Religious War: PRNigeria Fact-Checks Obi, Oyedebo Phone Conversation Over 2023 Election
The Presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP), Mr Peter Obi, has been caught on tape trying to provoke religious sentiments through the ballot.
According to a leaked audio released by People’s Gazette, Obi called Bishop David Oyedepo, the founder of the Living Faith Church Worldwide, on the eve of the February 25 presidential election, urging the man of God to reach out to all Christian groups across the country on his behalf.
Describing the election as a religious war, Obi begged Oyedepo to call the Christian groups in Kwara, Kogi and Niger so he could win the election and make Christendom proud.
“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. “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.
“We look forward to God’s intervention,” Mr Oyedepo said, promising to circulate more messages to Christians on Mr Obi’s behalf.
While the audio has generated controversy on social media with many Nigerians doubting its authenticity, PR-Nigeria embarked on a robust fact-check to ascertain if any of the Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools was used to fake the voices of the duo.
(The Fact-Check link: https://prnigeria.com/2023/04/02/fact-check-obi-oyedepo-phone/)
Using speech recognition freeware, PRNigeria extracted the audio clips and compared both voices against their publicly known voice, and made interesting findings.
“While, Artificial Intelligence (AI) software can be used to mimick 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.”
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,” the fact-check report said.
PRNigeria team also subjected the audio to a deepfake test using Deepware scanner, an AI tool used to detect alterations in audios and videos and found that AI was not used in generating or modifying the voices.
To cross examine its findings, PRNigeria sent the audio to three voice recognition experts (working in an intelligence service, forensic agency and 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.”
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.”After digital and forensic investigations, the leaked phone conversation did not show any evidence of using deepfake AI technology to manipulate people into believing that Mr Obi declared the election a religious war and begged Mr Oyedepo to help him canvass for votes along religious lines.
“PRNigeria therefore concludes that the leaked phone conversation is to a very large extent, FACTUAL,” the fact-check concluded.
Obi had come third in the poll even though he won in Christian dominated areas of southeast, parts of south-south, Abuja, Nasarawa and Plateau states.
He and his supporters have however claimed that he won and he is presently in court challenging the declaration of Bola Ahmed Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress (APC) as President-elect.