The candidates of Nigeria’s leading political parties in the February 25 presidential election risk jail terms if probed and eventually prosecuted over the contents and directions of their campaigns in the run-up to the fiercely-fought electoral contest.
A review of the campaigns of Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Peter Obi of the Labour Party (LP) and Bola Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress (APC) indicates that the candidates engaged in either ethnic, sectional or religious-motivated pitch for votes ahead of the election, in what is a clear violation of Nigeria’s electoral law.
In April, Peter Obi’s secret telephone conversation with David Oyedebo, a highly influential Nigerian pastor, and founder of the Living Faith Church, was leaked. In the audio, Peter Obi was heard declaring the 25 February presidential election a religious war and Mr Oyedepo was heard replying “I believe that” repeatedly.
Before that telephone conversation on the eve of the presidential election, Peter Obi had been serially accused of campaigning along religious lines, targeting churches with thousands of followers. He denied the charges but his political steps proved the contrary.
In June 2022, for example, Mr Obi asked Nigerians to “take back” their country during a campaign visit to the ‘Men of Valour’ conference, organised by the Revival House of International Church (RHOGIC), Abuja.
At the conference themed ‘Navigating the Corridors of Power, the Church, and the Politics’, Peter Obi described Nigeria’s political space as an “asylum”, urging Nigerians not to allow the status quo to continue.
But Peter Obi is not alone in the deployment of religious, sectional or ethic sentiments for political campaigns. The two other leading presidential candidates, Bola Tinubu of APC and Atiku Abubakar of PDP, also adopted similar patterns of campaigns.