In Nigeria, Journalists Double as Literary Laureates, does the media harbour the best brains in Nigeria?
For two years consecutively: 2016 and 2017, the Nigeria Liquified and Natural Gas (NLNG) prize for Nigerian creative writers have gone to journalists.
The products of the prize have demonstrated capacities to defend the title in the mix of other laureates across the globe.
The prize is prestigious in all ramifications: a huge amount of money— $100, 000— is attached to it; and it is one of the most keenly contested literary prizes in Africa and probably in the world.
In 2016, Abubakar Adam Ibrahim, an Arts reporter of a Nigerian daily, Daily Trust, won the prize with his Prose Fiction, Season of Crimson Blossoms, beating other 172 authors who submitted entries for the prize.
In 2017, Ikeogu Oke, who was the Standards Editor and Deputy Editor (Arts and Culture) at the now rested Nigerian newspaper, NEXT, won the prize with his poetry collection, The Heresiad. Ikeogu Oke’s collection of poems beat other 183 entries received for the competition.
However, there have been non-journalist winners of the prize: Professor Sam Ukala’s play, Iredi War, won the prize in 2014, and Tade Ipadeola’s poetry collection, Sahara Testament, won the prize in 2013.
There was no winner of the prize in 2015. None of the 109 entries in 2015 met the standard set for the literary laurel. In 2004, the year the award was instituted and in 2009, there were no winners for the prize too.
This suggests that award committee may be thorough in their selection.
The General Manager, External Relations at NLNG, Kudo Eresia-Eke, said the NLNG is happy about the progress already recorded by the Award.
“We at NLNG are proud of this additional achievement. National and international interest in both the prize and process are increasing and this is good for the prize and for Nigeria”, he was speaking about Oke’s announcement.
“The number of entries for the 2017 edition exceeded the 2013 numbers in the same category, showing a six percent increase in the number of entries received and increasing interest in one of the biggest literary prizes in the world. This has been the trend since 2005, the first time Poetry was in focus, and for which only 13 entries were received. The next four years would see an exponential growth in the number of entries with 160 entries in 2009, and 174 in 2013.
“We believe that the prize has inspired writers to want to deliberately advance the cause of literature and win laurels. This has led to the proliferation of books and increased the quality of books. The spiraling effect of this is a direct boost to literacy and education in the country, the foundation of cultural and socio-economic revolution. The impact of the prize is easily discernible and we believe that it supports NLNG’s vision to help build a better Nigeria,” he said.