It has been an interesting year for me in every way. There have been several challenges but also accolades. I have spent more time on the SEVHAGE front fighting battles including technical demons that saw our website crash for several months, printer devils [pun intended!], amongst other issues. In the midst all of this, there were several blessings. Most importantly, I welcomed a daughter with my wife, Agatha – that is gist for another time. I also got to feature prominently in two literary festivals – the Abuja Writers’ Forum’s literary festival and that of the Abuja Literary Society. I was on a panel with Zaynab Alkali’s daughters in the former and facilitated a workshop alongside Dike Chukwumerije in the latter. I was part of a pre-festival workshop for the Minna Book Festival… These are just a few. I was published in a couple of fine places online and in-print and to the gist of this post – I was shortlisted for some awards.
Earlier in the year I was shortlisted for the Association of Nigerian Authors’ Children’s Literature Prize for my children’s book, Once Upon a Village Tale which had a limited print run to test the market. SEVHAGE author, Chukwudi Eze was also shortlisted for his The Return of Half-Something in the Prose Fiction category. I was really busy with work and couldn’t follow up with what was happening. We had to even get the ANA Review 2018 out on a tight schedule. We delivered! The prize was won by Jide Ogunlana for Primrose and the Kidnappers.
Once Upon a Village Tale comes out next year and can be pre-ordered by sending a mail to email@example.com. The book is a labour of love for my daughter and all my nephews and nieces. I have been concerned that we don’t have enough traditional tales told. I was lucky to enjoy the tradition of being told tales at night by my father and other relations, in our house on the outskirts of Abuja and also when I was in Makurdi or one of our villages – my maternal and paternal. So, in order to retain some of that magic, I decided to write a book to capture some not so popular tales. The result was this book, which has taken me some four to five years to put together. Agatha has been on my case to get it out but the publishing process is never that easy. Even when you work in a publishing house, there are processes and your work must meet the mark for it to be approved. If not, you keep working or sending what new material you can. Well, the good fortune is this book is out and if we had any doubts of its merit, we have at least the shortlist to show we did not do a totally bad job! So, by next year, the book comes out. It will be really lovely to have you pre-order. It is about a thousand naira (N1,000) only and if you send us a mail, we can get it across when it is out.
More recently, I got a message from my brother, Servio Gbadamosi, to check a link. He then called and was excited. As it turned out, we had been shortlisted for the $10,000 worth Wole Soyinka Prize for African Literature alongside seven other people – most of whom were in our circle. There was Professor Hyginus Ekwuazi with his One Day I’ll Dare to Raise my middle finger at the stork and the Reaper, which SEVHAGE had published in 2016. Ekwuazi is one of my all time favourite poets and one man I love so much. Iquo Diana Eke, my paddy was there with her Symphony of Becoming. Dami Ajayi’s Clinical Blues had been published by Servio’s WriteHouse collective and the author is one of my paddies too. So, if not for anything else, I had friends on the list. Ayobami Animashaun had his Sailing for Ithaca while Taiwo Dominic was on with Harvest for Heaven – A Harvest of Poems. I was in the race with Home Equals Holes: Tale of an Exile (which won the ANA Prize for Poetry 2014) while Servio was contending with his A Tributary in Servitude (which was successor to my ANA Prize, in 2015… hee hee hee). I remember that I had been on Servio’s case to complete his book the year before. I had also had to take time out to do plenty work on it. So, I felt like it was my book too. To be honest, I feel like a good part of the book is dense though. Servio deserves a lot of credit for the lovely work he did there and how he played with time to bring tradition to life in strong voice evocative of past masters and contemporary greats. But, back to the awards.
Eventually, a three person list was drawn from our shortlist with Servio, Professor Tanure Ojaide and Harriet Anena. The prize was won jointly by Ojaide and Anena. I spoke at length with Servio after this and we toasted to the successes of these ones. We agreed that there was much work to do, moving forward. As Ekwuazi would say many times, it is enough to be nominated for an award; it shows you are doing something right in at least, one person’s view.
Trying to sponsor prizes or organise anything to promote literature in Nigeria is quite a tiresome and thankless job. I can only imagine what the Association of Nigerian Authors goes through to ensure they sustain the various prizes and administer them. I can’t imagine what Dr Promise Ogochukwu and her team at the Lumina Foundation go through to get the Wole Soyinka Prize going. It is really a thankless job and trust me, I have a very good idea. I am grateful to them and to everyone who keeps trying to make literature live in our country and continent. There are those in the media like Abubakar Adam Ibrahim, Ibrahim Ramalan, Henry Akubuiro, Toni Kan, Jite Efemuaye, Chinelo Chikelu, Evelyn Osagie, Salamatu Sule, Emman Shehu who do their bit too. Too many names of people trying to make literature live. Well done to them all and yes, congratulations to all those winning the prizes too. It isn’t easy doing what we do.
It is never about the prizes, true, but yes, we smile when they come. I am grateful again to these ones doing their bit and to everyone who keeps inspiring me to move on. In the new year, I shall be embarking on new literary journeys I have never dared before. Say me a prayer as I am going to need all the prayers I can get.
And you, wherever you are and in whatever you do, keep at it. It doesn’t matter whether you get acknowledged or awarded… Just keep at it because you never know when that accolade would come. Importantly, we don’t know when our final call would come. Life is a blink, make each second count and while we are at it, we can hope that history will be kind.
May the times be kind.