The Committee of Relevant Art and the Nigeria Liquidfied Gas organised the annual book party for the Nigeria Prize for Literature Prize book party on Zoom Yesterday. The Book Party is a parley that celebrates the Nigeria Prize for Literature past winners and affords stakeholders in the book and publishing industry to engage one another and also discuss the various challenges in the book industry. Writers, literary enthusiasts, critics, former judges, judges, scholars, art curators, and media persons were in the room at this year’s book party. Amongst the attendees like Prof Dan Izebaye, Prof Duro Oni, and Mr. James Murau. Every Year, the highly coveted prize gives celebrates a worthy book of literature a $100,000. The organisers rotate the Prize across genres every year. The NLNG has kept faith in organising the Prize since 2005 when the Prize was awarded to Gabriel Okara and Ezenwa Oheato. The Prize which rotates across Drama, Poetry, Prose and Children’s Literature, and Literary Criticism, also recognises enigmatic Nigerian scientists, researchers, and innovators with the Nigeria Prize for Science. This 2020 cycle of the Prize was postponed till next year due to the COVID19 Pandemic.
The zoom party had in attendance Professor Ahmed Yerima, author of drama book, Hardground, winner of the prize in 2006, Professor Akachi Adimora-Ezeigbo, co-winner of the 2007 Prize for the book, My Cousin Sammy. Mr Mai Nasara whose real name is Adeleke Adeyemi was the winner of the 2011 Prize for the children’s book, The Missing Clock, Tade Ipadeola, the author of tome of poems, The Sahara Testaments, won the Prize in 2013, Sam Ukala, author of the Book of Drama, Iredi War won the Prize in 2014, Abubakar Adam Ibrahim, author of the Novel, Season of Crimson Blossoms won the Prize in 2016, and Jude Idada, 2019.
Mr Toyin Akinnosho, the Secretary-General of CORA, co-organisers of the event, read three excerpts from the past award-winning books. He said that the Nigeria Prize of Literature has over the years chosen the best of Nigerian Literature and promoted the same, thereby creating a room of literary stars. Akinnosho also noted that the partnership with the NLNG to curate the book party is driven by the goal to nourish an audience of readers, which has continued to grow in bounds.
Mr Andy Odeh, Manager Government Relations represented Dr Eyeno Fatai-Williams, the General Manager of the NLNG. Andy Odeh said that the presence of the laurelled authors shows that they truly love the craft. Odeh noted that the prize has received immense support from writers, art enthusiasts, and administrators. He called on all stakeholders in the book and publishing industry to celebrate writers and extend the life of the book by involving scriptwriters, screenplay writers, performance artists in order to stretch the visibility of literature.
A documentary on the Nigerian Prize for the Literature was shown.
The documentary showcased the evolution of the Prize, the winners and the
workshops organised by the NLNG to invest in Nigerian Literature since 2003.
The Discourse from the past winners focused on their experience after
becoming a laureate of the Nigeria Prize of Literature, what it means to them, what they have been working on after they won the prize. The event also afforded the writers to comment on the needed intervention on the
book and publishing industry as well as to suggest new ways to improve the Nigeria Prize of Literature.
Prof. Ahmed Yerima said he felt that the award-winning book would move the judges because it moved his wife to cry when it was published. He also said that he became more confident about the dramatic text when he received good feedback from Prof. Wole Soyinka and other critically-minded scholars in the arts, humanities, and sciences. Yerima said he wanted his characters to be close to society so much
that the readers recognise themselves in the book and this he achieved when the Judges described the book with highly valuable commentary. At the moment, Prof. Ahmed Yerima, who has written more than 10 plays after the prize, said that he is working on a play, Ologbosere, a historical play on a prominent precolonial Benin Chief. The play had been commissioned by the present Ologbosere Family in Benin, but the play also extends to current nuances and current postcolonial narratives.
Yerima advised that the ‘winner-take-all’ culture of the Prize gave a lot of
excitement and promotion to the winner but on the other hand may depress the writers in the shortlist and the longlist. He advised that shortlisted writers be celebrated and rewarded as well. He also said that ‘the NLNG must go beyond money’. He suggested that laureates should be given an Officer of the Federal Republic by the Federal Government, alongside the Prize.
Prof Akachi Adimora-Ezeigbo noted that although she had been writing
across genres for a long time, the NLNG had challenged her to write more
because of the national and international recognition that it has afforded her. For her, the Nigeria Prize for Literature had positioned her for more literary and scholarly awards, to be a lead teacher at international literature workshops, as well as for international speaking engagements in
conferences across the world. She expressed delight to the fact that her grandchildren also read the award-winning book.
Ezeigbo said that a lot of writers expect too much from the NLNG without
giving adequate praise to the work they had done for Nigerian literature.
She noted that a lot of organisations, government, and well-meaning Nigerians must engage the growing literary culture with the aim of solving its myriad structural problems. As much as she expressed delight that the Nigerian literary space was growing and buoyant, she lamented the poor grasp of the English Language by a lot of students, writers and self-proclaimed intellectuals. She, therefore, noted that there was a need to have a proliferation of libraries across the country to engender a robust reading culture. She praised the organisers of the Prize for the standard of Judges it had had so far and advised them to keep the culture of having impressive minds judge the prize.
Mai Nasara, whose real name is Adeleke Adeyemi, said that the prize has opened up a vista of oppourtunities for him. He noted that at the moment he is grooming one of his children who had discovered her love for writing and illustrating. Mai Nasara said that he had spent some time in Kano, Kaduna, Katsina and this had opened him up to the oneness of Nigeria and the environmental, social, and food security problems that inspired his children’s book. Mai Nasara, who is passionate about children is currently working on a poetry book for children, he is co-writing a book on exploring the presence of a Nigerian Dinosaur (Gonronyosaurus). He has also been writing children songs in other to cultivate an alternative to the hypersexualised content that indaunates the eyes and ears of their childhood. Mai Nasara said that he hopes the NLNG can involve the Federal Ministry of Education in the promotion of the NLNG longlisted books.
For him, it will go a long way to shape National Identity and National Destiny when all Nigerians could read the award-winning books in their formative educational years.
Tade Ipadeola said that he started writing several genres but had not been able to finish the manuscripts. Nevertheless, He said out of the manuscripts, a book of poetry is due for this month. He noted that his book and the Prize had placed upon him the responsibility to try to write in a high standard in mind. He said that the Prize has gone a long way to instill discipline, form, and verve to the craft of poetry in Nigeria and amongst Africans in the Diaspora. Ipadeola said that after winning the Prize, he was delighted to be
hosted by his professional colleagues at the Nigerian Bar Association. He said he had invested quite a lot on the Koffi Awoonor Library, a social cause project to build a library in Ibadan. He had also received a lot of books and magazines from international writers and scholars around the world, for the library.
Professor Sam Ukala said that the Prize added more laurels around his neck and more feathers on his cap. The University Don said that the prize had made a lot of younger writers to ‘flock’ around him for guidance, which he has been able to provide. He said that the Prize challenges you to put your talents and skills to the best use possible. Ukala noted that he is working on a biography on his grandparents, he has also been coaching new and emerging writers, some of which have gone on to published impressive works. Ukala said that he subscribed to the commentary of the Judges of the book, who noted that the book was ‘serious’ and the ‘craftmanship was commendable’ with an ‘interwave’ of unfolding narratives.
Ukala lamented on the nervewracking ‘grammatical blemishes’ that are found in a lot of Nigerian published books, especially in emerging Nigerian literature. He noted that self-publishing, self-selling, and lack of accountable royalties to writers have not helped to encourage the writers. He encouraged the NLNG to do more in distributing, parading, and engaging the Prize winners in other to shore their visibility across the country.
Abubakar Adam Ibrahim said that the award-winning book has been published in several countries across the world. The most recent is that the novel had been acquired by a major French Publishing firm. His new book, Dreams and Assorted Nightmare will be published by a Nigerian publishing firm. Ibrahim advised that the NLNG should explore celebrating digital publishing, where a lot of creative minds are publishing great stories without going through the hassles and expenses of the printing press.
Dr Soji Cole said he had been a follower of the Prize since 2003 and had determined to win the prize by purchasing every award-winning title. He said that after he was disappointed with the first book of drama he submitted did not win the Prize. He was afterward opportune to travel abroad for some research and was introduced to Drama Therapy and other post-modernist forms of Drama that were not part of the Dramatic culture in Nigeria. On his return, he decided to write an experimental book of drama without giving any recourse to the traditions that may make him win the NLNG. He also used his award-winning book, Embers as a conduit to express concerns on Insurgency and Internally Displaced People.
Dr Cole who had taught at the University of Ibadan said that the NLNG prize has given him the oppourtunity to return to University in Canada to learn fresh and new theories and ideas in culture, theatre and the sciences. He said he had done a lot of short story writing and opinion writing after winning the prize. He admonished the Prize organisers to consider putting together a manuscript prize to encourage Nigerian writers who are experimenting on new ideas. He also said that it is important to celebrate and encourage the longlisted writers because for him, any writer who makes the longlist was as good as the winner.
Jude Idada, the most recent winner of the Prize said he has had a long association with the Nigeria LNG Prize and had made several attempts with several titles. Jude Idada’s book, Boom Boom explores Sickle Cell Anemia awareness. He said after the Prize, he has been able to go on book tours across the country, using the themes of the book to start robust conversations on Sickle Cell Anemia. He has also written a book of short stories, he has directed a film, taught screenwriting, and is writing every day on Facebook to endear more audiences to myriad social and cultural discourses. He encouraged the NLNG for the work that is being done but said that Corporate Nigeria needs to invest in literature, culture, and scholarship alongside entertainment shows like Big Brother Naija.
The event did not end without Poetry Performance from Kole Ade-Odutola, a performance groupcomprising of underpriviledged boys, curated by Omar Harrison, a social cause performance artist This was
done with strict observance to the COVID19 rules.
Ms Sophia Horsfall, Head of Media and Communication, NLNG closed the event by thanking the laurates, the stakeholders who attended the Zoom Party. She assured everyone that the advice from the writers will be taken and implemented by the NLNG.