The Advisory Board for The Nigeria Prize for Literature has approved a final shortlist of three books out of the longlist of 11 released in July 2018.
A statement Sunday by Manager, Communications and Public Affairs, Andy Odeh, names the books as Embers by Soji Cole, Death and The King’s Grey Hair by Denja Abdullahi and The Rally by Akanji Nasiru.
Embers, by Soji Cole, focuses on life in one of the Internally Displaced People’s (IDPs) Camps in Northern Nigeria. The characters give testimonies of their ugly encounters in Sambisa Forest, as well as their painful discovery of life in the IDP Camp. A member of the Faculty of Arts at the University of Ibadan, Soji Cole teaches undergraduates play writing at the Department of Theatre Arts.
In Death and The King’s Grey Hair, Denja Abdullahi, a literary essayist and National President of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA), confronts the issue of perpetuation in power, where rulers, like the king in this drama, employ all sorts of devices to cling on to power, long after they have overstayed their welcome.
Akanji Nasiru’s The Rally, addresses the contemporary political theme of youth versus age. Nasiru is a professor of Performing Arts at Bowen University, Iwo, Osun State.
The chairman of the panel of judges Matthew Umukoro, is professor of Theatre Arts at the University of Ibadan. Other members of the panel include Mohammed Inuwa Umar – Buratai, professor of Theatre and Performing Arts and the Dean of the Faculty of Arts at the Ahmadu Bello University, (ABU), Zaria; and Ngozi Udengwu, a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Theatre and Film Studies at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
The judges expressed their delight at the high standard of writing evident in the entries for the competition this year. Prof. Umukoro said all three plays have high literary qualities of effective dialogue, good dramaturgical structure, skilful handling of suspense, and credible characterisation, which have seen them through to this stage of the competition.
The International Consultant to the Advisory Board for this year’s prize is Jonathan Haynes, professor of English at Long Island University in Brooklyn. In 2001-2002 he was the founding director of the West African Center of the Friends World Program (now LIU Global) in Kumasi, Ghana. He taught at the American University in Cairo (Egypt), Tufts University, Albion College, Bennington College, and Columbia University, and spent three years in Nigeria as a Fulbright Lecturer at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Ahmadu Bello University, and University of Ibadan. His specialty is African studies; African film, video, and literature; colonialism and post colonialism; English Renaissance literature and for two decades he has been closely following the growth of the Nigerian film industry, Nollywood.
The other member of the Advisory Board, besides Professor Emeritus Ayo Banjo, are Professor 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).
Prof. Ayo Banjo assured that his board will retain the high literary standards the prize has already attained ensuring that it remains the most prestigious literary prize in Africa.
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; Seasons of Crimson Blossom, Abubakar Adam Ibrahim (2016, prose); and The Heresiad, Ikeogu Oke (2017, poetry).
The Nigeria Prize for Literature rotates yearly amongst four literary genres: prose fiction, poetry, drama and children’s literature. The 2018 prize goes to Drama. The prize has a cash value of USD $100, 000 (One hundred thousand United States Dollars). A total of 89 plays were submitted for the 2018 edition prize. A winner will be announced at a public presentation in October.