BY CHARLES KUMOLU,
Until recently, Cally Ikpe’s name was synonymous with two things: Live Beats and Nigeria Music Video Awards. The former is reputed as Nigeria’s longest-running entertainment programme. In the mid-nineties and the first decade of this century, you only need the show to announce your arrival on the entertainment scene. Today, with his platform, Violence Free World Project, VFWP, Cally Ikpe is using his fame and reach to fight against the underlying causes of violence across the country. Apart from the TV show, Talking Violence which airs on AIT, Ben TV, London and other channels, the VFWP, hosts advocacy programmes across Nigeria. Cally Ikpe sheds light on the project and as well, his transition from entertainment TV host to nonviolence advocate.
You made your mark as an Entertainment TV host. Today, you are known as a peace advocate. What informed the transition?
While I did my entertainment thing, especially at a later stage, I also did some advocacies. Essentially, I used the entertainment platforms to advance the good culture which for me is non-violence in all spheres. It started with asking artistes to play responsibly, especially on playing down on obscenity and denigration of women in their lyrics and videos.
Did that succeed?
At least it began to register in their subconsciousness that they have to shun such works that were brazen in celebrating negative
traits. The works include violence in all forms including lewdness and raunchy clips among others. This ultimately made me embrace the non-violence advocacy to the point that introduced an entirely anti-violence show known as Talking Violence which is-broadcast on the AIT network, Ben TV, London and other channels.
In specific terms, what do you seek to achieve with the Violence Free World Project, VFW?
Evil thrives when good people stay quiet in the face of lingering disorder. The spate of killings in Nigeria has reached an alarming proportion and it is beginning to look like normal. I am more bothered that the youths are targeted either as perpetrators or victims. I believe it is important to engage their psyche by speaking directly to them using platforms that they may find appealing. We used the annual Nigeria Music and Video Awards in 2016 when we along with the Ooni of Ife, staged what we called the Peace Icons Awards. Chief Emeka Anyaoku was our peace icon and he did a great job talking to the youths and other music enthusiasts in attendance. We intend to take this further by engaging in a tour around the country to reach out to some through town-hall meetings, symposia and media tour.
From your experience so far anchoring the show, what would you say are the reasons for the pronounced violent crimes across Nigeria?
Financial insecurity, deprivation, injustice, and lack of genuine commitment on the part of the country’s leadership at federal, state and local levels are some of the reasons violence seems to be offering an alternative to perpetrators. The hungry and idle man is a ready arsenal in the hands of terror merchants. That is why he takes extreme initiative.
There is also this factor I call corporate conspiracy. It is a situation where people in authority use their positions clandestinely to orchestrate violence in order to benefit from it materially and politically. You can imagine how vindicated I felt when recently the immediate past Minister of Defence, accused traditional rulers in Zamfara State of colluding with bandits to terrorizes the state.
Do you think there is a nexus between the kidnapping, other forms of commercial crimes and policies of deprivation and exploitation?
Kidnapping for ransom and armed robbery are about the most common forms of violence which have become forms of business for many people.
Is it poverty induced? I will say to a large extent, yes, except that it has grown into a way of life. Kidnapping and armed robbery are just as bad as cybercrimes, bank fraud and embezzlement of public funds by government officials. In other climes, the death penalty is a consequence for any of these absurdities.
From the rhetoric of most of the people you had on your show do you see a leadership class that is willing to tackle all forms of insecurity?
Honestly, No. It takes much more than pronouncement and prescription of lethal consequences to check the spate of violence. As long as there are no provisions to ameliorate the condition of the suffering masses, crime and acts of violence will continue as a consequence of bad leadership.
What kind of non-violence agenda do you set for your interviewees?
I urge them to demonstrate genuine commitment by prioritising the welfare of the common man. They have to cut down on frivolities that glorify their offices. They should cut waste and just find the resources to invest in the people. Also, as a leader at any level, if you condone impunity as to playing the blind and deaf to people, who engage in provocative acts, you are, indeed, part of the problem. This culture of always opting for political solutions like the over abused amnesty measures are only serving to exacerbate the already ugly situation.
Beyond bringing important people to your show, do you have other non-violence programmes that focus on the youths, who are mainly the tools for spreading violence?
Yes, our annual Nigeria Music and Video Awards is now fixated on promoting the culture of non-violence as may be expressed through lyrics and videos. The celebrity peace ambassadors will help drive home the message of peace to our teaming young audience. I mentioned earlier that we have as a strategy, the engagement sessions through media tour, symposia and town-hall meetings across the length and breadth of Nigeria. Please, note too that we are operating fully as an NGO, Ours is known as Youth Culture and Human Dignity Initiative. We are accordingly levelling with many other such bodies to make our message much more impactful.
Do you agree that the level of organised crime in the country constitutes an existential threat?
Our very existence as a nation on the account of these unrelenting attacks hangs on the precipice. International terrorist organisations
Like ISWAP is making an incursion into our territories in a manner that is very dangerous. They are cashing in on the gap that poor governance has brought about. They pretend to provide for the people, show care and ultimately win their sympathy and loyalty. But in reality, there is a challenge of capacity. A drive around the country would reveal the non-government presence in many parts. This is what you see: No portable water, no electricity, no good schools, and failed roads.
These areas are more like free territories for bandits and terrorists who use them as training grounds. Seriously, our issues are frightening. We are like a time bomb waiting to explode but the good news is that a coordinated response is possible. What is required is the will.