Whatever Jay-Z and Beyonce were expecting when they went to Nigeria in 2006, they can’t have seen this one coming. If what Sahara Reporters (the Nigeria-focused site based in New York City) has published is authentic, then it just scooped one of the news stories of the decade. No doubt about it. It is alleged that in 2006 the most powerful man in African media, Nduka Obaigbena (known for hobnobbing with celebrities from Lil Kim to Colin Powell to Henry Kissinger) paid for the Knowles-Carters’ Nigerian visit by successfully soliciting $1 million (150 million Naira) of public money from none other than the current president, Goodluck Jonathan, when he was governor of Bayelsa State. And the kicker? In the letter Sahara Reporters published, that money appears to have been paid out directly from the state’s “poverty alleviation fund.” Sahara Reporters concede they have no proof “how much of the released funds was paid directly to performers at the festival” Click through for the meat of their report (you can also see the original document there).
The repercussions on this story will run and run. There were rumors and online whispers about the exorbitant fee paid to Kim Kardashian for her three-syllable “hosting” job last week and where that money may have come from. Many have long-suspected that there was something fishy about the growing trend for lavish big name jamborees, and Sahara Reporters have blown the whole thing wide open.
Here‘s that expensive performance of the Nigerian national anthem by Queen Bey.
There’s been no response from Goodluck Jonathan, or anyone involved in the story, and of course we have to wait for them to have their say before drawing too many conclusions. Usual caution applies, and so far (unsurprisingly given the stakes of what’s alleged) the only verification in the piece comes from Sahara Reporters’ as yet unnamed sources. That said, Jonathan has some sizeable questions to answer (but don’t be surprised if the administration try simply to ignore this story). Jonathan looked pretty relaxed yesterday, spending the whole day holding hands with “The First Black President” at the opening of the vile Emirates-style haven for the rich, Eko Atlantic City:
The New York Times, in its enduring wisdom, published a glowing profile of Obaigbena just two years after Beyonce’s visit, titled “Using Star Power to Repair Nigeria’s Image“. They called him “part Bono, part Diddy” and collected luvvy quotes from such shrewd observers as the head of Transparency International-USA (“There is reason to be cautiously optimistic” [regarding Obaigbena’s anti-corruption efforts]), Naomi Campbell (“Nduka obviously has a remarkable vision, real passion and a special message”) and former Australian prime minister John Howard (“Obaigbena is striking a blow for the truer path”). On this occasion, I think it’s fair to venture that our midtown friends didn’t quite get “all the news that’s fit to print”. The same reporter who did the New York Times story, Angelo Ragaza, published a still-more adoring profile in Arise Magazine (proprietor: Mr N. Obaigbena) a few months later. For the record, he’s also credited as “the visionary behind Africa Rising.”
Update: The New York Times’ international edition is asking the same question.