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Plea on Nigeria prize for literature

By Uzor Maxim Uzoatu
02 October 2022   |   1:25 am
The celebrated season of the Nigeria Prize for Literature always ends on the note of winner-takes-all. It is incumbent on me to plead now that the longlisted and shortlisted authors be also rewarded with cash.

SIR: The celebrated season of the Nigeria Prize for Literature always ends on the note of winner-takes-all. It is incumbent on me to plead now that the longlisted and shortlisted authors be also rewarded with cash. While the overall winner goes home with the grand prize of $100,000 it stands to reason to console the longlisted writers with $1,000 each while the shortlisted ones can be gifted with $5,000 each. I think this is a modern democratic ideal as opposed to the ancient one-man-standing of bull-fighting or the Russian roulette!

The 2022 longlist included Augusta’s Poodle by Ogaga Ifowodo; Coming Undone as Stitches Tighten by Iquo Diana Abasi; dispossessed by James Eze; Ife Testament by  Segun Adekoya; Memory and the Call of Water by  Su’eddie Vershima Agema; Nomad by  Romeo Oriogun; The Lilt of the Rebel by Obari Gomba; The Love Canticles by Chijioke Amu Nnadi; Wanderer Cantos by  Remi Raji; Yawns and Belches by  Joe Ushie and Your Crib, My Qibla by Saddiq Dzukogi.

The eventually shortlisted three authors are Su’eddie Vershima Agema, Romeo Oriogun and Saddiq Dzukogi. It makes me feel somehow that only one out of these gifted poets will walk away with something while the rest are left barren.

Let’s take the example of the Booker Prize awards in Great Britain where in 2022 the winner will go home with the £50,000 grand prize while the six shortlisted authors will receive £2,500 each. It will not be a wrong move to go the way of the long-established Booker Prize.

The Nigeria Prize for Literature has always been open to change in its affairs as it always engages the general public and the media toward the improvement of the award over the years.

This way, the prize money has been increased from the initial $20,000 in 2004 to $30,000 in 2006, $50,000 in 2008, and finally $100,000 in 2011.

The essence of literary awards happens to be the exposure of books and not just bagging the ultimate title as an end in itself. The more books that are given the exposition through the stages of the awards will render more clout to the exercise. There is the tendency for perennial contenders, who are eventually unrewarded, to lose interest in a way that detracts all meaning to the drive for literary awareness.

It is my plea that the “respectable monetary reward” that will spur creativity should be spread across board beyond the one-person winner. Creativity will grow in leaps and bounds once the erstwhile denied runners-up are encouraged through some monetary rewards due them in the dire Nigerian scheme of things. The NLNG remains a listening organization, and I can count on the management to help the authors of Nigeria by way of this special plea.
By Uzor Maxim Uzoatu