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Oribhabor, Adigun offer contrary views about prize

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Oke (with 10 other poets seated in the background) performing an excerpt from Heresiad, last month, at CORA-NLNG Book Party… in Lagos.

Already, organiser of Poetry in Nigeria (PIN), Mr. Eriata Oribhabor, is in celebratory mood ahead of the October 9 announcement of the winner of The Nigerian Prize for Literature 2017 in the poetry category. But he regrets that it is a winner-take-all. He would have been happier if the USD$100,000 prize money were to be shared among the three poets – Dr. Ogaga Ifowodo, Mr. Ikeogu Oke and Prof. Tanure Ojaide, who are in the last lap of the prize contest.

But a former Abuja chapter chairman of Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA), Dr. Seyi Adigun, thinks otherwise, arguing, “Prizes are meant to be won, not to be shared.”

“For the record, I’m already in celebration mood for several reasons for which celebration of poetry is central,” Oribhabor said on his Facebook social media page last week. “Whoever wins is a win for poetry and Nigeria Liquified Natural Gas (NLNG) company must be appreciated for initiating this prize.”

Aware that his plea may go unheeded, he has, however, offered what he called “fresh perspectives to whoever becomes the winner: Don’t celebrate like the popular politician, who forgets or denigrates his constituency and constituents, identify viable poetry promoting bodies and lend support to one or two towards continual growth and development of poetry reading, writing and performance in the country. Poets in Nigeria (PIN) is currently in the vanguard of this and willing to offer logistic support if called upon. Apart from PIN, there are several others too many to mention here. Contact any of them.

“Apart from giving financial token of support to selected groups as suggested above, consider printing thousands of copies of your book and make them available to people via established and functional literary bodies, arrange for a book tour of Nigeria. The prize money is for you but “not for you alone.” Think about this, this is not a licence to “chop and clean mouth” or “chop alone”. Spread the message of poetry. Join the Renaissance, consider supporting literary residencies or any book, arts and literary festival of your choice, let Nigerians and the world know that poets are decent humans always wishing the best for society, and even if you didn’t mean it, pretend that the money is secondary. Let creativity be the winner. More creativity would be unleashed via the way and manner you choose to spend the money.”

However, Adigun agreed with Oribhabor’s latter submission that poetry should win, when he noted, “The somewhat perpendicular debates about this particular prize should rather be geared towards encouraging establishment of literary grants to attend to such concerns as workshops, mentorship, publishing and institution of more literary Prizes by various entities.”

Oribhabor hs already congratulated the prospective winner, adding, “We are waiting to see how he (the winner) would spend the prize money. There is no best time of making a loud difference.”



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