Monday, 25th September 2023

From phone leak to treason charge, Obi stirs fresh controversy with London arrest

By Tope Templer Olaiya (Lagos) and Ameh Ochojila (Abuja)
13 April 2023   |   4:15 am
Reactions have continued to trail the arrest of the Labour Party’s (LP) presidential candidate, Peter Obi, in London, United Kingdom, over alleged impersonation.

Nigeria’s Labour Party Presidential Candidate, Peter Obi, adjust his glasses during a press briefing on the outcome of the 2023 Nigeria presidential and general election in Abuja on March 2, 2023. – Peter Obi announced on March 2, 2023 he would challenge the outcome of Nigeria’s fiercely fought presidential elections after official results awarded victory to the ruling party’s champion, Bola Tinubu. (Photo by KOLA SULAIMON / AFP)

• LP: London immigration officers harass, detain Obi at Heathrow
• Ohanaeze: Plots against Obi will fail • APC asks tribunal to dismiss PDP, Atiku’s petition 
• Sowore: Something fishy going on • Turkey’s president congratulates Tinubu
• We didn’t supply BVAS to INEC, APC replies Atiku
• Keyamo: Judges cannot be intimidated by ‘fascist youth movement’

Reactions have continued to trail the arrest of the Labour Party’s (LP) presidential candidate, Peter Obi, in London, United Kingdom, over alleged impersonation.

Obi was in the media spotlight, yesterday, for reasons other than the elections, after it was revealed that he was detained for impersonation. Apex Igbo socio-cultural body, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, has condemned last week’s reported attempt to arrest Obi, in London, slamming it as a move by political enemies.

Earlier, a famous Mass Communication scholar, and Deputy Vice Chancellor of Paul University, Awka, who is also a confidant of Obi, Prof. Chinyere Okunna, disclosed this yesterday on her Facebook page. Confirming the incident, Head of the Obi-Datti Media, Diran Onifade, disclosed how Obi was, last week, detained in London by UK immigration officials for alleged impersonation.

Though announcing that Obi had since returned to Nigeria, Onifade said: “The LP presidential candidate arrived at the Heathrow Airport in London, from Nigeria on Good Friday, April 7, and joined the queue for the necessary airport protocols when he was accosted by immigration officials, who handed him a detention note and told him to step aside.”

According to the statement, Obi was harassed and placed in detention where he spent the Easter holidays. “He was questioned for a long time, and it was very strange for a man, who lived for over a decade in that country.”

Onifade explained that the high implication of the offence is that the impersonator could be committing all kinds of weighty crimes, and other dubious acts, and it would be recorded in Obi’s name.

He emphasised that since the impersonator is still at large, the scenario is unimaginable as Obi could be implicated in a series of forbidden acts and even be framed in a manner that could be a huge embarrassment to him, his family, his party, the Obidient movement, and Nigeria.

Onifade insinuated a possible plot against Obi by the Federal Government, accusing it of bugging Obi’s phone while possibly looking for information to portray him badly before a section of the country.

“There have been several attacks on him from all corners since Obi went to court to challenge the result of the presidential election. Even the Federal Government, which directed him to go to court, dispatched the Minister of Information, Lai Mohammad, to the United States to attempt to de-market and accused him of treason.

“As if they were not getting the desired results of denting his image, they tried to persuade him to leave the country and go take a rest,” he said, adding that it is also not impossible that those urging him to leave the country may have planted the impersonators ostensibly to tarnish his image.

In the last two weeks, Obi has been in the eye of the storm, just as he has been doggedly pursuing his case at the election tribunal. On April 1, a conversation purportedly between him and the Founder of Living Faith Church Worldwide, Bishop David Oyedepo, had suggested how the LP presidential candidate, in last-minute push for votes, had begged Oyedepo to canvass for votes from Christians, tagging the election as a ‘religious war’.

On April 4, the Federal Government accused Obi and his running mate, Yusuf Datti Baba-Ahmed of post-election threats that may put them at risk of treason charges. On Tuesday, a coalition of Northern elders called for the arrest of Obi and Datti for making inciting comments.

Reacting, Ohanaeze said any plot to embarrass and pull down Obi, because he had decided to legally pursue the mandate believed to have been given him by Nigerians, will continue to fail.

“The sole aim of faking Obi’s identity was to use his name to commit crime in London and other parts of the world so as to get him implicated in dubious and criminal activities and rope him into any number of offences to get him out of the political space,” Ohanaeze said through its National Publicity Secretary, Dr. Alex Chidozie Ogbonnia.

But for Omoyele Sowore, presidential candidate of the African Action Congress (AAC), Obi’s detention by UK immigration is ‘fishy’. Questioning the authenticity of the incident, Sowore tweeted: “There is something suspicious about Obi’s UK immigration story, because I don’t see how a modern biometric passport with his fingerprints and biometric identity could lead to his being seen as an ‘impersonator’ or a clone. More curious is why he’s sending third parties to tell half of the story. Something fishy is going on!”

MEANWHILE, while litigations continue over the outcome of the presidential election, President of Turkey, Tayyip Erdoğan, on Wednesday, congratulated the President-elect, Bola Tinubu, for winning the election.

Erdogan’s goodwill message is coming on the heel of similar ones from President Xi Jinping of China, United Kingdom Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak; his counterpart in Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, and France President, Emmanuel Macron, among other global leaders.

In his congratulatory letter, Erdoğan, who described Tinubu as a brother, called for mutual cooperation and partnership that would deepen the friendly tie between Turkey and Nigeria.

The Turkish president underscored the importance of Nigeria as the “strongest nation on the African continent” while wishing the President-elect a successful tenure of office that will usher in progress for the people of Nigeria.

“I believe that as our strategic partner, Nigeria, under your leadership, will continue its course to a prosperous future. Türkiye attaches great importance to improving its relations with Nigeria, as the strongest nation in the African continent,” he said.

Yesterday, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) prayed the Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC) in Abuja to dismiss the petition filed by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, challenging the election of Tinubu in the February 25 poll. APC, in response to a petition filed by PDP and Atiku, said the petition is generic, vague and lacks merit. 

In the notice of preliminary objection by the APC lead counsel, Lateef Fagbemi, the party challenged the court’s jurisdiction to hear the petition on the grounds that it is, among others, lacking in facts.

The petitioners stated in their petition that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) wrongly returned Tinubu as winner of the election, allocating to him 8,794,726 votes.

Setting out the grounds of the petition by the petitioners’ lead counsel, Joe-Kyari Gadzama, the petitioners stated that Tinubu’s election is invalid by reason of non-compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act, 2022, corrupt practices and that Tinubu was not duly elected by majority of lawful votes cast at the election. They added that INEC failed to comply with its own guidelines to transmit results and accreditation data directly and real-time to the IReV and its electronic collation system/storage device before the hasty return and announcement of Tinubu as the winner.

HOWEVER, in a fresh suit, APC has tackled Atiku, accusing him of raising spurious and wild allegations in his bid to discredit INEC. The ruling party said there was no truth in Atiku’s allegation that its leadership was involved in the supply of Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS), machines that INEC deployed for the conduct of the general elections. APC said it was not aware that INEC procured the BVAS machines from a company belonging to one of its members, Senator Muhammed Sani Musa.

“That even if Musa is a director of Actirate Technologies Limited, he has nothing to do with the operations and day-to-day activities of the company,” APC said in a written statement on oath it filed to counter Atiku’s petition against Tinubu.

The party further dismissed Atiku’s claim that INEC compromised by awarding contract for the production of sensitive materials that were used for the general elections to a company owned by one of its chieftains.

Even though it admitted that a firm linked to its governorship candidate in Adamawa State, Aisha Dalhatu, got the contract to supply electoral materials to INEC, the ruling party insisted that the said contract did not affect the outcome of the 2023 general elections.

While praying the court to dismiss Atiku’s petition, APC argued that the presidential election that was won by Tinubu “met all the requirements of a credible election and reflected the will of the Nigerian electorate.”

Spokesperson of the Tinubu/Kashim Shettima Presidential Campaign, Festus Keyamo, said the judiciary will not be intimidated by any “fascist movement.” Keyamo stated this in a Twitter post yesterday, alleging that some “young wannabes” were bullying the judiciary, adding that a cross-section of youths have been issuing threats since the comments by the LP vice-presidential candidate, Yusuf Datti Baba-Ahmed.

Baba-Ahmed recently stated that the inauguration of the former Lagos governor would be against the Constitution. “We cannot have a President-elect when there has been a constitutional breach; swearing in Tinubu is as good as swearing in a military regime,” Datti Baba-Ahmed said.

In reaction, Keyamo warned “young and inexperienced ‘revolutionary wannabes, who think they can intimidate our judiciary, goaded on by the now infamous interview of Baba Datti Ahmed. They should simply check the history of all dictators, both military and civilian, who tried to mess with our judiciary and how they ended up.”

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