TRENDING AUDIO: How Peter Obi begged Bishop Oyedepo to help win 2023 ‘religious war’


As Nigerians prepared to head to the polls and tension
peaked among politicians, Peter Gregory Obi, a major presidential candidate,
mustered Christian leaders to ramp up a sectarian appeal to push him over the
line, Peoples Gazette heard from a leaked conversation.


Mr Obi, the Labour Party’s standard-bearer, saw the February
25, 2023, 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
Tinubu’s religiously-tinged Muslim-Muslim nomination. The election was largely
a three-way race between Messrs Obi, Tinubu and Atiku Abubakar, a former
vice-president who ran again on the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party

Mr Obi, 61, 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,” Mr Oyedepo


“Like I keep saying: if this works, you people will never
regret the support,” Mr 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,” Mr Oyedepo said,
promising to circulate more messages to Christians on Mr Obi’s behalf.


For two days, Mr Obi did not attend to The Gazette’s 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.


Mr Ifedi said he was trying to discuss the audio with Mr Obi
for a measured response, but his message did not come in before a final
decision was taken to run this story.

Mr 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.

‘United and
Indivisble Nigeria’


While religion has always been a dominant feature of
Nigerian politics, the conversation, which lasted over four minutes, undercut
Mr Obi’s public statements that his campaign was devoid of any religious


He took part in several dialogues to maintain peace and
stability in the country, and was seen as a formidable path to the first
Nigerian president of Igbo origin since the Civil War.


“No one should ascribe ethnic or religious colouration to
the OBIdient Movement. Nigeria is one and my ambition is to become the
President of a United and Indivisible Nigeria,” Mr Obi said in a statement
signed by him on March 26, a month after the election, as he continued his
legal push to reclaim what he described as a stolen mandate.


Mr Obi, whose aspiration spurred a historic participation of
Nigerian youths in the last election, was inundated with partisan attacks about
alleged ethno-religious colouration of his movement.


Aminu Tambuwal, the governor of Sokoto from the
Muslim-dominated northwestern flank, was among those who attacked Mr Obi’s
campaign as lacking plural representation.


Mr Obi said his campaign was aimed at rescuing Nigerians
from the grip of Mr Tinubu’s APC, which has ruled the country since 2015 amid
widespread poverty and underdevelopment.


Religion, competence


The 2023 presidential election to replace Muhammadu Buhari
was seen by analysts as the first to have three major candidates with
near-equal short at victory since the country returned to civil rule in 1999.


But the season did not open with the same elements. Mr Obi
himself was seeking office under the PDP until it became clear to him in May
2022 that he would not be able to secure. theparty’s ticket. He then joined the
Labour and was summarily given the party’s ticket.


Even then, an analyst said, Mr Obi’s candidacy was not
entirely appealing to political observers, who saw Labour as too fringe and
unviable for national campaign. Labour had only produced a governor in its near
two-decade history prior to Mr Obi’s membership.


“No political heavyweights followed Peter Obi to Labour,”
political analyst Omodele Odunfa said. “That was why many people, including
myself admittedly, did not take him seriously at first.”


Mr Odunfa said it was after Mr Tinubu tapped Kashim
Shettima, a fellow Muslim, as his running mate that Mr Obi’s ambition became
appealing to Christians.


“Christians rightly saw Bola Tinubu’s action as a holy war
against their faith and decided to rally behind a ticket they could relate with
ideologically,” he added.


Although the PDP ticket had Mr Abubakar, a Muslim, and
Ifeanyi Okowa, a Christian, some Christians still believed Mr Obi would better
represent their interest as president because it would address the clamour for
the southern Christian president to succeed a northern Muslim leader.


Mr Obi, a Catholic, promptly unite all Christian
denominations against the Muslim-Muslim ticket, which Mr Tinubu had justified
as politically expedient and administratively prudent.


“Tinubu said he picked because Shettima because of
competence,” Mr Odunfa said. “But we all knew it was simply because he knew it
would be his surest path to victory.”


Mr Odunfa said it was Mr Tinubu who started the 2023
election along religious lines.


“But for Bola Tinubu’s divisive move, the way Christians
were fired up for Peter Obi might have been somewhat neutralised,” he added.


Following his declaration as president-elect, Mr Tinubu
promised to run a government of inclusion, saying Nigerians will be treated
equally as encouraged by the nation’s Constitution.


Mr Oyedepo, in his support for Mr Obi during the
pre-election call, said the Labour’s candidate had better appeal than his
challengers, whom he insinuated had poor health and ill-gotten wealth.


“A sickening nation like Nigeria will require a strong and
healthy personality,” Mr Obi said. “Anyone whose source of wealth cannot be
verified should not have access to governance, particularly in a dying economy
like Nigeria.”

culled: Peoples Gazette


Related posts

Start Chat
Chat With DJ Gambit
How Can I help You?
%d bloggers like this: