By Anote Ajeluorou
It would seem Ibadan is where Nigeria literature currently resides. Last year, Rotimi Babatunde won the Caine Prize for African Writing (short story) worth US$10,000. This year, Ibadan-based poet and lawyer, Tade Ipadeola has again won The Nigerian Prize for Literature 2013 in the poetry category. Ipadeola won with his collection, The Sahara Testament, which won ahead of two other shortlisted poetry collections, Port Harcourt-based Amu Nnadi’s Through the Window of a Sand Castle and Lagos-based Ogochukwu Promise’s Wild Letters.
Ipadeola will be awarded US$100,000 for winning Africa’s biggest literary prize and one of the biggest literary prizes in the world.
In announcing the prize in Lagos, General Manager, External Relations of Nigeria Liquified Natural Gas (NLNG) company, sponsors of the prize, Dr. Kudo Eresia-Eke said, “Finally, a winner has emerged for The Nigeria Prize for Literature, 2013 edition. The Sahara Testaments by Tade Ipadeola has been adjudged winner of the prestigious prize by the Panel of Judges led by Prof. Romanus Egudu. Ipadeola’s The Sahara Testaments beat the other 200 books submitted for the competition this year to emerge winner”.
Eresia-Eke congratulated Nigerian writers for the consistent improvement in their works, saying the prize was a journey of excellence to help build a better Nigerian society. By supporting the prize as corporate sponsors, Eresia-Eke said his company, NLNG, was supporting “excellence so as to galvanise our nation to the pursuit of excellence. We want the prize to spur role models and inspire others to pursue and support excellence”.
He commended the judges for bringing their wealth of experience and knowledge to bear in their task of selecting the best literary work for 2013.
In appraising each of the works, Eresia-Eke said the three-man jury, headed by Prof. Romanus Egudu and which included Prof. Molara Ogundipe, Dr. Andrew Ame Aba and International Literary Consultant from Ghana, Prof. Kofi Anyidoho, “The Judges thought Promise’s Wild Letters to be of “high human relevance as reflected in her bold treatment of subject-matter such as the persistent menace of Boko Haram. Similarly, her poems consistently alert societal leaders on their obligations to the under-privileged, and a message of hope underscores the collection.
“Of Nnadi’s Through the Window of a Sandcastle, the judges hold that “The work is presented in elegant, well-crafted language, depicting contrastive experiences of pain, decay, pleasure and beauty. His work reflects artistic maturity, seriousness of thought, integrity and coherence, as well as the effective use of poetic devices such as imagery, irony and sound”.
Conclusively, Eresia-Eke said, “In arriving at their decision of Ipadeola’s The Sahara Testaments as winner of this year’s competition, the judges pointed out that the poet used “the Sahara as a metonymy for the problems of Africa and, indeed, the whole of humanity… and the work encompasses vast stores of knowledge in an encyclopeadic dimension.
“Ipadeola’s use of poetic language demonstrates a striking marriage of thought and verbal artistry expressed in the blending of sound and sense. The work is replete with historical, geographical, and literary allusions and tropes. On the whole, the poet demonstrates an outstanding level of intellectual exposure and knowledge, language use, and awareness of literature, which should be beneficial to readers and writers alike.”
By winning this year’s poetry prize, poets across the country will heave a sigh of relief following the debacle of no-winner declared by the judges in 2009 after it had first been awarded in 2006 to both Pa Gabriel Okara and late Prof. Ezenwa Ohaeto.
Ipadeola had earlier promised that if he won the prize, he would build a Poetry Library in honour of Ghanaian poet, Prof. Kofi Awoonor, who was recently murdered in Kenya by terrorists.