Meet the Obiangs!
They’re a cuddly family that the people of Equatorial Guinea have repeatedly “elected” to look after their finances for the past three decades. And boy have the Obiangs done a great job “looking after” everyone’s money, most likely storing chunks of it in overseas accounts for safe-keeping.
Don’t worry, the money’s safe. Except for the $71 million of U.S.-based assets that the United States government is trying to seize from Obiang Jr. (Teodoro ‘Teodorin’ Nguema Obiang). Those assets include a $30 million Malibu home, a $38.5 million Gulfstream plane, and over $2 million of Michael Jackson memorabilia. But it’s otherwise safe, aside from the few millions of dollars worth of assets seized by French authorities, including Obiang Jr.’s over-$100 million Parisian villa which reportedly had a $5 million clock.
Three decades in power does have its perks, especially after you stage a coup, kill your predecessor (executing him after a trial that led to 101 death sentences) and can win elections with 140 percent of the vote. That’s some political machine.
Anyway, the Obiangs are presiding over the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations, which starts tomorrow in Equatorial Guinea. ¯_(ツ)_/¯ No, you should care, because it’s an amazing tournament, not just for the exploits on the field, but also because of the pageantry off of it. Colorful fans will be scattered around the four venues (in the places where they can actually find “fans” to attend), lively music will echo from the stands, and we’ll hear lots and lots of stories about the incredibly corrupt and repressive regime of Equatorial Guinea’s President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, the man who so generously decided to loan Equatorial Guinea to Africa in its time of need.
This year’s Cup of Nations was initially bound for Morocco, until the North African nation decided scrap the idea only months before the tournament started. Morocco refused to have all sorts of Africans converging on its colorful tapestry of a nation with bags filled with Ebola, so a new host was needed. Other nations with the infrastructure to host said, “No thanks, maybe another time.” The Confederation of African Football was in desperate need of a savior.
Enter President Obiang, who valiantly stepped in to save the day, selflessly taking time away from his busy schedule of holding money for his people.
Suddenly, Equatorial Guinea, a country of less than 800,000 people, fresh off of being one of the poorest nations in the world (thanks, petrodollars!), has to turn its attention to very important issues, like filling stadiums so that the benevolent leader doesn’t look bad. President Obiang recently noted, “We have to give solemnity to Nations Cup; it is necessary to buy tickets to fill the stadiums.” He added, “Let those who have the means, help the poor,” and further promised to pay for 10,000 tickets at each host stadium, probably while striking a Jesus pose. And yes, there are still lots of poor people and lots of people lacking access to basic services in Equatorial Guinea.
Accessibility is clearly a national priority. Equatorial Guinea’s state employees will be allowed to leave their work at 2 p.m. on match days to attend games. According to the local organizing committee, tickets for games in Mongomo and Ebebiyin will cost between $0.88 and $8.84, and tickets in the two other host cities, Bata and Malabo, will run fans between $1.77 and $26.53. Basically, the people will have little excuse to not be at the games since the Obiangs will also probably offer payday loans to anyone still struggling to meet the other costs associated with attending games, like missing work, or transportation costs, or being detained while attending a match for belonging to an opposition party.
But there’s another route to affordability that hasn’t been mentioned much in Cup of Nations coverage. In 2012, Forbes estimated President Obiang’s net worth was approximately $600 million. Again: The country’s population is just under 800,000. I’ll stop here and let you do whatever math you deem appropriate.
And remember, the Cup of Nations starts tomorrow. See you there.