By Japhet Alakam & Prisca Sam-Duru
The race for the 2013 edition of the prestigious Nigeria Prize for Literature, sponsored by the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG), which kicked off February, 2013, came to a positive conclusion Wednesday with The Sahara Testament authored by Tade Ipadeola, emerging winner.
The Ibadan based legal practitioner and poet,Tade Ipadeola who was born in 1970 has published three volumes of poetry-A Time of Signs (2000) and The Rain Fardel (2005). His short stories and essays have also been published in diverse media. In 2009, he won the Delphic Laurel in Poetry with his poem “Songbird” in Jeju, South Korea.
His third volume of poetry which is the Award winning collection of poetry, The Sahara Testaments-a sequence of 1000 quatrains on the nuances of the Sahara, is his latest work. The book was published by Hornbill House of the Arts, Lagos.
The Panel of Judges led by its Chairman, Prof. Romanus Egudu adjudged The Sahara Testament the winning entry for the biggest literary prize in Africa which comes with $100,000 cash prize because “it is a remarkable epic covering the terrain and people of Africa from the very dawn of creation, through the present, to the future.
The text it was explained, “uses the Sahara as a metonymy for problems of Africa and indeed, the whole of humanity. It also contains potent rhetoric and satire on topical issues and personalities, ranging from Africa’s blood diamonds and inflation in Nigeria…” It was also noted that “Ipadeola’s use of poetic language demonstrates a striking marriage of thought and verbal artistry expressed in the blending of sound and sense.”
Ipadeola’s work beat two other stiff contenders who made the final three; Ogochukwu Promise and Chidi Amu Nnadi to clinch the Prize.
Announcing the winning poet and collection at a world press conference held at the Coral Hall of the Ocean View Restaurant in Victoria Island, Lagos, the NLNG General Manager, External Relations, Kudo Eresia Eke, pointed out that it was in pursuant of excellence that his organisation is sponsoring the coveted Prize, so as to galvanise Nigeria to have more respectable people in the area of literature, for a better Nigeria.
In his opening remarks, Kudo Eresia Eke, had earlier noted that the NLNG by “sponsoring excellence will galvanize our country to be more reverential of excellence. We will also inspire other corporate organizations to do the same.”
With this feat, Tade Ipadeola has joined the league of past NLNG Prize winner, a prize that rotates annually around four genres: poetry, prose, drama and children’s literature.
Reacting to his win, an excited Tade Ipadeola said “this is joyful news, joyful news.
This is the biggest prize in Africa and it is surreal. I am grateful.”
It will be recalled that out of the 201 entries initially received for the prize which were first whittled down to the long list of 11, two female poets, debutante Iquo Diana Eke and veteran Promise Ogochukwu were on the list. There was also a strong showing from writers in the diaspora like Afam Akeh, Obi Nwakanma and Amatoritsero Ede.
Last year’s prize was won by Belgium based Chika Unigwe for her novel On Black Sisters Street making her the first foreign based Nigerian writer to win the prize.
With Ipadeola’s feat, the controversies of 2009 when the Panel of Judges decided that non of the contenders was worthy of the Prize for Poetry, have been laid to rest. As it is customary, Ipadeola will be presented to the public at a date which will be announced by NLNG.
In attendance at the conference were Vice Chairman of the Advisory Board, Dr. Jerry Agada, Chairman of the Panel of Judges, Professor Romanus Egudu who were supported by other members of the advisory board and judges; Professors Elugbe, Ogundipe Molara Leslie and Dr. Andrew Aba as well as Professor Kofi Anyidoho who served as this year’s International consultant to the advisory board. Kaine Agary, winner of the Prize in 2008, was also in attendance.