By Anote Ajeluorou
All is set for the sixth edition of Committee for Relevant Art (CORA) Book Party in Lagos. For the past six years it has become the tradition of the cultural landscapers to host the 11 authors that make the longlist of The Nigeria Prize for Literature sponsored by Nigeria Liquified Natural Gas (NLNG) Limited, in an interface with the book-loving public. This interface provides booklovers opportunity to interrogate the authors on their creative muse; it also affords the authors to give insight into their writing.
The Book Party has become an avenue for close interaction between authors, publishers, critics and general booklovers. Longlisted authors for this year’s drama category include John Friday Abba - Alekwu Night Dance, Patrick Ogbe Adaofuyi – Canterkerous Passengers, Soji Cole- Maybe Tomorrow, Paul Edema - A plague of Gadflies, Jude Idada - Oduduwa, King of the Edos and Onshore Ruth Momodu - No fault of Mine, others are Attah Isaac Ogezi - Under a Darkling Sky, Julie Okoh - Our wife Forever, Ade Solanke - Pandora’s Box, Arnold Udoka – Akon and Sam Ukala - Iredi War.
These 11 authors are vying for the handsome $USD100,000 prize money.
The longlist was unveiled two weeks ago. The prize jury is being chaired by a professor of Theatre and Drama and Vice-Chancellor, Benue State University, Prof. Charity Angya. Other members of the panel of judges include Prof. Ahmed Yerima, a past laureate of the prize and professor of Theatre Arts, Redeemer's University, Mowe, Ogun State, and Prof. Akanji Nasiru, professor of Performing Arts, Bowen University Iwo, Osun State.
The list if made up of a mix of interesting playwrights some of whom have been on the turf for a long time now. Sam Uka (Iredi War) if a professor of drama at Delta State University, Abraka and has a successful stint in play writing and performance. So also is Julie Okoh (Our Wife Forever), another professor of drama and gender expert with many publications to her credit. She teaches drama at University of Port Harcourt.
Attah Isaac Ogezi (Under a Darkling Sky) although a lawyer, has been on the turf as Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) with a few publications to his credit. Arnold Udoka (Akon) is the dance director at National Troupe of Nigeria and has tucked many years of performance experience under his belt.
Although the other seven playwrights are relatively unknown in the performance circuit, their inclusion means there are well healed in the art of playwriting and they could be the banana peel for the ‘veterans’ enumerated above. With the shortlist of three expected to emerge in September, drama experts are keen to see who will make it from this stage onward.
Since 2004 The Nigeria Prize for Literature has rewarded eminent writers such as Gabriel Okara (co-winner, 2005, poetry), Professor Ezenwa Ohaeto (co-winner, 2005, poetry) for The Dreamer, His Vision; Ahmed Yerima (2006, drama) for his classic, Hard Ground; Mabel Segun (co-winner, 2007, children’s literature) for her collection of short story Reader’s Theatre; Professor Akachi Adimora-Ezeigbo (co-winner, 2007, children’s literature) with her book, My Cousin Sammy; Kaine Agary (2008, prose); Esiaba Irobi (2010, drama) who clinched the prize posthumously with his book Cemetery Road; Adeleke Adeyemi (2011, children’s literature) with his book The Missing Clock; Chika Unigwe (2012 – prose), with her novel, On Black Sister’s Street and Tade Ipadeola (2013 – poetry) with his collection of poems, The Sahara Testaments.
The Nigeria Prize for Literature rotates yearly amongst four literary genres: prose fiction, poetry, drama and children’s literature. Nigeria LNG Limited remains committed to responsible corporate citizenship and The Nigeria Prize for Literature is one of its numerous contributions towards helping to build a better Nigeria.