Peter Obi, the presidential candidate of the Labour Party. Image source: Premium Times

Peter Obi threatens to sue Peoples Gazette over Bishop Oyedepo phone call disclosure.

3 minutes, 3 seconds Read
Peter Obi, the presidential candidate of the Labour Party.
Image source: Premium Times

Peter Obi, the Labour Party’s presidential candidate, has issued a threat to sue Peoples Gazette in response to the publication of a leaked phone conversation between himself and Bishop David Oyedepo, the founder of Living Faith Church, which was reported by the newspaper on April 1st.

In the leaked audio, Mr. Obi referred to the situation as a “religious war” and sought the support of Bishop Oyedepo to gain the backing of Christians in the South-West region for his presidential campaign, with a particular focus on the central states of Kwara, Kogi, and Niger.

The leaked audio conversation between Peter Obi and Bishop Oyedepo caused a heated controversy among Nigerians, with critics and supporters debating the politician’s use of religion to gain political advantage. Mr. Obi’s aides defended him against the report’s portrayal and denied the authenticity of the audio clip. On Wednesday evening, Mr. Obi announced via Twitter that his legal team had been instructed to take legal action against Peoples Gazette and others. He reiterated that the audio call in circulation was fake and clarified that he never said, thought, or implied that the 2023 election was a religious war.

Despite multiple attempts to reach him for comments over the two days before the publication, Mr Obi remained silent on why he failed to comment on the story. Several of his aides, including his long-time spokesman Valentine Obienyem, close associate Mike Ifedi, and his campaign director-general Akin Osuntokun, all failed to comment after discussing the audio with their principal when The Gazette reached out to them with the audio file to comment. Bishop David Oyedepo declined to comment after an enquiry and the audio was sent to him as requested.

After the story was published, Mr Oyedepo did not deny that the conversation with Mr Obi took place. Instead, he told his Sunday service audience that politicians from all parties consult him for advice on elections, which he happily provides. Additionally, Mr Obienyem, who served as the chief press secretary when Mr Obi was Anambra governor, confirmed the authenticity of the audio on his Facebook page on April 2. Kenneth Okonkwo, a spokesman for Mr Obi’s campaign, also confirmed the audio’s authenticity and insisted that it was genuine, despite facing severe online criticism from Mr Obi’s supporters.

Kenneth Okonkwo, a spokesman for Mr Obi’s campaign, emphasized that the leaked audio was genuine and that honesty is the best policy, even amid vicious attacks from Mr Obi’s supporters.

The Gazette responded to Mr Obi’s threat to sue over the leaked phone conversation and stated that it stands by its story. In a statement, Deputy Managing Editor Boladale Adekoya said that the audio clip was properly authenticated before publication and that the newspaper follows journalism best practices. The Gazette maintained that it is not intimidated by Mr Obi’s attempt to intimidate its newsroom.

In response to the lawsuit, The Gazette maintained its position on the story, with Deputy Managing Editor Boladale Adekoya standing by the audio clip and insisting that it was properly sourced and authenticated in line with journalism best practices. He also stressed that the publication was willing to protect the source of the clip and would not reveal it in court. Meanwhile, Peter Obi, who resigned from the opposition Peoples Democratic Party to lead Labour, has rejected the outcome of the presidential election and filed a petition. This has caused tensions with the ruling All Progressives Congress, which has accused him of treasonable felony. Mr Obi has also stated that he will not leave Nigeria despite pressure from the government.

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