Nigeria Prize for Literature: 3 Writers Battle For $100,000


- As the race for the eventual winner of the $100,000 Nigeria Prize for Literature gets hotter, three authors have been shortlisted for the event scheduled to take place in Abuja on October 11.

Chairman of the Advisory Board of The Nigeria Prize for Literature, Prof Ayo Banjo, and the panel of judges announced Jude Idada’s Boom Boom, Dunni Olatunde’s Mystery at Ebenezer Lodge and O.T. Begho’s The Great Walls of Benin as the hot contenders

The chairman disclosed that the journey of the 2019 edition of the Nigeria Prize for Literature started in March 2019 when the call for entries in the category of Children’s Literature, the genre in focus, was announced.

Last month, 11 books for the first shortlist was announced, and, one of the books, based on the verdict of the judges, and the advice of an international consultant, Professor Kelvin Nyong Toh, a professor of English at University of Bamenda, Cameroun, will become the winning entry for the 2019 edition of the prize in October.

According to the judges, the book, Boom Boom, is narrated through the eyes of an innocent child as he struggles with the bond of relationships, love, affection, friendship, loyalty and trust in times of crisis. It also gives Sickle Cell Anaemia immense clarity in an absorbing and engulfing narrative.

The main proposition of the novel, said the judges, is that nature inflicts pain, but has also made provision for its succour and cure. This solution is however hidden in a complex web of natural and social circumstances that human beings must unravel. The novel is an experiment in pursuit of this objective.

In Mystery at Ebenezer Lodge, the judges see links or inter-textual relations between the work and that of “The Famous Five,” a popular children’s thriller and adventure series by the renowned English author, Enid Blyton. However, the book cleverly domesticates the plot and temperament of Blyton’s series, taking existing and dominant stories out of their familiar western terrains, resetting and localising them.

Continuing, the judges said, the book is suitable for children as the actions can easily be adapted by children to suit any situation. The storyline can help children to create a sense of right or wrong.

The Great Walls of Benin, said the judges, promotes indigenous knowledge by focusing children’s attention on myths of origin. The book upholds the role of oral literature as an effective tool for disseminating knowledge to children. Using origin myth as tool, the author creates an imagery setting which carries one into a world of fantasy that can be understood and appreciated by children. It, among other things, preaches unity, trust, togetherness and understanding.

The judges describe these books as highly didactic, yet coated in an absorbing and engaging narrative. The style of writing exhibited in these books is suitable for children and gives clarity to the vicissitudes of life, spurs healthy curiosity, builds problem-solving skills as well as promotes the role of oral literature as an effective tool for disseminating knowledge to children.

The winning entry will be announced at an award ceremony on the October 11, 2019.

In the same vein, Manager, Corporate Communications and Public Affairs, Sophia Horsfall adds that The Nigeria Prize for Literature rotates yearly among four literary genres: prose fiction, poetry, drama and children’s literature and next year’s competition will focus on prose fiction.

Nigeria LNG Limited remains committed to responsible corporate citizenship, and The Nigeria Prize for Literature is one of its numerous contributions towards building a better Nigeria.

The judges for this year’s prize include Professor Obodimma Oha, a professor of Cultural Semiotics and Stylistics in the Department of English, University of Ibadan; Professor Asabe Usman Kabir, professor of Oral and African Literatures at Usmanu Danfodiyo University Sokoto and Dr. Patrick Oloko, a Senior Lecturer at the University of Lagos, who specialises in African Post-colonial Literature, Gender and Cultural Studies.

The Nigeria Prize for Literature has since 2004, rewarded eminent writers such as Gabriel Okara (co-winner, 2004, poetry), Professor Ezenwa Ohaeto (co-winner, 2004, poetry) for The Dreamer, His Vision; Ahmed Yerima (2005, drama) for his classic, Hard Ground; Mabel Segun (co-winner, 2007, children’s literature) for her collection of short plays, Reader’s Theatre and Professor Akachi Adimora-Ezeigbo (co-winner, 2007, children’s literature) with her book, My Cousin Sammy.

Others are Kaine Agary (2008, prose); Esiaba Irobi (2010, drama) who clinched the prize posthumously with his book, Cemetery Road; Adeleke Adeyemi (2011, children’s literature) with his book, The Missing Clock; Chika Unigwe (2012, prose), with her novel, On Black Sister’s Street; Tade Ipadeola (2013, poetry) with his collection of poems, The Sahara Testaments; Professor Sam Ukala (2014, drama) with his play, Iredi War; Abubakar Adam Ibrahim with his novel, Season of Crimson Blossoms (2016, prose); Ikeogu Oke with his collection of poetry, The Heresiad; (2017, poetry) and Soji Cole with his play, Embers (2018, drama).