Obi and the danger of religious politics

Labour Party (LP) presidential candidate in the just-concluded elections, Peter Obi, has come under scathing criticism over the leaked conversation he had with Bishop David Oyedepo, Founder of Living Faith Church Worldwide.

The audio clip released by online newspaper, People’s Gazzete, has set social media on fire. In the audio, Obi was heard begging Oyedepo to help him mobilise Christian voters ahead of the election, especially those in the North-central states of Kwara, Kogi and Niger, declaring the election as a religious war.

Obi said, “Daddy, I need you to speak to your people in the South-west and Kwara, the Christians in the South-west and Kwara.This is a religious war. Like I keep saying: if this works, you people will never regret the support.”

The audio attracted mixed reactions on social media with some of Obi’s supporters insisting that the voice was forged. However, Obi’s spokesperson, Kenneth Okonkwo, affirmed that the conversations actually took place but Nigerians read it out of context.

In a related development, Peter Obi denied that he held conversation with Oyedepo and threatened to sue People’s Gazzette and other filth columnists, who orchestrated the malious campaign against him, for libel.

Whether it was true or not that the People’s Gazzette, the online media which published the story, had contacted both Obi and Bishop Oyedepo to verify the authenticity of the conversation, before it released it, has not been clarified.

Bishop Oyedepo’s body language has proved beyond reasonable doubts that, the conversation actually took place. But he denied campaigning for any politician in the last general elections.

However, Section 37 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, guarantees every Nigerian the right to privacy. The section states, “The privacy of citizens, their homes, correspondence, telephone conversations and telegraphic communications ate hereby guaranteed and protected.”

Little wonder, when the conversation was leaked, many Nigerians fingered the Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) for being complicit in the whole melodrama. Nevertheless, the NCC has denied releasing the conversation.

With Peter Obi heading to court to prove his innocence and protect his integrity, one expects shocking evidence to emerge in the next few days or months.

Our politicians are doing more harm than good to the country’s evolving democracy. In their desperate attempt to capture power, no matter the consequences, they resort to the manipulation of religion. It was Karl Max, who described “Religion” as the opium of the masses.

Nigeria’s ruling elite have been tactically weaponising ethnicity and religion to ascend to power. The divide and rule tactics cleverly deployed by our ruling elite have promoted and bred mistrust or animosity among Nigerians. Nigerians are more concerned about the faith or tribe of the candidates during elections than competence.

But Nigeria is a secular country. Section 10 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, states that the federal or state governments should not adopt any religious policy. President-elect Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who picked a Muslim running mate, will be sworn in to abide by the constitution of the country. If Atiku Abubakar or Peter Obi had won the election, the same grundorm (constitution) will be their guiding principle.

Ahead of 2023 general elections, indications were that the elections will be won and lost on the basis of religious sentiment. The Muslim-Muslim ticket of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), in a polarised country like Nigeria, had pitched some Christians voters against Tinubu’s presidency.

The emergence of Peter Obi of Labour Party, a Christian from South, had whipped up religious sentiment and changed the voting pattern as witnessed in the last presidential and national assembly elections.

While Peter Obi may be guilty of “Yes Daddy” conversation with Bishop Oyedepo, other notable politicians are accused of doing same. These politicians visit imams and even babalawo to solicit their support and prayers. The only difference is that Peter Obi called for a “religious war”. This is unbecoming of his status. He forgot that, he would become a president of both Muslims and Christians had he won the election.

The use of religion in our politics is dangerous for the survival of democracy. It will retard growth and development. Though, the country’s secularism remains sacrosanct for peace, unity and equity, politicians should desist from unguarded utterances capable of setting the country on fire.

Ibrahim Mustapha,
Pambegua, Kaduna state