By Damiete Braide
The Grand BallRoom, Eko Hotel & Suites, Victoria Island, Lagos, was agog last Sunday as the 11 authors on the longlist for the 2021 Nigeria Prize for Literature Award, kept the audience glued to their seats as they discussed their works and what inspired them to write their works.
The book party was organised by Nigerian Liquified Natural Gas (NLNG), in collaboration with Committee for Relevant Arts (CORA) Book Party to celebrate the 11 authors on the longlist for the Nigeria Prize for Literature Award, 2021 Edition.
The 11 authors and their works were Tony Nwaka (Mountain of Yesterday), Cheluchi Onyemelukwe (The Son of The House), Chuwkudi Eze (The Return of Half-Something), Obinna Udenwe (Colours of Hatred), Obianuju Veronica Chukwuorji (Delusions of the Patriots), Samuel Money (Give Us Each Day). Others are Anaele Ihuoma (Imminent River), Abi Dare (The Girl With The Louding Voice), Lucy Okwuma (Neglected), Olukorede Sadiq Yishau (In The Name Of Our Father), and Law Ikay Eze (My Church Your Shrine).
Toyin Akinosho, Secretary General, CORA, in his address of welcome, said, “This afternoon, we’d be discussing a range of texts in the novel form, a genre that arguably commands more respect than any of the genres in the literary arts firmament.
“We know of podcast recordings of conversations between authors and moderators; we are aware of mailed excerpts of new books; we know of grand launchings. But nothing beats a book reading; an event at which an author sits and discusses his work with readers in the room.”
Eyono Fatayi-Williams, General Manager, External Relations, NLNG, said the event provided him some sense of relief and upliftment, knowing that the Nigeria LNG-sponsored literature and science prizes were back on course after COVID-19 pandemic stalled the call for entries for the 2020 edition of the competitions.
“The Book Party has assumed a life of its own in the administration of the prize, as it showcases to Nigerians the top eleven books for each competition year. Although the competition was truncated last year following the restrictions occasioned by the pandemic which hampered submission of entries within the allowed window, we still found the courage to organise the Book Party, given the huge derivable value that connecting hearts and minds offers our creative thoughts. Even though it was a virtual party, that outing in 2020 was quite interesting and encouraging as it featured presentations from past winners and eminent literary icons in the country.
Fatayi-Williams observed that with this volume of work inspired by the prize within the past 16 years, Nigeria LNG had used The Nigeria Prize for Literature to stimulate interest in writing and publishing excellent works. The prize, he added, had also contributed to popularising Nigerian literature in the global literary community, as our celebrated works compared favourably with other distinguished works of literature around the world in terms of content presentation style, structure, and packaging. The session was moderated by Rufai Oseni. Tony Nwaka said he started writing when he turned 50, and was spurred on by my commentators on social media to write his novel, while Lucy Okwuma said her work “is about mental problems in society and how people can find solutions to them.”
Olukorede Yishau initially wrote his novel at 24 and kept it for 15 years. But, in 2017, a friend who read it saw the quality in it, and he decided to publish it in 2018.
Anaele Ihuoma described his novel as “a love story which has both historical angle and medical context” and “We are critical animals where things are happening, and we have social challenges confronting us.” Obinna Udenwe said his work was a story about an average family, what they went through and how they were able to succeed. “It is also about hatred which the family experienced in the society,” he added.
Chukwudi Eze described his work as “a beautiful love story” and his book “takes complex issues and gives the reader beautiful resolution.”
Obianuju Veronica said she wrote the draft of her book as a teenager, while Law Ikay wrote his novel in two months, because the ideas were flowing. Cheluchi Onyemelukwe, a lawyer, said her book “is about two women from two different backgrounds, and I tried to explore the place of women in different perspectives.” In her vote of thanks, Dr Sophia Horsfall, Manager, Corporate Communications and Public Affairs, NLNG said, “Our interaction tonight brought to life the value of literature to our reading community, enlightenment, entertainment, and education. Listening to the respective authors of the shortlist of eleven, one can tell that these fresh narratives are capable of eliciting scholars and readers’ interest in the books.
“ At this juncture, I must commend Nigerian writers for continuously and ambitiously raising the bar towards winning the $100,000 prize money which The Nigeria Prize for Literature offers and other reputable international prizes as well. And to the top eleven authors, this Book Party sponsored by Nigeria LNG, in partnership with the Committee for Relevant Art (CORA), demonstrates how seriously we take writing and literature and how much we value your submissions.
“Coming this far in the competition also attests to your excellent writing skills. Thank you for keeping faith in The Nigeria Prize for Literature by submitting your entries for the competition. We at Nigeria LNG are proud of you, and we celebrate your prowess in the industry.”