Peter Obi, the candidate of the Labour Party who finished third in the last election, made a no-show at the 71st annual convention of one of Nigeria’s largest and most influential Christian organizations, the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG).
His absence at the convention, which took place last weekend, marks a continuation of his abandonment of Christian events where, during the electoral campaign, he made dramatic appearances in perhaps a bid to increase his appeal to church worshippers.
Critics who noted the absence are repeating their accusation that Obi exploited faith and ethnicity to obtain an advantage at the polls last February.
According to them, the candidate, who had no previous records of consistent church attendance, suddenly became a front-row worshipper at prominent Christian events as a way to present himself as the ‘Christian candidate’ representing the interests of the faith in an election where the governing party, APC, paired two Muslims on its ticket, similar to what occurred in the 1993 presidential election which MKO Abiola won in a landslide.
In Lagos, Jos and other important electoral states, Obi conducted what was regarded as a “church tour” characterized by dramatic appearances, sometimes in the middle of service, and a loud announcement of his presence as if to make certain that the congregation became fully aware of his participation and show of solidarity.
He even identified with members of the ‘white garment’ Christian doctrinal groups with various supportive actions, including visits to senior clerics and figures and attendance of important spiritual events.
Notably too, his campaign was rocked by an allegation that he paid billions to selected clerics across the country to promote his candidature and rally their congregation behind him at the polls. The allegation was made by an Abuja pastor who protested the non-inclusive sharing formula adopted by the ‘cabals’ of pastors who allegedly got the largesse.
The leak of his conversation with Bishop David Oyedepo, one of Nigeria’s most prominent Christian clerics, in which he was heard to be plotting the targeting of Christians with inciting messages designed to rally their support in multiple swing states in the country, gave credence to the suspicion that Obi worked in cahoots with some Christian clerics to executive a divisive campaign strategy which cynically exploited religion.
However, as soon as the election was concluded and he finished third behind the two major candidates as widely predicted, Obi deserted church events, including the last RCCG Convention where, in an election year, he would have certainly been a front-row attendee, critics insist.