During a recent historic election in Nigeria, then candidate, and now President-elect Muhammadu Buhari, vowed to fight corruption in the country. But, the recent election of Buruji Kashamu, an alleged drug dealer, to the country’s senate, is calling his intentions into question.
In 2003, Kashamu flew home to Great Britain, despite having been indicted in Chicago in 1998 for conspiracy to import and distribute heroin in the United States. While Kashamu maintains that the indictment is the result of mistaken identity, the charges are still pending. Kashamu claims that the courts are confusing him with his deceased brother. The same year he flew home to Britain, a British court refused an extradition request put in by the United States due to the uncertainty. Soon after, Kashamu became a major donor to the party of former Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan, who was elected to office in the country in 2010. Jonathan was openly criticized for his association and protection of Kashamu by former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo.
Kashamu said in a statement to the AP,
“I have never lived in or visited the United States of America and have never been involved in any narcotics or criminal activities in the United States of America,” he said. “I am a free citizen of Nigeria, an employer of labor and a politician with legitimate sources of income. I do not have anything to hide. I am neither afraid of anyone nor am I running away from the law.”
Several individuals were also tried, and subsequently incarcerated, on charges relating to the Kashamu case, including American author Piper Kerman, whose memoirs, Orange is the New Black, serve as the basis for the hit Netflix series of the same name. Kerman never directly names Kashamu in the book, but does repeatedly refer to a West African drug kingpin named “Alhaji,” the term means one who has completed a pilgrimage to Mecca.
According to the Chicago Tribune, a Nigerian court ordered Kashamu’s extradition, but the order was never carried out, making his recent election all the more curious. Leaders from opposing parties are already challenging the election, which took place this past Wednesday, in Nigerian courts.