By Prisca Sam-Duru
The race for who becomes the new poet laureate in The Nigeria Prize for Literature competition ended on 9th October 2017 following the announcement of Ikeogu Oke as the winner by the Advisory Board of the Nigeria Prize following an intensive process of adjudication.
Born in 1967, Ikeogu Oke is a Nigerian writer, poet and journalist. Some of his works include Where I was Born, In the Wings of Waiting, The Lion and the Monkey, The tortoise and the Princess, and Salutes without Guns. Salutes without Guns, was selected as one of the books of the year 2010 by the Times Literary Supplement and was long listed for the 2010 Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature. He receives a cash prize of $100, 000.
The announcement was made by the Chairman of the Advisory Board for the prize, Emeritus Professor Ayo Banjo at a press conference in Lagos. Ikeogu Oke’s collection of poems, The Heresiad, emerged winner by flooring a total of 184 entries received for the 2017 competition.
The panel had, through the Advisory Board, released a shortlist of eleven in July 2017 and later, a shortlist of three in September 2016. The three shortlisted entries were A Good Mourning (Ogaga Ifowodo), Songs of myself: Quartet (Tanure Ojaide) and The Heresiad (Ikeogu Oke).
Ikeogu Oke’s The Heresaid published by Kraft Books Ltd, which employs the epic form, was adjudged the best entry. According to Professor Ayo Banjo, his “Poetry collection reveals a conscious/deliberate manipulation of language and philosophy in the style that reminds us of the writings of great Greek writers of Homeric and Hellenistic periods.
Ikeogu stylistically reaches out to classicism, questioning power and freedom. It probes metaphorically the inner workings of societies and those who shape them.
In assessing and ranking the three works, the judges paid close attention to maturity and depth of vision in the execution of themes, and considered the collections holistically rather than scoring high for one or two poems. Poetry competition for the prize is always very fierce and very interesting. We couldn’t have been more reassured about the process because the panel of judges did a painstakingly thorough job in selecting the best from the final shortlist of three entries,” Prof Banjo noted.
Assessment Criteria for 2017 competition, he disclosed were; scope, maturity and depth of vision, seriousness of content, unity and coherence of content, thematic engagement, creative use of language, contribution to Nigerian literature and quality of production.