By Japhet Alakam

BEETA Universal Arts Foundation (BUAF) led by the award winning actress and producer Bikiya Graham-Douglas demonstrated its mission to take art to the next level with a successful hosting of the 2nd edition of Beeta Playwright Competition (BPC) which produced another winner in the person of Abdul-Qudus Ibrahim, who beat nine other finalists to smile home with the sum of N1,000, 000 with his play, Jagagba.

*A drama presentation by UNILAG Theatre Arts Students

The event which was attended by many art lovers including veteran actress Ego Boyo, Shaiub Hussein, Ogochukwu Ekezie Ekaidem of Union Bank, Theo Lawson of Freedom  Park, Actres Chioma Akpotha, Ijeoma Aniegbu, 1st edition winner,Kenneth Uphopho, the finalists with the friends and family members, theatre arts students of Unilag and many others was held at the Muson centre Onikan, Lagos.

It was indeed a decision day for the 10 finalists of the second Beeta Playwright Competition as all of them were called to the gallery for announcement of the winner. The journey was not easy for them as the were selected from three hundred and forty eight entries received from across the nation .The entries were judged by a panel chaired by award-winning playwright, Prof Ahmed Yerima, where the shortlist of 10 was created for the final stage: Tick Tock More Talk (Shehu Zock-Sock), Mr. Macaroni (Rukee Ejigbo), Beyond the Wig (Joshua Alabi), Echoes of the Drum (Ubonla Adenike), Jagagba (Abdul-Qudus Ibrahim), A Love like This (Kehinde Ademoye), Room 7 (Ekpeno Ukut), Transparent (Kelvinmary Ndukwe), Shark Boy (El Osas Iyalekhue) and Queen Akhadze (Elias Ozikpu).

After a thorough job by the judges,  Ruhee Ojigbo emerged as the 2nd runner up with his play Mr Macaroni  while Joshua Alabi was declared the 1st runner up with his play Beyond the Wig. Then came the man of the moment, Abdul-Qudus Ibrahim  with his play Jagagba emerged as the winning play, earning the him a cash of  N1 million, a publishing deal with Paper Worth books Limited and a production of the Play by BUAF at Terra Kulture Arena as well as a campus tour.

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Speaking after the presentation,the winner, Ibrahim who confessed that he has no plan of how to spend the money for now said that he actually heard about the competition late and the story came to him just a week before the deadline. On how he felt,  “I am so excited, so amazing. I was surprised when they announced my name as the winner. When I didn’t hear my name in the 1st and 2nd runners up, I concluded that I will not win, but when I heard my name I was so excited.”

On the secret, “I didnt give up, it is not good to give up, I continued to press on.

I have improved over the years, I went to Royal Arts Academy to learn more on how to write and that really helped me. I entered into many competitions, I was a finalists in the 1st edition but I did not win, but this time I am one of the finalist and I won.”

Earlier, in her speech, the founder, Bikiya Graham-Douglas, said “It is a National Competition to find the new voices of Nigerian Literature and we received 348 entries from 30 states across Nigeria.”

According to her,”Our first edition was very successful with the winning Play  “Our Son the Minister”produced multiple times across the Country. Our winner  Paul Ugbede  worked with the biggest Producers in Nigerian Theatre and has also been shortlisted for the African Playwriting competition. One of our finalists Soji Cole who went on to win the NLNG Prize for literature for 2018. We are excited to unveil the winner of the second Beeta Playwright Competition and look forward to exciting times ahead.”

*From left: Bikiyi Graham Douglas, Founder of BUAF, Ogochukwu Ekezie-Ekaidem, Head of Corporate Communications Union Bank, Abdus-Qudus Ibrahim, winner and Mr Shaibu Husseini, judge during the presentation.

On her part, Ogochukwu Ekezie-Ekaidem, Head of Corporate Communications for Union Bank noted that Union bank was keen to intervene in youth talent development, adding,  “One area of focus for us is talent development. It’s a way we can really empower our youths. We’re glad to be part of this relationship. The country is rich in art and culture, but there is a gap and we need to help tell our own stories. We believe telling our own stories is important. There are many platforms through which we can tell our stories. We commend your (the contestants) talent.”

Also speaking, last edition’s winner,  Paul Ugbede,  commended the finalists and Beeta Universal Arts Foundation (BUAF) for its work in providing a platform for youngsters to excel in their craft. According to him,”The I million Naira is not the issue, but the most important thing is the platform this contest gives you all. I can tell you that my play (Our Son the Minister) was the most performed in Lagos last year. I came to pursue my Lagos dream. This is a platform to grow; this is a family to grow.”

While giving the N1 million star prize to the winner,  Shaibu Husseini, one of the  Judges, who represented jury chair,  Ahmed Yerima, commended the quality of works submitted, saying they were very high. On the winning play, he said,  “It will not only come alive but also go on tour. This is the passion that Bikiya has and we encourage her. The judging process was exciting for us all.”

All the contestants expressed excitement at coming thus far in the contest and the opportunity it gave them to express themselves.

The event also featured  a drama medley presentation of some of the plays by the Theatre Arts students of UNILAG and the presentation of awards of recognition to institutions for supporting the arts and culture sector.  The awardees include Freedom Park,  Union Bank,Lagos State Government,  British Council  and  MTN Foundation for supporting the sector. This event was sponsored by Union Bank and supported by  WAPIC Insurance, Oyewole & Olajide LLP, NIMASA and others.



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