The Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) literary prize in any category is a notable prize looked forward to by almost every Nigerian writer. While there have been quarrels over quality, judgments and things of the like – as with other prizes, it has remained one of the most prestigious prizes in the country. The judges of the Association of Nigerian Authors just released the shortlist for the 2017 ANA Prizes. It is an interesting list featuring past winners, shortlisters and some literary heavy weights for the award. It seems a reunion of sorts and a fight, particularly in the three broad genres of literature: poetry, prose and drama.
In the poetry category are Obari Gomba, Ebi Yeibo, Seyi Adigun and Patrick Oguejiofor. Obari Gomba and Ebi Yeibo, both academics, are previous winners. Gomba who was shortlisted for his For Every Homeland won the coveted award last year while Ebi Yeibo, shortlisted for Of Waters and the Wild shared the joint prize for the ANA Poetry award in 2014 with Su’eddie Vershima Agema (me). Gomba and Yeibo were also nominated for the NLNG Longlist earlier this year. Seyi Adigun, a medical doctor, is a past Chairman of the Abuja chapter of ANA. He was shortlisted for his A Child of Smell. Patrick Oguejiofor is a notable community champion whose voice has been heard on several topical developmental, political and economic issues. This time, he throws his might in the poetry ring daring the other ANA heavyweights with his new collection themed on the Maiduguri madness through Maiduguri Requiems.
The prose section has some notable names, Dul Johnson, Kukogho Iruesiri and Lola Akande. Dul is professor of Literature at Bingham University whose shortlisted work, Across the Gulf was published by SEVHAGE earlier in the year. His novel is a bridge between thriller and literary fiction. It dwells on some aspects of the Biafran war and its aftermaths, with a view of how it affected the destinies of some families. It is a fine story packaged to fine quality with a memorable cover. Professor Dul was shortlisted for the ANA Drama Prize in 2014 with his play, Melancholia – also published by SEVHAGE. Kukogho Iruesiri, who is a literary promoter of note is founder and publisher at Words Rhythm and Rhymes (WRR). He has earned some credits as a poet. Kukogho, more known as Kukogho Iruesiri Samson (KIS) entered his engaging unpublished manuscript, The Devil’s Pawn which is made up of about 50 episodes of thriller material he had previously blogged. Lola Akande, shortlisted for What it Takes, is a lecturer at the University of Lagos, who started writing seriously in 2009 after defending her PhD thesis. The fourth prose award nominee, the relatively unknown Ike Utuagha, made the shortlist with his book, Goodbye Tomorrow.
The drama category has Tunji Ajibade, shortlisted for his The Masked Crown, who won the prize in 2014. He narrowly missed the award in 2015 when he was shortlisted and came first runner up like RC Ofodile shortlisted in 2016. Notably, Ofodile won the ANA/Abubakar Gimba Prize for Short Stories in 2016. Ajibade’s plays largely explore history with a twist. He is known to employ narrative licenses to bend events of reality to conform with the ideas of his mind to get expected results. The two other shortlisted writers for the drama prize, which is usually not so hotly contested with limited entries are Solomon Iguanre with Oh Obedeki, Dickson Ekhaguere with General Ologbosere and Jerry Alagbaoso with his Tony wants to marry.
The ANA/Abubakar Gimba Prize will not be awarded this year as the judges found the entries only worthy enough to be honourable mentions. Bura-Bari Nwilo, whose Tiny Place Called Happiness, has made the rounds was a name some people might have expected to clinch the prize…
Like in previous years, the ANA/Maria Ajima Prize for Literary Criticism is also not going to be awarded as the entries seem not to have been impressive enough for the judges – or maybe, not enough entries were received. Nwagbo Pat-Obi who was honourably mentioned last year is honourably mentioned this year again alongside Fynest Elvis. In the end, one has to wonder at the level of scholarship and criticism in the country if year in, year out, no award can be given for literary criticism. Could it be because the needed was not available or that the available was not what was needed?
The final category, the ANA Children’s Literature Prize is also not for grabs this year as there are only honourable mentions for this category too. Thus, Wale Adewale, Chioma A. Diru and Stanley Okeke Oji will have to hope that there will be an honourable certificate for the effort. Yes, maybe honourable pictures too, as one of the three whispered to me.
(The full announcement for the list can be found here…)
So, who wins the coveted 2017 ANA Prize for the Prose, Poetry and Drama? Will the honourably mentioned have a certificate or at least, a handshake? We will all have to wait for the awards dinner of the 36th International Annual Convention of ANA coming up on Saturday 28th October, 2017 in Makurdi, Benue State.
Su’eddie Vershima Agema, editor and development worker, won the 2014 ANA Prize for Poetry in addition to being shortlisted and longlisted on different occasions in other categories of the competition. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, @sueddieagema on Twitter and Instagram.