By HENRY AKUBUIRO
One hundred and eighty-four (184) entries will compete for the 2017 edition of Nigeria LNG Limited-sponsored The Nigeria Prize for Literature focused on Poetry, Nigeria LNG Limited revealed early in the week at a formal ceremony in Lagos to hand over the entries to the Advisory Board of the prize.
The hand-over of the entries to the Advisory Board, chaired by Professor Emeritus Ayo Banjo, signifies the beginning of the judging process, which culminates in the announcement of the winner in October 2017.
Handing over the entries, NLNG’s General Manager, External Relations, Dr Kudo Eresia-Eke, said the prize has inspired some 1,630 books of which 533, representing 32%, were submitted in the Poetry category since the inception of the prize in 2004.
“The number of entries for the 2017 edition exceeded the 2016 numbers, showing a six percent rise in the number of entries received and increasing interest in one of the biggest literary prize in the world. This has been the trend since 2005.
“We believe that the prize has inspired writers to want to deliberately win the prize. This has led to the proliferation of books and increased the quality of books. The spiralling effect of this is the boost to literacy and education in the country, the foundation of cultural and socio-economic revolution. The impact of the prize is easily discernible and we believe that it supports our vision to help build a better Nigeria,” he remarked.
The entries, which came in response to a call for entry published in the national dailies in February 2017, will be examined on their merits of excellence in language, creativity and book quality.
The entries were immediately handed over to the panel of judges led by Professor Ernest Emenyonu. a professor of Africana Studies at the University of Michigan-Flint. He was Deputy Vice-Chancellor, University of Calabar between 1988 and 1990, and Provost (Chief Executive) Alvan Ikoku College of Education, Owerri, between 1992 and 1996. He has taught in several Nigerian and American universities.
Other judges are Dr Razinat Mohammed and Tade Ipadeola. Dr Mohammed is an Associate Professor of Literature at the University of Maiduguri. She teaches African Literature with specialization in Feminist Literary Criticism and Theoretical Approaches. She is an accomplished writer as well. Tade Ipadeola won the Nigeria Prize for Literature in 2013 in the Poetry category with his third volume of poetry, The Sahara Testament. A poet and a lawyer, Ipadeola has won several awards and is a resource person for the Rockefeller Foundation around Africa on building resilience.
This year’s award will run concurrently with NLNG’s Prize for Literary Criticism for which only five entries were received for this year’s competition. Introduced in 2013, the literary criticism prize is a yearly award and carries a monetary value of N1 million.
Members of the Advisory Board for the Literature Prize, besides Professor Banjo, two-time Vice-Chancellor of Nigeria’s premier university, University of Ibadan, are Prof. Jerry Agada and former Minister of State for Education, former President of the Association of Nigerian Authors; and Professor Emeritus Ben Elugbe, former President of the Nigerian Academy of Letters and president of the West-African Linguistic Society (2004-2013).
The Nigeria Prize for Literature has since 2005 rewarded eminent writers such as Gabriel Okara (co-winner, 2005, poetry), Professor Ezenwa Ohaeto (co-winner, 2005, poetry); Ahmed Yerima (2006, drama) for his classic, Hard Ground; Mabel Segun (co-winner, 2007, children’s literature) for her collection of short plays Reader’s Theatre; Professor Akachi Adimora-Ezeigbo (co-winner, 2007, children’s literature) with her book, My Cousin Sammy; 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, Sahara Testaments and Sam Ukala (2014;Drama) with Iredi War.
The Nigeria Prize for Literature, Africa’s most prestigious literary award with a cash reward of $100,000, rotates yearly amongst four literary categories of prose fiction, poetry, drama and children’s literature.