He was all smiles as he hogged the limelight late that night. Soji Cole’s play, Embers, which made the shortlist of three from an initial long list of eleven, last Friday, won this year’s edition of The Nigeria Prize for Literature organised by Nigerian Liquefied National Gas (NLNG), which held at Eko Hotel and Suites, Victoria Island. He went home $100,000 richer. The two other shortlisted writers and their works were Akanji Nasiru’s The Rally and Denja Abdullahi’s Death and the King’s Grey Hair.
The Nigeria Prize for Science was won by Dr. Peter Ngene, an assistant professor in the Inorganic Chemistry and catalysis group of the Debye Institute for Nano Materials Science, Utrecht University, The Netherlands, with his work, “Nanostructured Metal Hydrides for the Storage of Electrical Power from Renewable Energy Sources and for Explosion Prevention in High Voltage Power Transformers.”
The Nigeria Prize for Literary Criticism was won by Prof. Isidore Diala with a prize money of one million naira. Diala had previously won the award in 2014 with his work “Colonial Mimicry and Postcolonial Remembering in Isidore Okpewho’s Call Me by My Right Name.”
READ ALSO: Myles Ojabo: Every writer writes for prizes
Managing Director, NLNG, Tony Attah, in his address of welcome, said the quick check on human history and evolution of societies also showed that the development of science and literature was synonymous with substantial growth and sustenance.
“The more science and literature are advanced, the more societies grows in innovation, credibility and enlightenment, which are the essential pillars of human development. NLNG has produced many winners of whom we are very grateful and absolutely proud of.”
Attah concluded by saying, “The Nigeria Prize for Literature has contributed a lot to the literary world, and we are very proud of that achievements, despite the challenges, we believe more can still be done and should be done. There are more opportunities in the book value chain industry which are still untapped, and there are more potentials that needs to be tapped.”
The Advisory Board of the prize, headed by Emeritus Professor, Ayo Banjo, in adjudging Embers the winning entry ahead of Death and The King’s Grey Hair by Denja Abdullahi and The Rally by Akanji Nasiru, noted that the three books met the judges’ expectations and upheld the quality and excellence for which the prize stood.
Soji Cole’s Embers, he said, “is a good book of dramatic literature, which focuses on life in one of the Internally Displaced People’s (IDP) Camps in Northern Nigeria. The characters gave testimonies of their ugly encounters in Sambisa Forest, as well as their painful discovery of life in the IDP Camp.”
Appraising Denja Abdullahi’s Grey Hair, he said the work “confronts the issue of perpetuation in power, where rulers, like the king in this drama, employ all sorts of devices to cling on to power long after they have overstayed their welcome”; while Akanji Nasiru’s The Rally addresses the contemporary political theme of youth versus age.
The panel of judges was headed by Prof. Matthew Umukoro, while Prof. Mohammed Inuwa Umar-Buratai and Dr Ngozi Udengwu were members. The International Consultant to the Advisory Board for this year’s prize was Jonathan Haynes, Professor of English at Long Island University in Brooklyn.
The judges expressed their delight at the high standard of writing evident in the entries for the competition this year. In his acceptance speech, Soji, an instructor of Playwriting and Theatre Sociology at the Department of Theatre Arts, University of Ibadan, said, “I am short of words. I thank the organisers for instituting the prize. This is the literary prize that we all look for after the Nobel Prize and The Booker Prize.
“When I wrote the book and gave it to my publisher, after reading the manuscript, he said, ‘This book must be published and, to God be the glory, it was published and has won this award.” To the delight of the audience, the three shortlisted plays were performed on stage.