By Prisca Sam-Duru
The 2019 edition of The Nigeria Prize for Literature competition, focusing on Children’s literature which is worth $100,000, has reached its final selection stage with the release of three finalists by the Advisory Board for the Prize, last Wednesday.
The finalists are Jude Idada’s Boom Boom, Dunni Olatunde’s Mystery at Ebenezer’s Lodge and O.T. Begho’s The Great Walls of Benin. They were selected out of an initial longlist of 11; Anisa Daniel-Oniko’s Double ‘A’ For Adventure, Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani’s Buried Beneath the Baobab Tree; Ginika’s Adventure by Nnenna Ochiche; Anote Ajeluorou’s Igho Goes To Farm; Ndidi Enenmor’s A Hero’s Welcome; Nkeiru Uzoh’s Obioma: A Girl’s Journey to Self Discovery; She Calls Him Daddy by Oladele Medaiyese and Lami Adejoh Opawale’s Spurred.
Boom Boom by Jude Idada, “Highlights a common health issue in Nigeria, Sickle Cell Anaemia, and with it the pain, love and bonds of friendship that come with the daily struggles of the victims in fascinating and capturing storytelling. The book unveils the world of an eight year old boy who tries to find a way of saving his sister from Sickle Cell Anemia, a disease that claimed the life of his mother.”
The Great Walls of Benin by O.T. Begho “Brings children’s attention to the myths of origin, and is set in the ancient Kingdom of Benin. Two children go on a quest after a harmless game of hide and seek, opening up a surreal world of culture and heritage.”
Dunni Olatunde’s Mystery at Ebenezer’s Lodge, “Evokes nostalgic thrills of children adventures. The book is about the Ilesanmi children who were sent to their grandmother’s aunt for a week, only to uncover a mystery of someone entering an old building without using the doors. It is a story about curiosity, riddles and problem solving.”
Among these titans, the winner of the Prize which is sponsored by the Nigeria LNG Limited, will be announced at an award night on October 11, 2019.
The shortlist was selected by the Chairman of the Panel of Judges for this year’s Prize, Professor Obodimma Oha, who is a Professor of Cultural Semiotics and Stylistics in the Department of English, University of Ibadan. Other members of the Panel include Professor Asabe Usman Kabir, Professor of Oral and African Literatures at Usmanu Danfodiyo University Sokoto and Dr. Patrick Oloko, a Senior Lecturer at the University of Lagos who specialises in African Postcolonial Literature, Gender and Cultural Studies.
The International Consultant for this year’s prize, who advises the Advisory Board alongside the final report by the judges on the winning entry for the Prize, is Kelvin NyongToh, a Professor of English at University of Bamenda, Cameroun.
In selecting Boom Boom, Mystery at Ebenezer Lodge and The Great Walls of Benin, the judges reported that the books represent a very high degree of creativity, noting that they were “Highly didactic, yet coated in an absorbing and engaging narrative.” The style of writing as evident in the books according to them, is suitable for children and helps provide clarity to the vicissitudes of life, spur healthy curiosity, build problem solving skills as well as promote the role of oral literature as an effective tool for disseminating knowledge to children.
The Chairman of the Advisory for the Prize, Professor Emeritus Ayo Banjo, two-time Vice-Chancellor of Nigeria’s premier university, University of Ibadan, while announcing the finalists, reiterated the commitment of the Board toward retaining the high literary standards of the prize, which according to him, remains the most prestigious literary prize in Africa.
Other members of the Advisory Board 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).
The Nigeria Prize for Literature rotates yearly amongst four literary genres: prose fiction, poetry, drama and children’s literature. This year’s is for children’s literature while 2020 edition of the competition will focus on prose fiction.
The Prize 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 classic, 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) with her book, My Cousin Sammy; Kaine Agary (2008, prose); 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 Sister’s Street; Tade Ipadeola (2013, poetry) with his collection of poems, The Sahara Testaments; Professor Sam Ukala (2014, drama) with his play, Iredi War; Abubakar Adam Ibrahim with his novel, Season of Crimson Blossoms (2016, prose); Ikeogu Oke with his collection of poetry, The Heresiad; (2017, poetry) and Soji Cole with his play, Embers (2018, drama).