By Rudolf Ogoo Okonkwo
Beyonce and Jay Z
If not for Wikileaks cable, Beyonce would have kept the $1 million dollars she got for performing at Gaddafi’s family party.
In 2009, we learned from Wikileaks cable that Beyonce got $1 million to perform at Gaddafi’s family party. So did Usher and Mariah Carey. Mariah Carey received $1 million dollars to sing four songs at Gaddafi’s son’s birthday party at Nikki Beach, St Bart’s. When the story broke, Beyonce was so embarrassed that she donated the money to earthquake relief agencies in Haiti. Usher also donated his to charities, including Amnesty International. In his statement to the press, Usher said that he was “sincerely troubled.”
When Maria Carey donated hers to charity she made this statement: “I was naïve and unaware of who I was booked to perform for. I feel horrible and embarrassed to have participated in this mess. Going forward, this is a lesson for all artists to learn from. We need to be more aware and take more responsibility regardless of who books our shows. Ultimately we as artists are to be held accountable.”
Beyonce should be sincerely troubled, embarrassed and horrified by the deal she had with Nduka Obaigbena which brought her and Jay-Z to Nigeria in 2006. I think it is time for Beyonce to once again donate the money to charity.
Thanks to Saharareporters, we now know that Beyonce was paid $1million dollars to perform at the 2006 ThisDay Music Festival in Lagos, Nigeria. Part of the money used to fund this festival came from the then governor of Bayelsa, Mr. Goodluck Jonathan.
So let us first start from home.
President Goodluck Jonathan had no shame when he was governor. And he has no shame now that he is president. If he had shame then, he wouldn’t have taken money allocated for poverty alleviation in Bayelsa state and given it to Nduka Obaigbena, who in turn gave it to Beyonce and Jay-Z to come to Nigeria and sing the Nigerian national anthem.
If Jonathan has acquired any shame since then, it would have been tolerable. But he has mastered the skill of moving from one lower office to a higher one without learning a thing. If Jonathan has any feeling of shame he wouldn’t have allowed this spectacle of an inept government that he heads to keep dancing in the market place.
Start with the wife. There is nothing wrong with a man marrying a woman that is domineering. Some wives are more powerful than their husbands. What is absurd is for the president to allow his wife to dance naked on the streets of Nigeria, squandering the nation’s resources. If Jonathan could not do anything about his Patience, he should at least warn the nation. He should say the same thing America’s 26th President Theodore Roosevelt said about his wayward daughter, Alice, who was making a scene across America. The president remarked: “I can either run the country or I can attend to Alice, but I cannot possibly do both.”
Obviously, Jonathan cannot run Patience and Nigeria at the same time. The burden of attempting the two tasks can be heavy even to the best of us. But if Jonathan is running the nation well, nobody would have cared what his wife does. But he isn’t. He, too, makes a fool of himself. The routine task of providing transparency and accountability and representing the nation to the outside world is as impossible for him as urinating is for a fowl.
The nation could forgive clumsiness, inability to articulate policies and issues and general uninspiring posture. But must 160 million Nigerians have to also bear an unresponsive leadership that is being swallowed by corruption? What has being dull, inarticulate and unsophisticated have to do with not telling the nation the truth; showing a sense of duty; knowing what is appropriate; and having any inclination as to what best practices should be? What will it take for Jonathan to gain some shame and raise a finger against corruption?
A man who had the hardheartedness to take $1 million dollars meant for the underprivileged and give it to the scammer, Nduka Obaigbena, is beyond repair. He may boast of a PhD but he lacks the simplest of gifts – an educated mind.
In the same vein, Nduka Obaigbena has no shame. His whole career is built on a ladder of shamelessness. Every business venture he sets up has its foundation deep in deceit. The good thing is that he doesn’t try to hide it anymore. People who do business with him have factored it in. If he promises to pay you, you collect upfront your payment for the duration of the contract. If he promises to marry you, you collect your 18-years of child support payment before the wedding.
And collecting many have been doing. A group of U.S. music stars and celebrities have been treading to Nduka’s doorstep to get paid. The African brother is donating and they are collecting. From Rihanna to Chris Brown to Usher. Why not? For some, it must be their own reparation for slavery. For others, another dumb African brother is sharing free money, so why not?
But we have always known that Obaigbena does not share his own money. He goes to Nigerian government officials and their business friends and asks for the money he would donate. For example, between 2004 and 2007, Gov. Odili channeled over N300 million to Nduka Obaigbena’s Leaders and Company. In exchange, Obaigbena promises the giver favorable coverage in his ThisDay newspaper and other media ventures of his. If the public official needs an opinion poll, Obaigbena will cook up one in his bedroom.
Obaigbena does not care where the money he is given comes from. Even if pregnant women are dying because money meant for their medicine was given to Obaigbena to bring Beyonce to Nigeria, Obaigbena does not care. In Obaigbena’s mind, it is not his fault that the poor are clueless about the people hurting them and keeping them in poverty. Obaigbena will neglect, mistreat and ruin the people as long as he feeds his greed. There is no greater sham than that Obaigbena is in the business of promoting Africa. Obaigbena’s only goal is the promotion of himself.
So from the likes of Jonathan down to the Obaigbenas, there is no hope. They are a bunch of mentally depraved individuals who are no better than the Emperor Bokassa and Mobutu Sese Seko before them. They have no idea what leadership entails. They have no iota of commitment to any cause greater than them. They come to the world just to perambulate around, build big houses, drive big cars, own private jets, spend nights in expensive hotels and eat processed foods that push their stomachs out. In no time they will die like those before them and leave a rotten legacy that their grandchildren would be ashamed of.
Which brings me back to Beyonce. On the surface of it, I know it was all business for Beyonce. Someone has money to pay for her service and she goes for it. Beyonce and her husband, Jay-Z, are more than the low-pants wearing crowd. They have reached the point where their view of life should have expanded beyond grabbing money for its sake.
They have done well enough to ask deeper questions about decisions they take in their careers. When you are offered lots of money from a country where majority are wretched, do you ask questions about the ethics of the person offering the money? When you are flown into a country and placed in the best hotels, do you spare a moment to look at other parts of that country? It matters more when these are happening in Africa, the land of Beyonce’s supposedly distant cousins.
I have heard 85-year old Harry Belafonte level similar charges against Beyonce and Jay-Z. The civil rights activist accused the couple of not fulfilling their social responsibilities. “They have not told the history of our people, nothing of who we are,” Belafonte lamented. “We are still looking. We are not driven by some technology that says you can kill Afghans, the Iraqis or the Spanish. It is all – excuse my French – s**t. And I think one of the great abuses of this modern time is that we should have had such high-profile artists, powerful celebrities. But they have turned their back on social responsibility.”
Beyonce and Jay-Z have not taken any risk for their people- the people they profess to care about. They have not shown any care for the African people, the people they profess to share the same heritage with. They can buy $1 million dollar nursery for their daughter, Blue Ivy. Beyonce can buy $30 million private jet as birthday gift for her husband. But must they indirectly deprive the malnourished boys and girls of the Niger Delta $1 million just to visit Nigeria and sing the national anthem?
Harry Belafonte said that his mother used to tell him, “Never go to bed at night without doing something to enhance justice”. Beyonce and Jay-Z should do well to embrace such philosophy. Beyonce should be sincerely troubled, embarrassed and horrified by the deal she had with Nduka Obaigbena that brought her to Nigeria in 2006.
Scratch that. She should be ashamed of herself for remaining quiet about it until Saharareporters revealed it. And Beyonce can start by returning the $1 million to Bayelsa state. Not to the current governor. No, no, no. To a reputable charity, please.