 to be granted political asylum by Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah who was ever hostile to Nigerian government. However, following the military coup in Ghana which overthrew Nkrumah on February 24, 1966, five weeks after Nigeria’s January coup, the new military rulers in Ghana, virtually without any request considered political refugees in Ghana unwanted commodities and returned S.G. Ikoku and Ayo Adebanjo (yes, the present nonagenarian) to Nigerian military government.
Accordingly, for whatever offence, it is a human right to legally resist extradition. The alleged offence is mostly not tried in the country “hosting” the fugitive and no country is legally or automatically bound to grant any or all requests for extradition. It all depends on the merit of the extradition request. For example, whatever the reason or the offence, no United States administration (in effect, court of law) will ever extradite any American citizen to be tried in any other country, not even in Britain. Currently, Britain has failed in its request for the extradition of an American lady who fled to her country after committing manslaughter in Britain. On the other hand, United States is requesting for the extradddition of a top member of the royal family, Prince Andrew, for alleged sex offences committed in United States. It was therefore normal for Buruji to stubbornly resist extradition. The final word, in every case, all over the world lies with the law courts.
Unfortunately, while the request for his extradition was still to be concluded, Senator Kashamu died of complications from coronavirus and that offered former president Olusegun Obasanjo the cheap opportunity to claim victory over the deceased. At Obasanjo’s age of 83, Buruji could pass for his son. The man, (Buruji) left behind family comprising widow(s) and children. Did Obasanjo consider feelings of these bereaved? All because of political differences? Who is that politician with whom Obasanjo maintains harmonious relationship all the time? Buruji Kashamu, even in death, only lists among those alienated by Obasanjo.
The real shock came from the media which, generally reported that Obasanjo paid tribute to Kashamu. Who is that journalist (reporter or even editor)bereaved and would regard Obasanjos’s gloating as a message of condolence? On the contrary, Obasanjo should have been accurately reported for what he did or blacked out, not to make him happy. For clearly claiming victory over the deceased and gloating over such sad event, he should have been so reported that “Obasanjo gloats over Kashamu’s death.” What happened to interpretive/descriptive reporting? Obasanjo neither mourned nor paid tribute to Kashamu. Enough of this shoddy performance.
All the more because Obasanjo simply behaved to type and only the unwary could be surprised. In short, this was not Obasanjo’s first time of gloating over the death of a perceived enemy. Return to democratic rule in 1999 produce young and well-educated ones especially from the north, elected to the national assembly. While their counterparts cringed before political god-fathers. Among the new ones from the north was Senator Idris Abubakar from Gombe South, a chattered accountant. In recognition of his outstanding status, he was appointed chairman of a committee under which he soon commenced investigation of public accounts under the Obasanjo administration, a purely routine oversight function which gradually ruffled Aso Rock.
Unfortunately, Senator Idris Abubakar developed growth, treatment of which took him to London where he died January 2002. On the very day Idris Abubakar’s body arrived Abuja from London en-route Gombe for burial, the Lagos-based defunct newspaper, Daily Champion, reported Obasanjo to have told correspondents in Abeokuta that “God has been dealing with my enemies.” For a repeat, Obasanjo was quoted in the Daily Champion to have told reporters that “God has been dealing with my enemies.” In view of Obasanjo’s gloating over Kashamu’s death, could the comment on Senator Idriis Abubakar’s death that God had been dealing with his (Obasanjo’s)enemies have been a coincidence? Who were those enemies and how was God dealing with them at that particular time?
Briefly, in Senator Kashsmu’s case, he was rightly or wrongly cited for extradition by United States for alleged drug offences. Like the citizen of any country and in any part of the world, Kashamu sought protection in Nigerian court. Indeed, the first attempt by United States to extradite him was in a London court, which ruled in his favour against extradition. By British world-wide reputation for justice, it was obvious no other court might easily differ with the ruling of the London court.
In any case, it was remarkable that even if Kashamu committed the offence, he emloyed legal means to protect his right against possible miscarriage of justice instead of resorting to extra judicial means. That is the right of any responsible citizen anywhere in the world, supposedly, including Nigeria. Or for what does the judiciary exist?
If citizens cannot seek protection in law courts, judges and judiciary become irrelevant anywhere in the world.
The legal battle to extradite the man (Kashamu) shifted to Nigeria, where if only because he was a citizen, he asserted his right against the request. His guilt or innocence against the drug charges was secondary to his right under the constitution to defend himself. That was the very right for which Obasanjo ridiculed Kashamu in death. Yet, when Obasanjo was summoned in 1981 by Justice Ayo Irikefe tribunal for explanation on the alleged missing two billion eight hundred million naira, (N2.8 billion), did Obasanjo refused to show up to escape facing justice? Certainly not. Yet he flaunted his immunity, a constitutional right exclusive to his status. For commensurate assertion of the rights of a cittizen, all Obasanjo could remember Buruji for was that the deceased manouvered the law to escape justice.
The worry is that somehing is wrong somewhere. The very idea of faulting others for imperfections or even shortcomings, of which he (Obasanjo) is not innocent if not most guilty. Loss of memory? Surely not. But the hypocrisy of a (not too) Smart Alec.
For the 1999 presidential elections, the rules and regulations (laws) of the newly formed People’s Democratic Party were clear. Any presidential aspirant on the party’s ticket must win the primaries in his ward, local government and his state. Obasanjo lost all three elections. Yet the party’s rules were maouvered by his military benefactors to enable him rig the nomination. He stoutly defended himself against all election petitions. Did he thereby manipulate the laws or the courts to escape nullification of his election?
Once in office, Obasanjo publicly declared that his re-election for second term was a do or die affair. And he proceeded to rig the 2003 elections as confirmed by former United States President Jimmy Carter, who refused to ratify the elections on the grounds of massive irregularities. Obasanjo thereafter manouvered courts through election tribunal to escape nullification of rigged elections.
When General Sani Abacha died in office in 1998, Obasanjo was a treason convict serving term in prison. But his military benefactors not only organised his release but also pardoned him. Without such pardon, he would have been completely ineligible to contest elections for life. Did anybody complain against such bare-faced manouvering of laws to serve justice for a criminal past? To complete the story, only Obasanjo was so pampered by his officers.
Such a man would then be expected as civilian Commander-in-Chief to then pardon his co-military ex-convicts, pay their entitlements and restore their ranks, all in the spirit of national reconciliation. That of course, would stain his notorious “Only me” personality complex.
On February 13, 1976, when his Commander-in-Chief, General Murtala Muhammed was being assassinated, the Chief of Staff, Supreme Headquarters, ran into hiding, although, in fairness, not because he was involved in the failed coup. Yet, under military. If any law, he should have stayed his ground to quell the plot. Failure to do that or instantly report at their military “rendezvouz” under military law, was desertion, the punishment of which was not elevation to succeed his assassinated Commander-in-Chief. If any other deserter in such military situation, found himself at the mercy of Obasanjo, he (the culprit) would not live to tell the story.
What therefore happened to military laws on accountability for personal movements in those uncertain hours in 1976? Manipulation and manouvering for self-survival purpose, the very label heartlessly placed on a deceased.
What does Obasanjo really want? On his sober moments, he expresses appreciation to God for His Grace on him. According to Obasanjo, whatever his desire in life has been granted by God. And this, he confesses includes long life arising from narrow escape from death by shooting or hanging. Obasanjo, would always pledge, in return, total devotion of the rest of his life to religious evangelism. Anything towards that end? Instead, the next moment, the same Obasanjo resorts to type, even like verbally desecrating the dead.