Like or hate him, the Labour Party presidential candidate, Peter Obi, has changed the narration of the just concluded election with the flurry of votes and results he amassed in different categories of the polls.

To its credit, the Labour Party today has seven senators-elect and 34 House of Representatives-elect waiting to be inaugurated. It is no secret that the majority of these lawmakers rode on Obi’s back to win their respective seats.

Despite having no structure and losing the presidential election in what political pundits described as a controversial manner, Obi’s victory, especially in Lagos, was an earthquake many did not see coming.

His message of transparency and accountability resonated well with the youth population of the Millennial and Gen-Z under the umbrella of the Obidient Movement.

Aside from decimating the stronghold of the Peoples Democratic Party in the South-East and South through his fairy-tale run in the poll, his ‘happy-ending’ ambition was however cut short by the deluge of results from the North-West and North-East, which proved to be his Achilles heel.

The standard bearer of the ruling All Progressives Congress, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, who was declared as the eventual winner by the Independent National Electoral Commission, polled 8,794,726 votes to defeat the PDP candidate, Atiku Abubakar and Obi who garnered 6,984,520 and 6,101,533 votes at the poll respectively.

But Atiku and Obi rejected the results announced by INEC, with each claiming at separate press conferences that the election was fraught with violence and massive rigging.

A teary Obi, who felt INEC didn’t do justice to the results by failing to show the results in real-time, announced on a number of political programmes that he would reclaim his ‘stolen’ mandate by going to the court as being directed.

A first-timer viewer, who was just seeing some of the television interviews he had, can see through his pain, anguish and agony even as he struggled to address certain allegations about running a political campaign that was thriving in religiosity and ethnicity.

His Vice Presidential Candidate, Datti Baba-Ahmed, also came under fire last month when he was featured on Channels Television’s ‘Politics Today’ and made some comments considered incendiary.

The North-West politician had warned the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) not to hand over to the president-elect, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, on May 29, otherwise it would signal the ‘end of democracy.’

A furious Baba-Ahmed also stated that the INEC certificate of return issued to the president-elect by INEC was a ‘dud cheque’ that remains null and void.

According to him, the call for the cancellation of the poll was necessitated by the fact that Tinubu failed to amass 25 per cent of votes in the Federal Capital Territory, which was one of the prerequisites needed before a winner of the presidential election can be declared.

The statement by the LP vice presidential candidate consequently cost the TV station a fine of N5m by the National Broadcasting Corporation.

The penalty was spurred by a petition written to NBC by the Director of Media and Publicity of the APC Presidential Campaign Council, Bayo Onanuga, who felt the station didn’t do enough to stop Baba-Ahmed

 The N5m penalty came at a period when the Defence Headquarters and the Directorate of State Service had raised the alarm about the activities of some political elements pushing for the cancellation of the May 29 handing over the ceremony while an interim national government to be put in place by the outgoing administration.

While the legal proceeding at the Presidential Elections Petition Tribunal had yet to start, the drama took a twist following a leaked phone conversation purportedly between Obi and the founder of Living Faith Church Worldwide, Bishop David Oyedepo.

Clearly, one can easily tell that the discussion in the alleged audio must have happened a few days before the February 25 presidential poll.

In the viral audio, the LP poster boy was heard pleading with Oyedepo to help sway the full support of Christians in the South-West and Kwara State.

While stating that he was already working on winning votes in Kogi and Niger states, the former Anambra governor allegedly described the 2023 presidential election as a “religious war” that must be won in the purported conversation.

The fiery brand preacher was heard saying, “In Jesus’ name, we are going to get a bright tomorrow.”

In response, an emotional Obi replied, “Amen Daddy. When I hear these prayers, it is very dear to me and like I keep saying, if this thing works, you people will never regret the support.”

Continuing the conversation, the cleric said, “We look forward to God’s intervention,” to which the Labour Party candidate quickly responded, “Thank you, Daddy. Daddy, I need you to speak to your people in the Southwest and Kwara. The Christians in the Southwest and Kwara. This is a religious war.”

Although one of Obi’s spokespersons, Kenneth Okonkwo partially admitted that the conversation happened, he argued that it was doctored to fit the narrative that the LP standard bearer is a religious and ethnic bigot.

Another aide of Obi, Valentine Obienyem specifically claimed that ‘our Nnewi prodigal brother’ is responsible for the leak. To date, the Nnewi brother has yet to be unmasked.

A former aide to President Goodluck Jonathan, Reno Omokri, who was one of Obi’s biggest critics, relished the moment.

For weeks, the social media influencer made a series of satirical tweets to mock the former governor who he repeatedly called a ‘liar’ and a ‘desperate’ politician.

While the audio recording may have been edited or doctored, it has nevertheless turned into a trolling tool to discredit Obi and dampen the morale of his team in the quest to challenge the electoral outcome at the court.

Suddenly, the horde of APC supporters, who were hitherto suppressed by the ever vociferous and ‘woto-woto’ Obidients movement, soon found their voices again.

“Woto Woto” is a street slang mostly used in the South to connote ‘heavy’ or something of ‘monstrous’ proportion.

Not even the feeble efforts put up by Obi’s supporters could contain the deluge of social media snipes and attacks from APC apologists and LP critics.

For every defence the LP supporters put up, they receive a ‘Yes Daddy’ from the defiant trolls.

While the drama continued, Oyedepo vowed in his Sunday sermon a day after the leaked audio that he had never campaigned for any politician or spoken on their behalf in the build-up to the 2023 general elections.

It was, however, not clear if his message was a coincidence or an allusion to his indictment in the audio recording.

While stating that nobody tells him what to say, the founder of Living Faith Church Worldwide noted that he availed political parties and candidates who sought his counselling before the election.

As expected, the narration soon gave way to the suspicion that some staff of the Nigerian Communications Commission must have had in what could have been a possible wiretapping and doctoring of the audio to kick-start a propaganda war between Obi and his supporters.

But in a swift reaction, the NCC distanced itself from the leaked audio conversation, saying the allegations of wiretapping and phone tracking made against its staff on social media were false.

The NCC Director of Public Affairs, Dr Reuben Muoka, in a statement that the provisions of the Nigerian Communication Act 2003 and other extant laws of the federation do not allow the commission to “track” nor “leak” telephone conversations of anyone.

While the controversy wears on, the man in the middle of the row denied labelling the 2023 elections a religious war.

This is even as he admitted to being under pressure to go into exile. Obi broke his silence in a series of tweets penultimate Wednesday vowed and to take legal action against Peoples Gazette, the online platform that released the audio.

He also accused the ruling party and the APC-led government through its officials and agencies of trying to divert his attention from recovering his ‘stolen mandate.’

While stating that the incident was unfortunate and sad, he referred to the viral recording as ‘a fake doctored audio call’ that was subtly done to put pressure on him to leave the country.

In his defence, he states that those who are familiar with him know that he has always made it clear that no one should vote for him based on tribe or religion, but on his character, competence, capacity, credibility, and compassion.

Obi also vowed that he would not be distracted until he reclaims his mandate.

Just when the social media bashing was over, the Federal Government last week challenged the Labour Party presidential candidate to clarify what he meant by “a fake doctored audio call.”

The FG also warned Obi and his running mate to desist from attempting to incite the public into causing chaos and anarchy in the land

While addressing the media in London, Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said “If it is fake, it means it never took place. But if it is doctored, it means there was that conversation but it was manipulated. Obi needs to come out and make clarification whether the conversation did not take place or it took place but was doctored. If it was doctored, which part of it was doctored?”

The bashing Obi received in the last two weeks has touched the hearts of some elder statesmen including notable Ijaw leader, Chief Edwin Clark, who demanded that the minister deserved to be sanctioned for allegedly spreading fake news during his recent trip to the United States.

A livid Clark condemned what he called the minister’s attempt at stifling free speech and causing division in the country.

But a defiant Mohammed fought back on Wednesday, saying the call for his arrest and prosecution for asking Obi not to heat up the polity was baseless.

Reacting to Clark’s statement, the minister insisted that he stood by his admonition, adding that his advice was never premised on falsehood.

Mohammed said that Obi had also not publicly called his running mate to order over the treasonable utterances that he made on the live television programme.

Also, the Secretary General of a northern group, Arewa Consultative Forum, Murtala Aliyu, advised Obi to wean himself off religious and ethnic sentiments.

He said, “On the leaked video, even though the matter is dying now, the trust is that there is nobody that can rule this country under certain ethnic or religious sentiments and succeed. Nigeria is a complex country and anybody with such an agenda from whichever part of the country or religion is unlikely to succeed because it will be glaring.”



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