EXCLUSIVE: Peter Obi, in last-minute push for votes, begs 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 line.
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 said.
“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.