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2023 Election As Religious War? Obi’s Leaked Phone Conversation With Bishop Oyedepo, Factual – Fact-check Reveals

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Claim: In a leaked private phone conversation published by Peoples Gazette, an alleged voice of Peter Obi, the Presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP) in the 2023 general election could be heard begging Bishop David Oyedepo, the founder of the Living Faith Church Worldwide, to help canvass Christian votes on the eve of Nigeria’s presidential election, describing it as a “religious war.”

Full Text: The release of the leaked phone conversation has generated heated controversy online, especially on the Twitter handle of the Gazzette with over 6.9m views, 2,768 retweets, 6,211 likes, 4,103 quotes and 1812 bookmarks at the time of this fact-check on Sunday morning April 2, 2023 at 12pm.
Audio-leak: conversation between Peter Obi and Bishop Oyedepo
Audio-leak: conversation between Peter Obi and Bishop Oyedepo

In the alleged leaked audio, Mr Obi, 61, while speaking with Bishop David Oyedepo of Living Faith Church (Winners’ Chapel) allegedly on the eve of the election implored him to pass messages to Christians across the South-West — and also to those in north-central states like Kwara, Kogi and Niger.

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“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,” he added.

“I believe that, I believe that, I believe that,” Mr Oyedepo replied in a measured and conscious manner that was not incriminating.

“Like I keep saying: if this works, you people will never regret the support,” Mr Obi said with candour and excitement adding that Christians in places like Kogi, Kwara and Niger had been difficult to penetrate.

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“We look forward to God’s intervention,” Mr Oyedepo said, promising to circulate more messages to Christians on Mr Obi’s behalf.

Before the publication on Saturday, the Gazette stated that it sent enquiry with the full audio to Obi, media aides including Akin Osuntokun, Valentine Obienyem and Mike Ifedi. They all declined comments.

On the other hand, 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.

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Meanwhile, on Sunday morning, a spokesperson of Obi-Datti Campaign team, Mr Diran Onifade dismissed the audio recording as a desperate attempt by the All Progressives Congress (APC) to hold and retain power,.

Similarly, Bishop David Oyedepo in his reaction after the publication told a congregation in his church that he had never campaigned for any politician or spoken on their behalf to anybody during any election in 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 undertones.

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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.

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Religion was widely believed to have taken center stage in the run off to the 2023 general election after Bola Tinubu, Presidential candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) tapped a fellow Muslim running mate.

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.

Verification: Using speech recognition freeware, PRNigeria extracted the audio clips and compared both voices against their publicly known voices. While Artificial Intelligence (AI) software can be used to mimic any voice after a few seconds of listening to it, Peter Obi’s Voice returned 93% accuracy after listening to it while Oyedepo’s voice returned with 84% accuracy level when PRNigeria subjected the audio to the speech recognition test.

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Further investigations by PRNigeria show that this can be done using Microsoft’s Vall-E, a text-to-speech AI Model that can recreate and match any sample audio it’s been provided with. It can also change the tonality from happy to sad to angry.

While it may be unfathomable for calls to initiate recording on dial, it is possible for the same calls to be intercepted by hackers or intelligence sources.

PRNigeria, therefore, subjected the audio to a deepfake test using Deepware scanner, an AI tool used to detect alterations in audio and videos and found that AI was not used in generating or modifying the voices.

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To cross-examine its findings, PRNigeria sent the audio to three voice recognition experts (working in an intelligence service, forensic agency and a private consultant) for authentication and they separately confirmed that the voices were factual.

PRNigeria went on further to verify some of the claims made during the conversation. For example, Mr Oyedepo told Obi at exactly 1:16mins into the conversation that he did a review titled “Nigeria Going Forward” and he was coming out with the second one “today…when they wouldn’t have time to do damage control.” A quick online check confirmed this.

Similarly, when Bishop Oyedepo asked Mr Peter Obi if he was in Lagos or Abuja, Mr Obi responded, “I am in Onitsha now.”

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With the dictionary definition of “eve” meaning, “the day or period of time immediately before an event or occasion, PRNigeria confirmed that Obi was indeed in Onitsha on the eve of the elections when the conversation took place and he had tweeted this himself on the 23rd February stating, “I’ve just arrived in Onitsha for several engagements, including my meeting with the United Nations Team visiting Nigeria.- PO.”

Conclusion: Conclusive results from PRNigeria’s digital and forensic investigation of the leaked phone conversation did not show any evidence of using deepfake AI technology to manipulate Nigeria’s news circle into believing that Mr Obi declared the election a religious war and begged Mr Oyedepo to help him canvass for votes.

PRNigeria, therefore, concludes that the leaked phone conversation is to a very large extent FACTUAL.

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(This report was done by PRNigeria, excluding headline)

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