Today in Ikeja, the entries for this year’s NLNG Nigerian Literature Prize were delivered to the judges at an open ceremony. They contained entries by one hundred and eighty-four (184) Nigerian poets vying for the Literature Prize and five (5) literary critics vying for the Prize for Literary Criticism. The two categories are worth $100,000 and N1 million respectively.

“The hand-over of the entries to the Advisory Board, chaired by Professor Emeritus Ayọ̀ Bánjọ, signifies the beginning of the judging process which culminates in the announcement of the winner in October 2017,” reads the press release put out after the event.

Handing over the entries, Dr. Kudo Eresia-Eke and Professor Ayọ̀ Bánjọ. Photo: SabiNews

Handing over the entries, NLNG’s General Manager, External Relations, Dr. Kudo Eresia-Eke, said the prize has inspired some 1,630 books of which 533, representing 32%, were submitted in the Poetry category since the inception of the prize in 2004.

It continues:

The number of entries for the 2017 edition exceeded the 2016 numbers, showing a six percent rise in the number of entries received…. The entries… will be examined on their merits of excellence in language, creativity and book quality.”

The panel of judges for this year’s awards is led by Professor Ernest Emenyonu who is a professor of Africana Studies at the University of Michigan-Flint. He was Deputy Vice-Chancellor at the University of Calabar between 1988 and 1990, and Provost (Chief Executive) Alvan Ikoku College of Education, Owerri, between 1992 and 1996. He has taught in several Nigerian and American universities.

Other judges are Dr. Razinat Mohammed and Tádé Ìpàdéọlá. Dr. Mohammed is an Associate Professor of Literature at the University of Maiduguri. She teaches African Literature with specialization in Feminist Literary Criticism and Theoretical Approaches. She is an accomplished writer as well. Tádé Ìpàdéọlá won the Nigeria Prize for Literature in 2013 in the Poetry category with his third volume of poetry, The Sahara Testament. A poet and a lawyer, Ìpàdéọlá has won several awards and is a resource person for the Rockefeller Foundation around Africa on building resilience.

Members of the Advisory Board for the Literature Prize, besides Professor Bánjọ, 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).

“The Nigeria Prize for Literature has since 2005 rewarded eminent writers such as Gabriel Okara (co-winner, 2005, poetry), Professor Ezenwa Ohaeto (co-winner, 2005, poetry); Ahmed Yerima (2006, drama) for his classic, Hard Ground;  Mabel Sẹ́gun (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; Adélékè Adéyẹmí (2011, children’s literature) with his book The Missing Clock; Chika Unigwe (2012 – prose), with her novel, On Black Sister’s Street; Tádé Ìpàdéọlá (2013; Poetry) with his collection of poems, Sahara Testaments and Sam Ukala (2014; Drama) with Iredi War,” the press release concluded.

The Nigerian for Literature is Africa’s biggest prize with a cash reward of $100,000, which rotates yearly amongst four literary categories of prose fiction, poetry, drama and children’s literature.

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