By Prisca Duru
The battle for who carts home the $1000 prize money for the 2018 edition of The Nigeria Prize for Literature competition draws to a final stage following the release of a shortlist of three by the Advisory Board for the prestigious prize.
With the release of the all-male final shortlist of three out of the longlist of 11 released in July 2018, who goes home with the prize is what is in the mind of Soji Cole, Denja Abdulahi and Akanji Nasiru.
The three books on the shortlist are Embers by Soji Cole, Death and The King’s Grey Hair by Denja Abdullahi and The Rally by Akanji Nasiru.
Embers, by Soji Cole, focuses on life in one of the Internally Displaced People’s camps in Northern Nigeria. The characters gave testimonies of their ugly encounters in Sambisa Forest, as well as their painful discovery of life in the IDP Camp. A member of the Faculty of Arts at the University of Ibadan, Soji Cole teaches undergraduates play writing at the Department of Theatre Arts.
In Death and The King’s Grey Hair, Denja Abdullahi, a literary essayist and National President of the Association of Nigerian Authors, ANA, confronts the issue of perpetuation in power, where rulers, like the king in this drama, employ all sorts of devices to cling on to power, long after they have overstayed their welcome
Akanji Nasiru’s The Rally, addresses the contemporary political theme of youth versus age. Nasiru is a professor of Performing Arts, Bowen University, Iwo, Osun State.
This year’s edition had Matthew Umukoro, a professor of Theatre Arts at the University of Ibadan as chairman. Other members of the panel include Mohammed Inuwa Umar-Buratai, professor of Theatre and Performing Arts and the Dean of the Faculty of Arts at the Ahmadu Bello University, ABU, Zaria; and Ngozi Udengwu, a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Theatre and Film Studies at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
The judges expressed their delight at the high standard of writing evident in the entries for the competition this year. Prof. Umukoro said all three plays have high literary qualities of effective dialogue, good dramaturgical structure, skilful handling of suspense, and credible characterisation, which have seen them through to this stage of the competition.
The International Consultant to the Advisory Board for this year’s prize is Jonathan Haynes, professor of English at Long Island University in Brooklyn.
Chairman of the Advisory Board of the Prize, Professor Emeritus, Ayo Banjo assured that his board will retain the high literary standards the prize has already attained ensuring that it remains the most prestigious literary prize in Africa. The Nigeria Prize for Literature rotates yearly amongst four literary genres: prose fiction, poetry, drama and children’s literature. This year’s is for drama.