Five weeks after the February 25 presidential election, Labour Party (LP) presidential candidate Mr. Peter Obi became embroiled in a scandal when a phone conversation between him and David Oyedepo, the founder and presiding bishop of the Living Faith Church Worldwide, also known as Winners Chapel, leaked on social media.
Obi came under fire for calling the 2023 presidential election a “religious war” since he was heard pleading for Oyedepo’s support in the now-viral recording that was published by an online publication, People’s Gazette, on Saturday.
Obi requested assistance from the priest in getting the word out to his supporters in the Southwest and North-central states.
The leaked audio, yesterday, generated heated conversations and controversies on social media with many Nigerians condemning Obi for championing religious-driven campaign in a multi-dimensional country like Nigeria.
The conversation went thus:
Obi: Good morning, daddy.
Oyedepo: Praise the Lord, how are you sir?
Obi: Fine daddy, good morning sir.
Oyedepo: Amen, in Jesus name, we are going to get bright results.
Obi: Thank you, daddy. When I hear these your calls and prayers, daddy, it’s very dear to me. Like I keep saying, if this works, you people will never regret the support.
Oyedepo: Amen! Amen! We look forward to God’s intervention.
Obi: Thank you, daddy. I need you to speak to your people in Southwest and Kwara, the Christians in South West and Kwara, this is a religious war.
Oyedepo: I believe that… I believe that… I believe that… You know I did a release ‘Nigeria Going Forward’ and I am coming with the second one today. I wanted it out when they won’t have any time to do damage control. But in the name of Jesus, this would be a success. You know what I said in today’s own? A sickling nation like Nigeria will require a strong and healthy personality. I said anyone whose source of wealth could not be verified should not have access to governance. So, all we are doing is appealing to the conscience of people to know where to go. But I want to assure you, in the name of Jesus, that the result will be favourable.
Obi: Thank you, daddy.
Oyedepo: So, relax yourself don’t be apprehensive. Are you in Lagos or Abuja?
Obi: I am in Onitsha, now.
Oyedepo: So, you will be there for the election?
Obi: Yes sir.
Oyedepo: Very good, that is where to be, I say all Nigerians have an equal stake, nobody has the right to claim that he is dashing something to someone, we are coming out of it, so, how is the East, generally?
Obi: East is okay. East is correct.
Oyedepo: And the Middle Belt?
Obi: It is okay, Middle Belt is okay, but places like Kogi, Kwara and Niger are worrisome places.
Oyedepo: We will get to Kwara
Obi: Fantastic, I went to Kwara and visited Olofa of Offa who told me that nobody had ever come here, with you, no problem, but the Christian community in Kwara and Niger, and I am also working in Kogi same way.
Oyedepo: Okay then, I will target this clip to them; I will make sure it gets to them.
Obi: Thank you, I will be looking forward to the release, as well, please send it to me.
Oyedepo: Okay, I will do that, God bless you.
Obi: Thank you, daddy.
But, the phone conversation leak has confused the LP candidate’s media staff. A member of the media team, Kenneth Okonkwo, acknowledged the audio’s authenticity while veteran broadcaster and head of the Obi-Datti Media Office Diran Onifade rejected it as a complete hoax and a creation of the APC’s propaganda machine in a statement made in Abuja on Sunday.
A few hours following Diran’s speech, Okonkwo responded via a series of tweets on his Twitter account, explaining that the audio had been misinterpreted by Obi’s opponents.
“It appears the APC’s desperation to grab and keep power by corrupt means has refused to go away more than a month after they had grabbed the election as they planned,” Onifade had said in a statement released in the early hours of Sunday.
“While we are toeing the constitutional path to retrieve our mandate, those who have truncated the wishes of the majority of Nigerians have recoursed to mischief and endless subterfuge to continue to hold on to what they know does not belong to them.
“From the show of shame in Port Harcourt to the drama in the Ibom Air aircraft, both of which they contrived, they have now moved to the circulation of a deep fake audio file aimed at promoting religious tension in the country.
“All these are meant to serve no other purpose than egregious mischief aimed at demarketing Peter Obi. If the goal is to create a credibility problem, the ploy has failed woefully.
“Peter Obi has long been on record as the only presidential candidate, who has urged the Nigerians electorate not to vote for him on the basis of religion or tribe.”
While confirming the authenticity of the same audio, Okonkwo wrote: “Our attention has been drawn to the publication of this audio tape of private conversation between Obi and Bishop Oyedepo. It is not surprising that these political criminals are trying to spin the conversation, as if Obi was making a religious statement.
“Firstly, the context of the conversation was aptly put by Oyedepo when he said ‘All Nigerians have equal stake in this nation, nobody has the right to claim that he is dashing something to someone.’
“Obi was simply urging the Bishop to help him push this message of equal stake of all Nigerians in the Nigerian project to his people and the Christendom because the politicians of the other party is carrying on this campaign as if it is a religious war.
“He further explained that the traditional ruler of Offa, the Olofa of Offa, who is a Muslim, advised Obi to get the support of Oyedepo and be assured of his own support. This, he said, happened during a visit to the traditional ruler.
“According to him, no politician has ever visited the Olofa of Offa. It is clear to everybody that the APC has a presidential candidate, vice presidential candidate, Senate President, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, National Chairman of the party all from one religion at a time the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) is a Muslim is the party that has declared religious war on Nigerians and we must all rise up together to fight this unconstitutional act of religious intolerance of other religions by APC.”
The All Progressives Congress Presidential Campaign Council’s spokesman, Festus Keyamo, called the statements made by Oyedepo and Obi “shameful.”
The Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) asserts that God exposed Obi for starting a religious conflict in a nation with many different religions and ethnic groups.
“Having confirmed the authenticity of what is now known as the Peter Obi ‘Yes-daddy’ audio, I think the real culprit here are the so-called ‘men of God’ who allowed themselves to be used by an unscrupulous politician to seek to inflame religious passions in our dear country in the name of politics.
“So, when they were telling their hapless adherents that they heard the voice of the Lord, it was actually Peter Obi’s telephone calls they heard and not God’s voice. This is deceitful, shameful and disgusting. Imagine a so-called ‘man of God’ comparing notes with a politician as to what he said or what he would say on the pulpit to get him votes.
“I hope this sufficiently embarrasses the ‘men of God’ in Nigeria to forthwith desist from using the pulpit for politics and the Church-goers to stop being teleguided by their self-serving ‘men of God’.
“As for Peter Obi who declared an election a ‘religious war’ in a multi-religious and multi-ethnic country like ours, the real God has just exposed him and his dream to be Nigeria’s President one day has just died a natural death. ‘Yes-daddy’ is now permanently etched in the consciousness of the nation and we will never forget it!”
On the other hand, Oyedepo claimed on Sunday that he has never advocated for a politician or addressed a group on their behalf.
This was said by Oyedepo during a worship session at the church’s main location in the Ota region of Ogun State. The cleric stated that he has never spoken to a group on behalf of a politician, although not mentioning any audio conversations.
Before the general elections, he said that leaders from various political parties in the nation sought his counsel and prayed to him.
Nobody has ever instructed me on what to say in this world, he continued. No. I have never advocated for anyone or spoken on their behalf, and I won’t till I enter paradise.