By PRISCA SAM-DURU
The battle for the much coveted $100,000 prize money of the 2012 Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas NLNG sponsored Nigeria Prize for Literature came to its climax last week with Enugu State born Chika Unigwe emerging winner.
The Belgian married Nigerian born author who writes in English and Dutch floored Olushola Olugbesan’s Only A Canvas and Onaedo: The Blacksmith’s Daughter by Ngozi Achebe, after meeting the criteria set for entries which include; quality of editing and production, relevance to the Nigerian situation, vivid presentation of character and plot, and use of language; with her latest book titled, On Black Sisters’ Street, to win the coveted literary prize.
Chika Unigwe who holds a Ph.D in Literature from University of Leiden in the Netherlands was announced the winner of the prize on Thursday at a World Press Conference in Lagos.
The poet and novelist who has published short fiction in several anthologies, journals and magazines including Wasafiri (University of London), Moving Worlds (University of Leeds), Per Contra, Voices of the University of Wisconsin and Okike of the University of Nigeria was shortlisted for the Caine Prize for African Writing in 2003, and won the BBC Short story Competition and a Commonwealth Short Story Competition award in 2004 in addition to her short story making the top 10 list of the Million Writers Award for best online fiction.
By this latest feat, Unigwe became the second Nigerian author based outside Nigeria to win the coveted prize which was instituted in 2004 by the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) Limited to promote and encourage authorship and the development of Nigerian literary culture.
The Prize which is in its 8th year running was instituted with the view to motivating Nigerian writers in four literary genres vis a vis, poetry, prose, drama and Children’s literature. The prize money is rotated around the genres each year and this year focused on prose fiction.
Announcing Unigwe winner at a world press conference in Lagos, the Chairman of the Board of Panelists chosen to assess entries for this year, Emeritus Professor Ayo Banjo stated that “by coincidence, the three novels deal with issues concerning the plight of women in the past and in the present but the panel of judges considered On Black Sisters’ Street, a work of outstanding merit and adjudges it the winning entry for the 2012 Nigeria Prize for Literature”.
The book according to Prof Banjo “focuses specifically on the very precarious situation of women, particularly the issue of sexual slavery, adding that, “in her depiction of the socio-economic conditions in Nigeria, Unigwe displays grasp of narrative techniques as well as excellent descriptive capabilities”.
He however noted that the panel observed with dismay, that poor quality of production is still a fundamental problem affecting Nigerian Literature stressing that, “Some entries would have stood a better chance of winning this prize but were marred by problems attendant upon poor publishing, vis a vis, poor editing, proof reading, poor binding and other publishing errors”.
Also speaking, NLNG Manager, Communication and Public Relations Ifeanyi Mbanefo explained that the reason his company put on hold the Prize for Science was for them to look into the problems of scientists. He maintained that there was no need issuing out awards and at the end of the day there is nothing to show for it stressing that there is need to reward a person who makes a breakthrough in science which impacts positively on the society.
“We issue award yet we have problems with electricity, there is no water, the roads are bad, Malaria which can be put away with science is killing people on a daily basis, the same thing is applicable to cholera, election rigging could be stopped through electronic voting, in fact, there are so many things that can be dealt with by science.
So we asked ourselves, why are we not getting the benefits of science”.Mbanefo stated. He announced that his company has put plans in place to hold an all stakeholders meeting on the 22nd of November in Abuja to find out what the problems of scientists are.