The Arts

October 15, 2023

How Obari won $100,000 Nigeria Prize for Literature

How Obari won $100,000 Nigeria Prize for Literature

By Prisca Sam-Duru

After five nominations, poet, writer and academic, Obari Gomba, has won the 2023 Nigeria Prize for Literature for his play, “Grit”, published by Hornbill House of the Arts.

Gomba was rewarded the prize money of $100,000 after beating two other shortlisted playwrights – Henry Akubuiro (Yamtarawala – The Warrior King) and Abideen Abolaji Ojomu (The Ojuelegba Crossroads), to win the prestigious award.

Gomba’s feat was announced at a Grand Award Night titled, ‘Redefinition’, held at Eko Hotel and Suites, Victoria Island, Lagos on Friday, October 13, 2023.

Obari Gomba who teaches Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Port Harcourt, has published the play ‘Guerilla Post’, among other creative works.

He was the Honorary Fellow in Writing at the University of Iowa, and previously won the ANA Drama Prize in 2018 and the ANA Poetry Prize in 2017. He was also shortlisted for the Nigeria Prize for Literature in 2017 and 2013.

The Nigeria Prize for Literature is sponsored by Nigeria LNG Limited. A total of 143 plays were entered for the competition, which focused on drama.

In addition to the highly coveted Nigerian Prize for Literature sponsored by the NLNG, the company also announced Eyoh Etim, a lecturer at Akwa Ibom State University, as winner of the Literary Criticism Prize. Eyoh received $10, 000 for his literary prowess at the contest.

Also, Hippolite Amadi, a professor of Medical Engineering & Technology, Imperial College London, won the 2023 Nigerian Prize for Science.

While reading the citation for ‘Grit’ before it was announced as winner, the Advisory Board Chairperson, Prof. Akachi Ezeigbo said, “Grit is a dramatic journey into the destructive impact of soulless politics of power and profit, which brings out the beast in man. The play deals with the motivations for the actions of every character in a life-like manner, with apt characterisation and purposeful manipulation of plot and conflict. The play is filled with conflict that creates the mood for inevitability of tragedy and the language is full of twists right from the second scene where the battle line between the brothers is drawn.”

This year’s judges include the chair, Professor Ameh Dennis Akoh as well as Professor Osita Catherine Ezenwanebe and Dr Rasheedah Liman.

Victor K. Yankah, a professor of Theatre and Film Studies at the University of Cape Coast, Ghana, served as the International Consultant for this year’s edition of the Prize.

In his acceptance speech, Gomba commended the NLNG for the prize platform, which he said has positively impacted Nigerian literature and creative industry at large, while commending other two contestants, who he said we’re also winners.

Speaking during the ceremony, Philip Mshelbila, Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, Nigeria LNG Limited, said the 2023 prize ceremony was themed ‘Redefinition’, in line with the need to reevaluate our priorities, visions and to push for change that will make the world a better place for businesses and humans.

The authors, he said, have used the power of words to redefine values, institute change and bring to the fore things that need to be preserved in a fast-changing world while commending them for exhibiting a high level of literary ingenuity.