173 writers enter for the Nigerian prize for literature
A total of 173 prose fiction works by Nigerian writers at home and abroad are in the race for The Nigerian Prize for Literature 2016 edition. This marks the beginning of another circle of the four-year rotation of the prize among the four literary genres – prose, poetry, drama and children’s literature. The prize, worth $100,000, was announced last week Wednesday at a media briefing held by the Advisory Board and Bonny Island-based sponsors of the prize, Nigeria Liquified Natural Gas (NLNG) company.
Communications and Public Affairs Manager, Mr. Tony Okonedo, said his company has been vindicated in instituting the 12 years old prize to add a measure of excellence to Nigerian life.
As he put it, “over the last 12 years, we’ve made no mistake in awarding the prize on the basis of excellence, as excellence and integrity have been the watchword for the prize. With the 173 entries received, we have a robust and thorough competition.”
Okonedo commended the Advisory Board made up of Professors Ayo Banjo (chairman), Ben Elugbe and Jerry Agada for its steadfastness and support, adding, “The board has been a rock of support for the prize.”
He also praised the panel of judges – Professors Dan Izevbaye (chairman, Bowen University, Iwo), Isidore Diala (Imo State University, Owerri) and Asabe Kabir Usman (Usman Danfodiyo University, Sokoto) – for being men and woman of integrity, honour and excellence for helping to extend the frontiers of the written word.
Emeritus Professor Banjo commended the commitment of Nigeria’s foremost gas company, NLNG, to the prize and for blazing the trail that other companies have followed in instituting prizes for literature in country. He re-emphasised the guiding principles of the prize to be excellence, which he said would not be compromised.
The Emeritus Professor noted that except for one or two years – 2009 and 2015 – when the prize was not awarded, because of poor entries, the prize has had worthy winners.
Banjo still agonized over last year’s no-winner verdict on children’s literature category, noting, “Children’s literature appears to be the weakest link.”
The chairman also canvased for literature to be made a staple in Nigeria’s dietary system, noting that literature can help in the fight against corruption in its humanizing values, “Our country needs the cultural reinforcement this prize offers. How has all our wealth been used? We hear mind-bogging sums that are alleged to have been stolen everyday. So, you need cultural reinforcement and morality in terms of good conduct and good conscience in the people who run the affairs of state for more transparency. That good conduct that modifies behaviour is what consumption of literature can bring to any society”.
On his part, Izevbaye promised the commitment of his team to delivering a good prize this year and commended NLNG for promoting literary culture in the country. He restated the importance of literature to individuals and the community, adding, “Literature makes important contributions to people and the community. It points to the shortcomings of society”.
Izevbaye also said he and his team were “not new to excellence and integrity; these and nothing else will decide the prize.”Also, two entries were received for the Literary Criticism category, which was first won in 2014 by one of the current judges, Diala. The External Assessor for this year’s prize is a professor of English at University of Legon, Ghana, Kojo Senanu.