Horace Campbell, an outspoken African American critic and professor of African American Studies at Syracuse University, has insisted that entertainment star Beyonce and her husband, hip hop artist and music-producer Jay Z, owe no apology to anyone over their alleged receipt of a whopping $1 million from the Bayelsa State poverty fund in Nigeria back in 2006. Instead, the academic challenged SaharaReporters to inform the top-flight entertainment couple on the nature of the Nigerian government they were dealing with.
SaharaReporters recently revealed that President Goodluck Jonathan, who was then the governor of Bayelsa, handed N150 million (approximately a million dollars) from his state’s poverty alleviation funds to Nduka Obaigbena, organizer of the maiden edition of the “ThisDay Music Festival” in Lagos in 2006. The concert featured Beyonce and Jay Z.
SaharaReporters obtained a document sent by Mr. Obaigbena, the publisher of Thisday newspaper, to then Governor Jonathan. In the letter, Mr. Obaigbena solicited the state’s contribution of “a minimum of $2.5 million” toward organizing the event. “We invite you to partner with us as co-hosts of the festival,” the letter stated. “With a total budget of $10 million, the co-host is expected to contribute a minimum of $2.5 million.”
The intercepted document showed that Mr. Obaigbena’s letter was minuted in hand-written notes by the then governor Goodluck Jonathan and his aides as well as the Accountant-General of Bayelsa State. An instruction was written on the document: “Release N150, 000, 000.00 (One hundred and fifty million naira) only to be drawn from the poverty alleviation subhead.”
In a part of Nigeria where as many as 80% of the populace have no access to potable water, the revelation that Mr. Jonathan squandered a million dollars of poverty alleviation funds on a musical jamboree has drawn wide outrage. Some critics wondered if the wealthy Beyonce should not consider returning the money to the poor people of Bayelsa State, or making a donation to help rebuild Odi, a village in Bayelsa that was the scene of a blood-curdling massacre by soldiers in 1999.
Some of these critics recall that Beyonce acted honorably when faced with a similar situation in Libya by handing the cash she received to a charitable cause. They wonder why she has failed to act in a similar manner following revelations that Mr. Obaigbena took funds meant for impoverished Bayelsans to fund the concert.
But Mr. Campbell dismissed Beyonce’s critics. “You cannot call Beyonce a phony entertainment business…Beyonce is someone looked up to by young people and Beyonce is a talented performer who has something to contribute,” he said on SaharaTV’s Roundtable program. He added: “SaharaTV must go and make an appointment with Beyonce and with Jay Z… You need to sit down with Beyonce and Jay Z to say that SaharaTV wants to explain what you get into if you align with certain governments.”
Mr. Campbell, whose latest book is titled Global NATO and the Catastrophic Failure in Libya, illustrated his point with an instance when reggae superstar Bob Marley played in Gabon in 1979 at the invitation of the “conservative government” of President Omar Bongo. Mr. Campbell suggested that it would have been wrong to criticize the late Bob Marley for going to play in Gabon. Instead, he argued, the best thing would have been to inform the reggae maestro about the nature of the government he was dealing with.
“Your enemy in the United States is not Beyonce,” said the African American academic and author. He added: “It is the United States Africa Command, the oil companies and the Central Intelligence Agency and those who support the Jihadists in the north and those who have big bank accounts. It is not Beyonce and Jay Z.”
Speaking on other African issues, the Syracuse University academic suggested that France was not in a position to “finance” its recent intervention in Mali. According to him, France was hiding behind the United States in a scandalous so-called intervention. Mr. Campbell suggested that the aim of the French military action was to sneak in a US drone base in Niger and create a long term occupation of the Sahara region. “France cannot afford this intervention in Mali and it requires the mobilization of the United States Africa Command and the militarization of Africa by the neo-conservatives in the United States,” he asserted. He added: “France is in the midst of an economic crisis. This financial crisis of capitalism in Europe which we have seen is leading to austerity among the European people [which] means that France does not have the economic and financial capability to carry out the kind of intervention that they carried out in Mali.”
Mr. Campbell stressed that economic woes led France to mobilize the support of Germany, England and other European powers to help in their mission. He emphasized that, even though the Malian problem was a problem for all humanity, the solution should be spearheaded by Africans and not left to “outside forces” with ulterior motives. “The destruction of Mali is happening to the people of Mali, [the] people of West Africa, people of Africa but [it] is not simply an African problem. It’s a problem for humanity.”
The academic reiterated that Africa needs committed leadership to resist the neo-colonial forces seeking to destabilize the continent and set it back. He however added that committed leadership does not only rest with politicians but with the people of the African continent.