There is no winner for this year’s Nigeria Prize for Literature sponsored by Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG).
According to the Chairman, Advisory Board for the prize, Emeritus Professor Ayo Banjo, none of the 109 entries met the standard set for the covetous literary laurel.
The same thing happened in 2004 and 2009, when there was no winner for the prize in prose and poetry respectively.
Banjo who spoke on Friday said the decision was reached after a thorough review of the entries by the panel of judges led by Prof. Uwemedimo Enobong Iwoketok.
“Language plays a major role in literary production. Creative writers are normally expected to pay special attention to the use of language and aesthetics. The Prize demands stylistic excellence as manifested through an original and authoritative voice, narrative coherence and technically accurate writing.
“Unfortunately, the entries this year fall short of this expectation as each book was found to manifest incompetence in the use of language. Many of them showed very little or no evidence of good editing,” he said.
According to the jury, the entries were judged based on editorial excellence, creativity and story plot.
Iwoketok said children’s literature is yet to be fully addressed and explored, urging government, writers and educationists to take proactive steps in ensuring the genre is developed.
Banjo added: “A disturbingly large number of entries were dropped at the initial stage of short-listing because of grave editing and publishing errors.”
Apparently disappointed by the non-emergence of a winner, the international consultant for the prize, Prof. Kim Reynolds of the Newcastle University, United Kingdom, advised writers in the genre to pay attention to visual creativity along with understanding the minds of the children.
The Nation quoted him as saying: “The entries lack the lyricism, vision, and authority to become classics that will be handed down from generation to generation and that have the potential to reach out across cultures”.
In the bid of improving standard of children’s literature that would be published in the future, General Manager, External Relations, Nigeria LNG, Dr. Kudo Eresia-Eke said the organisation plans to invest in a capacity building workshop on children’s literature.
He said: “NLNG is determined to promote excellence by investing the prize money, which would have been won, back into the process for a creative writing workshop for Nigerian writers of children’s literature. The proceedings would be collated, published for reference and guidance.”
Other members of the panel of judges are Prof. Charles Bodunde of the University of Ilorin, and the University of Maiduguri’s Dr. Razinat Mohammed. Other members of the Banjo-led board are Prof Ben Elugbe and Jerry Agada.