By Seyi Babalola
‘The Nigeria Prize for Literature’, sponsored by Nigeria LNG Limited (NLNG), has recorded a remarkable 61% increase in entries for the drama cycle, with 143 entries received for the 2023 edition against 89 entries in the last drama cycle in 2018.
The entrants will compete for the top prize of $100,000.
This was made known to newsmen at a press conference on Wednesday in Lagos to hand over the entries to judges to begin the adjudication process.
The NLNG, represented by its General Manager for External Relations and Sustainable Development, Mr. Andy Odeh, said in his opening remarks that he was excited ‘for this great initiative’ and handed over the entries to the Chair of the Prize’s Advisory Board, Professor Akachi Adimora-Ezeigbo, who, in turn, handed over the entries to the judges.
The Advisory Board also handed over 13 entries for The Nigeria Prize for Literary Criticism.
Speaking on the entries received for the 2023 edition of the Prize, Mr. Odeh expressed confidence in the judges and Advisory Board.
He emphasised the importance of the dedicated website for the three prizes – The Nigeria Prize for Literature, the Nigeria Prize for Literary Criticism, and the Nigeria Prize for Science—being the only platform for information regarding the prizes, winners, and the adjudication process.
“The Prize serves as a stimulus for Nigerian writers to strive for excellence, and we are proud to see an increase in entries this year for drama.
“We believe that through this prize, we are promoting Nigerian literature and encouraging the growth of the literary industry in the country.
“We are confident that the judges and Advisory Board will do due diligence to produce a verdict based on merit and excellence, and we hope to see a worthy winner of the Prize at the end of the cycle,” he said.
“I am sure we are all looking forward to that, but before that happens, let me reiterate that the dedicated website for the three prizes—the Nigeria Prize for Literature, the Nigeria Prize for Literary Criticism, and the Nigeria Prize for Science—remains and is the only platform through which information about the prizes, their process, governance, winning works, and winners will be made readily available to members of the public.”
During her remarks, the Chair of the Prize’s Advisory Board, Professor Akachi Adimora-Ezeigbo, said the importance of literature in driving development in Nigeria.
“Literature is a powerful tool that can drive development in our society.” As we begin the adjudication process for this year’s Nigeria Prize for Literature, I urge the judges to use this opportunity to elevate literature and bring it to the forefront of the development discourse in Nigeria. “The entries we have received are a testament to the vibrant literary scene in the country, and we hope to see a winner that truly represents the best of Nigerian literature,” she said.
Other members of the Advisory Board are Prof. Olu Obafemi and Prof. Ahmed Yerima.
The Prize rotates yearly amongst four literary categories: prose fiction, poetry, drama, and children’s literature.
Professor Ameh Dennis Akoh chairs the panel of judges for this year’s Literature and Literary Criticism competition. Akoh is a professor of drama and critical theory at the Alex Ekwueme Federal University, Ebonyi State. He has over 50 publications in refereed local and international journals and books. He is the former editor of the Nigerian Journal of Indigenous Knowledge and Development, the Nigerian Theatre Journal (NTJ), co-editor of African Nebula, and the UNIOSUN College of Humanities Monograph Series (2009–2016).
Other panel members include Professor Osita Catherine Ezenwanebe and Dr. Rasheedah Liman. Professor Ezenwanebe is a professor of creative arts at the University of Lagos. She has written and produced several full-length plays. Dr. Liman is a senior lecturer at the Department of Theatre and Performing Arts, Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, Kaduna State. Professor Victor K. Yankah from the Department of Theatre and Film Studies, the University of Cape Coast, Ghana, serves as the International Consultant for the 2023 edition of the Prize.
The Nigeria Prize for Literature is Africa’s most prestigious literary award, and the increase in entries for the drama cycle highlights the growing interest in Nigerian literature. With this year’s edition particularly competitive, the judges and advisory board have their work cut out to select a deserving winner.
Past winners in the Drama category include Ahmed Yerima (2005) for his play, Hard Ground; Esiaba Irobi (2010), who clinched the prize posthumously with his book Cemetery Road; Professor Sam Ukala (2014) with his play, Iredi War; and Soji Cole (2018) with his book, Embers.