The presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP) in the February 25 election, Peter Obi has been exposed in a now-viral telephone conversation with Bishop David Oyedepo of Living Faith Church (Winners’ Chapel) begging for bloc Christian’s votes from the Southwest and Northcentral, saying the election is a ‘religious war’.
In an exclusive report by Peoples Gazette where the audio was leaked, the former Anmabra state governor saw the exercise as a battle to assert the place of Christians in the country, bootstrapping his candidacy out of a polarised cycle set off by Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s Muslim-Muslim nomination.
The election was largely a three-way race between Obi, Tinubu, and Atiku Abubakar, a former vice-president who ran again on the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) line.
Obi called Bishop David Oyedepo of Living Faith Church (Winners’ Chapel) on the eve of the election and implored him to pass messages to Christians across the South-West — and also to those in central states like Kwara, Kogi and Niger.
“Daddy, I need you to speak to your people in the South-West and Kwara, the Christians in the South-West and Kwara,” Mr Obi said in the audio obtained by The Gazette. “This is a religious war.”
“I believe that, I believe that, I believe that,” Oyedepo said.
“Like I keep saying: if this works, you people will never regret the support,” Obi said with candour, adding that Christians in places like Kogi, Kwara, and Niger have been difficult to penetrate.
“We look forward to God’s intervention,” Oyedepo said, promising to circulate more messages to Christians on Obi’s behalf.
Peoples Gazette’s said for two days when contacted, Obi did not attend to calls and messages to his two available telephone lines. His media aides and allies, including Akin Osuntokun, Valentine Obienyem, and Mike Ifedi, all declined comments when The Gazette sent an enquiry to them with the full audio.
Ifedi said he was trying to discuss the audio with Obi for a measured response, but his message did not come in before a final decision was taken to run this story.
Oyedepo asked The Gazette to forward an enquiry to him by WhatsApp, but he declined comments for more than a day after messages and the audio were sent to him.
Following the Peoples Gazette’s publication, several social media users said it was a deepfake and the voices were AI generated.
Foundation for Investigative Journalism (FIJ) subjected the audio to a deepfake test using Deepware, an AI tool used to detect alterations in audios and videos.
Deepware’s deepfake detection technology “was designed to detect deepfake videos or, simply, any fake content in the areas of visual and audio communication“.
The Cable, a Nigerian newspaper, had used the same tool to detect that a supposed audio conversation of Atiku Abubakar, a former Vice President of Nigeria, Aminu Tambuwal, the Governor of Sokoto State, and Ifeanyi Okowa, the Governor of Delta State, plotting to rig the 2023 presidential election was a deepfake.
According to Deepware, the Obi-Oyedepo audio was not AI-generated, and it underwent no technological alterations.
FIJ also analysed the voices in the audio and found unique characteristics that are almost impossible to replicate in deepfakes.
The Labour Party Presidential Campaign Council (PCC) has confirmed the authenticity of a viral telephone conversation between Peter Obi, its candidate, and Bishop David Oyedepo, founder of Living Faith Church.
Kenneth Okonkwo, spokesman for the PCC, in a release made via his social media handles on Sunday morning, said Obi was simply asking Oyedepo to help pass a message to voters.
Okonkwo, speaking on reactions trailing the audio’s release, said Obi was not fanning a religious war but “the other party” was.
His statement read, “Our attention has been drawn to the publication of this audio tape of private conversation between Peter 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 Bishop 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’.
“H. E. Peter 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 christiandom because the politicians of the other party is carrying on this campaign as if it is a religious war.
“To drive home this point, he informed him that he visited the traditional ruler of Offa, the Olofa of Offa, who is a Muslim, but who advised Obi to get the support of Oyedepo and be assured of his own support. No Politician has ever visited the Olofa of Offa. It is clear to everybody that the APC political party that 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 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.
“I went around with Obi on campaign train and never saw him discriminate against any religion. Of course he can’t because his Vice is a Muslim unlike APC. I resigned from APC because of their religious intolerance. Nigerians should disregard any insinuation of religious bigots about this tape.”
Just listen carefully:https://t.co/hu8cb6VoWX— Kenneth Okonkwo (@realkenokonkwo) April 1, 2023
Our attention has been drawn to the publication of this audio tape of private conversation between @PeterObi and Bishop Oyedepo. It is not surprising that these political criminals are trying to spin the conversation as if Obi was... pic.twitter.com/9lfOdtVy9J