Mike Okeme, the Special Adviser to Delta State Governor Ifeanyi Okowa on Labour Relations and SERVICOM, last Friday escaped being lynched during an election of the state chapter of the Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT) held at the La-Diva Hotel in Asaba.
Okeme, a former state chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), who was working round the clock to see that the governor’s anointed chairmanship candidate, Timothy Chukunwosa Umukoro, was delivered, invaded the venue with political thugs to smuggle in fake cartons of ballot papers to rig the election.
A SaharaReporters correspondent who monitored the election observed that Okeme’s intention was to add up the smuggled fake ballot papers to votes that were being collated when the teachers pounced on him. He was swiftly whisked away by operatives to prevent him from being lynched.
According to the teachers, Governor Okowa had tried all means to ensure his candidate prevailed over their popular and preferred choice, Titus Okotie.
Speaking with our correspondent shortly after Mr. Okotie was declared the winner despite the governor’s script that was played by Okeme to impose Umukoro on them, a teacher who simply identified himself as Chukwudi, said that before the election, the governor had, through Chiedu Ebie, the commissioner for Basic and Secondary Education, issued a series of threats and intimidation should they work against the governor's choice.
"Okeme thinks he smuggled fake ballot papers to rig election for Okowa's candidate,” he said. “We all decided to show solidarity to our popular and well-accepted candidate and shunned all forms of intimidation from the state governor who has through his aide and commissioner threatened to deal with us should we throw our weight behind our candidate. We are very mad at governor Okowa, for over their five months now no salaries and he expects us to do his bidding by voting for the candidate of his choice to enslave teachers forever in Delta State."
Also speaking, a teacher from Ukwuani Local Government who identified herself as Mrs. Ahona, stated that through the eagle eyes of the teachers around, the governor's aide was caught when trying to smuggle in the two bags of fake ballot papers into the collation hall.
"Governor Okowa through his aide, Okeme and Commissioner for Basic and Secondary Education, Mr. Chiedu Ebie had before the election threatened to sanction some Education Secretaries across the state if they aligned themselves with the unpaid teachers to vote out the governor's candidate. Okeme’s mission to the election venue was a clandestine move aimed at ensuring that the government’s candidate emerged, but was rattled.”
She said they were taking the opportunity to call on Governor Okowa to offset their salary arrears and pay salaries as at when due especially to the primary school teachers who are suffering over non-payment.
“Promotion should be given to teachers who are due for a promotion,” she continued. “Teachers should no longer be shortchanged. The money used in buying the clock-in machine would have been used to pay teachers’ salaries."
Mrs. Ahona reminded the governor of the forthcoming general elections, saying that teachers might be forced to boycott the election or vote him out for a better candidate that has the interest of teachers, workers and all Deltans at heart.
When contacted, Mr. Okeme simply said he was not bothered, adding he does not respond to issues such as this.