A former commissioner in Rivers State, Austin Tam-George, has lashed out at the administration of Governor Nyesom Wike in the state.
Mr Tam-George, who served briefly as commissioner for information before he resigned his appointment in Mr Wike’s first tenure, posted on Facebook, July 14, an imaginary conversation between the governor and Jesus Christ.
Mr Tam-George is now working as a private management and communication consultant.
Mr Wike is doing his second term as governor of the oil-rich state.
The Facebook post which is satirical and covers some alleged actions and comments of the Rivers governor tends to portray Mr Wike’s administration as inept, bereft of ideas, and manipulative.
“We’re working hard at it, Lord,” the ‘governor’ responded in the imaginary conversation when ‘Jesus Christ’ referred him to the high rate of unemployment in the state.
“In the past four years, we’ve assembled the best prayer warriors to pray against the spirit of unemployment in the state.
“We are also building a Real Madrid Football Academy. When we have more footballers, there will be a decline in unemployment,” the ‘governor’ explained.
“You’re building a Real Madrid football academy to tackle unemployment? That’s ridiculous,” ‘Jesus Christ’ said to the ‘governor’.
“So what should the people expect in your second term? Gold-plated Juventus toilet seats in every home? The NBS says 4 out of 10 people in Rivers State have no jobs.”
The ‘governor’ responded: “My Lord, I’m not a fan of Juventus.
“Politically, the high poverty and unemployment rates in the state may be good news. It makes it easier to mobilise poor and jobless people to back my agenda. Some say I’m pursuing a policy of mass pauperisation.”
Mr Tam-George, in the satire, wrote about how retired government workers have not been paid their gratuities and pensions since 2015, insecurity, and poor sanitary condition of Port Harcourt, the state capital.
He also wrote about how the Rivers government “have refused to pay salaries to nearly 1000 teachers” in demonstration schools across the state.
“As a result, over 20,000 students have dropped out of these demonstration schools! The schools are shut, and their teachers now beg for food!” he wrote in the conversation.
“I’m sorry, Lord,” the ‘governor’ said to ‘Jesus Christ’. “But keeping the people desperately poor and vulnerable is a core policy of my administration.”
The former commissioner also took on Mr Wike on the governor’s recent comment that Rivers is a “Christian state”.
Although Nigeria’s population is largely divided between Muslims and Christians, the nation’s Constitution forbids the federal and state governments from adopting any religion as a state religion.
“I have no apologies to anyone, Rivers is a Christian state,” a statement from Government House, Port Harcourt, quoted the governor to have said, early this month.
Mr Wike made the comment while explaining the reason behind Rivers government’s rejection of a federal government-proposed controversial ranching programme as a way of solving the herder-farmer conflict in Nigeria. The programme has been suspended by the federal government because of wide-spread opposition against it.
Mr Tam-George in his Facebook post described the governor’s comment as “divisive and diversionary”.
The Rivers government is yet to respond to the former commissioner’s post.
The government does not have an information commissioner, as the governor is yet to constitute his cabinet since he was sworn-in on May 29.
Mr Wike’s spokesperson, Simeon Nwakaudu, did not respond to calls and text message sent to his phone line.
PREMIUM TIMES contacted Mr Tam-George and asked him if his post was factual or was he merely poking fun at Governor Wike.
“No, this is a factual statement and can be easily verified by anyone. The government itself has not denied this.
“Teachers in demonstration primary and secondary schools in Rivers State have not been paid for four years by the Wike administration.
“The schools are shut and over 20,000 students have been out of school and in the streets.
“These demonstration schools have been part of the building blocks of human capital development in the state for over three decades. Today, they are no more. This is not my opinion, it is a tragic fact in Rivers State, under the Wike administration,” Mr Tam-George said.
Mr Tam-George, who claimed he was neither a member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), All Progressives Congress (APC), nor any political party, said his criticism was meant to help lift Rivers.
“When I was in government, the governor resisted every suggestion to convene an investment and jobs summit to tackle the unemployment crisis.
“He also rejected the call to invest in agriculture and lay the foundation for a ‘green economy’.
“For the first time since 1967, the governor cancelled all existing scholarships and bursaries to students in the state.
“In fact, over 500 scholars are stranded in the US, Europe, and the Caribbean as a result of this thoughtless policy.
“The last time the governor was in London for a public event, he narrowly escaped being lynched by the aggrieved students in the UK,” the former commissioner said.