By Prisca Sam-Duru
Emeritus Professor Ayo Banjo-led Advisory Board for the Nigeria Prize for Literature sponsored by the Nigeria LNG, has announced that there would be no winner for the 2015 edition.
According to the Board, this is because none of the 109 entries received met the levels of literary excellence worthy of Africa’s most prestigious literary prize.
The Advisory Board further stated that the decision was reached after a thorough review of the entries, by the panel of judges for this year’s competition led by Chief Judge, Professor Uwemedimo Enobong Iwoketok, a professor of English Language at the University of Jos.
According to Prof. Iwoketok, “This year, 109 entries were received. Eighty-nine (89) entries did not meet the preliminary criteria for assessment. This number represents 81.6% of the total number of entries received for 2015. The percentage by any standard is worrying; especially as there is a paucity of literature for children.
“A disturbingly large number of entries were dropped at the initial stage of short-listing because of grave editing and publishing errors. Submissions for the prize were examined based on a number of considerations including editorial excellence, creativity and story plot.”
Supporting the position of the panel of judges, the international consultant for this year, Kim Reynolds, professor of children’s literature at Newcastle University, United Kingdom, said, “The entries deal with some important topical issues, raising challenging questions about the world children growing up in Nigeria today will inherit. It also placed a spotlight on family dynamics and constructions of childhood in ways that encourage readers to think about children feature in Nigerian culture. However, they lack the lyricism, vision, and authority to become classics that will be handed down from generation to generation and that have the potential to reach out across cultures.”
According to Dr. Kudo Eresia-Eke, General Manager, External Relations, Nigeria LNG, “It will be recalled that the prize was instituted in 2004, to stimulate creativity and reward excellence in writing and would therefore be awarded only for excellence. Although, there is no winner this year, NLNG in its determination to promote excellence, would invest the prize money which would have been won, back into the process for a creative writing workshop for Nigerian writers of children’s literature. Further, for the benefit of those who may not be physically present at the workshop, and indeed for the good of upcoming writers, the proceedings would be collated, published for reference and guidance.”