Gomba… The Millionaire Writer
A famous author once said: “A good story is a dream shared by the author and the reader.”
This quote best describe the passion and pursuits of Dr. Obari Gomba, a man who lives and breathes the art of storytelling. His story is that of tenacity of purpose, commitment and dedication. He has been fortunate to share his work with the world through poetry, drama and novels.
In doing so, he has shown a tenacious doggedness in poetry and writing, which has earned him so many awards. The Nigeria Prize for Literature is just a perfect seal.
“I have proved myself with different books, different years and different jury. Each of these books I have entered into the competition has gone ahead to win prizes for other competitions. My ability as a writer has been established. As I have always said to people, improvement is the largest room in the world. So, I have not come to a point in my life where I say that I don’t have to improve; there is always room for improvement. My thinking is that if I’m going to compete in this prize next year, in the next two or three years, I want to be able to put in a book that will be better than the one I have written now. That is the standard I have set for myself and I have to constantly improve myself,” he said.
Like the story of Kingston-based writer, Kwame McPherson, who won the prestigious Commonwealth Short Story Prize for 2023 after seven attempts, Gomba fate is no different; he had entered for the Nigeria Prize for Literature-sponsored by Nigeria LNG Limited (NLNG) five times before fortune smiled on him. He was listed in the Nigerian Prize for Literature for the first time in 2013.
In the last 10 years, he had been listed for this prize five times and that is a very significant record in a country with one of the most thriving literary cultures, where writers that have emerged cut across generations.
“It is exciting to tell people that the creative spirit in Nigeria is not tied to a particular age bracket, you can look at every generation and tell that Nigerians are producing works of excellence,” he said.
“Between 2013 and 2018, I was listed for the prize three times. I don’t think there is a Nigerian writer who has been listed in this prize on the Longlist of 11 or shortlist of three like me. I’m also the only Nigerian writer who has been listed back to back twice in 2017 and 2018, 2022 and 2023,” he said, while fielding question on his chances at the CORA/NLNG Prize Book Party.
“Most times, I enter the books simultaneously. The call for Nigerian Prize for Literature happens almost at the same time with the call for the Association of Nigerian Authors prizes and their longlist and shortlist come out at almost the same time and prize announcement too, but the judges are different. But you cannot take anything away from the significance of being on the list of the Nigerian Prize for Literature even if it just gives you a bragging right. It is a great platform,” he had said with pregnant expectation.
The Advisory Board for The Nigeria Prize for Literature announced ‘Grit’, which he authored as winner of the $100,000 prize for the 2023 cycle on Drama.
Professor Akachi Adimora-Ezeigbo made the announcement at the Grand Award Night ceremony in Lagos, last Friday.
His winning book beat two others on the shortlist of three. The other listed books include, ‘The Ojuelegba Crossroads’ by Abideen Abolaji Ojomu and ‘Yamtarawala – The Warrior King’ by Henry Akubuiro. The book competed against 143 plays submitted for the competition in 2023.
According to the Chairperson of the Advisory Board, Adimora-Ezeigbo, the winning book, ‘Grit’, is a dramatic journey into the destructive impact of soul-less politics of power and profit, which brings out the beast in man.
She stated that the play builds the motivations for the actions of every character in a lifelike manner “with apt characterisation and purposeful manipulation of plot and conflict. The play is filled with conflicts that create the mood of the inevitability of tragedy and the language is full of twists that entertain in the midst of pain.”
Gomba (PhD), an Honorary Fellow in Writing of the University of Iowa (USA) and the Associate Dean of Humanities at the University of Port Harcourt, has been the TORCH Global South Visiting Professor and Visiting Fellow at All Souls College, University of Oxford (UK).
He is a recipient of Rivers Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) Distinguished Writer Award, Kangaroo Poetry Festival Poet of 2018, and a two-time winner of both the Best Literary Artiste Award and the First Prize for Drama of the English Association of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
His works include, ‘The Lilt of the Rebel’ (Winner of PAWA Prize for African Poetry 2022/Listed for the Nigeria Prize for Literature 2022), ‘Guerrilla Post’ (Winner of ANA Drama Prize 2018/Listed for the Nigeria Prize for Literature 2018), ‘For Every Homeland’ (Winner of ANA Poetry Prize 2017/Listed for the Nigeria Prize for Literature 2017), ‘Thunder Protocol’ (Winner of ANA Poetry Prize 2016), ‘Length of Eyes’ (Shortlisted for ANA Poetry Prize in 2013 /Listed for the Nigeria Prize for Literature 2013), and ‘Pearls of the Mangrove’ (adopted as a ‘Book of the Festival’ for the 2011 Garden City Literary Festival and the 2019 Festival Poetry Calabar).
He curated an anthology featuring 35 writers from 33 countries, entitled, ‘A Piece of Daily Life’, for the International Writing Programme of the University of Iowa (USA) in 2016.
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