Bayelsa is a small state in the southwestern corner of Nigeria. Its poorest residents need all the help they can get, which government official Goodluck Jonathan almost definitely knew when he was governor there. Why, then, would he take $1 million out of the state’s anti-poverty fund to bring Jay-Z and Beyonce to a giant, expensive concert in the port city of Lagos?
Let me back up a little bit. The details of this scandal are convoluted. but basically, there was a big concert in Lagos called ThisDay music festival back in 2006. That festival featured Jay-Z and Beyonce, and cost a lot of money. As SaharaReporters reveals, there is evidence that Jonathan requested $1 million from Bayelsa’s anti-poverty fund to fund to the concert, which he then gave to the wealthy promoter referred to as Mr. Obaigbena. Via SaharaReporters:
SaharaReporters obtained a letter from Mr. Obaigbena to the Bayelsa State government soliciting funds from the oil-producing state ahead of Nigeria’s 46th independence celebrations in 2006. The publisher wrote, “We invite you to partner with us as co-hosts of the festival.” The letter added: “With a total budget of $10 million, the co-host is expected to contribute a minimum of $2.5 million (two million five hundred thousand USD).”
At the bottom of the letter, minuted by hand and signed by then Governor Jonathan’s aides as well as the Bayelsa State accountant general are the words, “Release N150,000,000.00 (One hundred and fifty million naira) only to be drawn from the poverty alleviation subhead.”
The alleged benefit of giving money to Obaigbena was not a return on investments, but an increase in Nigeria’s stature in the eyes of the world:
The stars’ performances would “tell the world, through music, that Nigeria’s time has come,” Mr. Obaigbena wrote. The letter added, “And once the good news catches on with the young and upwardly mobile, music loving new generation it will catch on with the world of investments and bountiful opportunities.”
Unfortunately, the 47% of Bayelsans currently living in poverty can’t eat stature.
There’s no evidence that Jay and Bey had any knowledge they were being caught up in a real life Nigerian scam, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they released a statement decrying this practice, should this story gain legs in the west. It’s also worth noting that this information only came to light after reporters found out Kim Kardashian took a $500,000 sum from the Nigerian government just to set foot inside the country for a day, which is offensive no matter where the money came from.