Akinlabi, Verissimo, Ojaide Others Contest For $100,000 Nigeria Literature Prize

Jumoke Verissimo

The race is on for the Nigeria Prize for Literature 2017 in the poetry category. Eleven poets have been shotlisted for the prize this year.

In a statement issued by the advisory board of The Nigeria Prize for Literature on Saturday, said the initial shortlist of eleven books, was drawn from 184 entries, in the running for the 2017 edition of the competition.

The shortlisted authors include Akinlabi, Peter for his collection, ‘Iconography’, Ekwuazi, Hyginus ‘One Day I’ll Dare to Raise My Middle Finger at the Stork and the Reaper’, Gomba, Obari       ‘For Every Homeland’ and Ifowodo, Ogaga ‘A Good Mourning’.

Others are: Lari-Williams, Seun ‘Garri for Breakfast’, Ogu, Humphrey ‘Echoes of Neglect’, Ojaide, Tanure ‘Songs of Myself: Quartet’, Oke, Ikeogu ‘The Heresiad’, Othman, Abubakar ‘Blood Streams in the Desert’, Verissimo, Jumoke ‘The Birth of Illusion’ and Yeibo, Ebi ‘Of Waters and the Wild’.

The list is a potpourri of long-standing poets. Peter Akinalabi is a Masters Degree holder and a Poet Activist. His poem, Moving, won the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition. Hyginus Ekwuazi is from the academia and a professor of media arts. He was Director General, Nigeria Film Corporation and currently acts as judge in several awards and festivals.

Obari Gomba is both poet and playwright. He currently teaches in the Department of English Studies at the University of Port Harcourt while Ogaga Ifowodo is a diasporan who teaches poetry and literature at Texas State University-San Marcos in the United States.

Seun Lari-Williams is a poet, musician and a practicing lawyer. Humphrey Ogu on the other hand is an Information Officer at University of Port Harcourt. He was a former Acting Secretary of the Rivers State branch of ANA (Association of Nigerian Authors) and a pioneer secretary and co-founder of SeaView Poetry Society.

Tanure Ojaide is regarded as a socio-political and ecocritical poet and has won major national and international poetry awards, including the Commonwealth Poetry Prize for the Africa Region, the Association of Nigerian Authors’ Poetry Prize, among others.

Ikeogu Oke is a social commentator, media and communications expert, and publisher. He is currently the Media Adviser to the Chairman, Presidential Task Force on Power (PTFP). Dr Abubakar Othman, on the other hand, is a lecturer of Department of English at the University of Maiduguri.  He was previously the commissioner for Information in Adamawa State and Director General and founder of the Adamawa State Agency for Museums and Monuments.

Jumoke Verissimo is a familiar name in the literary world and prolific is several genres. She is a multiple award winner and her poems have been translated into Italian, Norwegian, French, Japanese, Chinese, and Macedonian. Ebi Yeibo, an English Language scholar and social critic, is currently with the Department of English, Niger Delta University, Bayelsa State.

The list was presented by the panel of judges for this year’s prize led by the chairperson, Prof. Ernest Emenyonu, professor of Africana Studies at the University of Michigan-Flint, USA. Other members of the panel include Dr Razinat Mohammed, associate professor of Literature at the University of Maiduguri and Tade Ipadeola, poet, lawyer and winner of The Nigeria Prize for Literature, 2013.

Members of the Advisory Board for the Literature Prize, besides Professor Banjo, two-time Vice-Chancellor of Nigeria’s premier university, University of Ibadan, are Prof. Jerry Agada, former Minister of State for Education, former President of the Association of Nigerian Authors, and Professor Emeritus Ben Elugbe, former President of the Nigerian Academy of Letters and president of the West-African Linguistic Society (2004-2013).

As in previous years, the contest for Africa’s most prestigious literature prize will be keenly contested.

The Nigeria Prize for Literature has, since 2004, rewarded eminent writers such as Gabriel Okara (co-winner, 2004, poetry), Professor Ezenwa Ohaeto (co-winner, 2004, poetry) for The Dreamer, His Vision; Ahmed Yerima (2005, drama) for his play, Hard Ground;  Mabel Segun (co-winner, 2007, children’s literature) for her collection of short plays Reader’s Theatre; Professor Akachi Adimora-Ezeigbo (co-winner, 2007, children’s literature) for her book, My Cousin Sammy; Kaine Agary (2008, prose) for her book Yellow Yellow; Esiaba Irobi (2010, drama) who clinched the prize posthumously with his book Cemetery Road; Adeleke Adeyemi (2011, children’s literature) with his book The Missing Clock; Chika Unigwe (2012, prose), with her novel, On Black Sisters Street; Tade Ipadeola (2013, poetry) with his collection of poems, The Sahara Testaments, Professor Sam Ukala (2014, drama) with his play, Iredi War and Seasons of Crimson Blossom, Abubakar Adam Ibrahim (2016, prose).

The Nigeria Prize for Literature rotates yearly amongst four literary genres: prose fiction, poetry, drama and children’s literature. The 2017 prize is for poetry and comes with a cash award of $100, 000. Next year is drama.

A shortlist of three is expected in September and a possible winner  will be announced by the Advisory Board in October.