By Suoyo Ekubo
The Rainbow Book Club on Sunday hosted the Port Harcourt Bookfest 2023 a reception and conversation with the shortlisted writers for the Nigeria Prize for Literature in the City of Port Harcourt, Rivers State capital.
The Nigeria Prize for Literature, sponsored by the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) was inaugurated in 2004. The Prize money of $50, 000 was later raised to a $100, 000, and the Prize is administered by an Advisory Board set up by Nigeria LNG Limited. The competition aim to bring Nigeria authors to public attention and celebrate literary craftsmanship in the nation. It is expected that the quest for a prestigious prize will improve the quality of writing, editing, proof-reading, and publishing in the country with far-reaching positive effect on print, broadcast journalism, film and theatre production.
This year’s focus is on drama and out of 143 entries, the 3 plays that made it to the grand finale are;
1. GRIT written by Obari Gomba.
2. The Ojúelégba Crossroads written by Abideen Abolaji Ojomu.
3. Yamtarawala (The Warrior King) written by Henry Akubuiro.
In her welcome address, the founder of Rainbow Book Club Koko kalango, who was represented by Ijeoma Arguba, said that a lot need to be done, that Port Harcourt is not just remembered as one of the book capitals in the world. Recall that, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) named the Nigerian City of Port Harcourt as the 2014 World Book Capital.
She stated, “In a world book capital city we expect to see a full-blown book festivals, functional libraries, we expect to see book clubs that were formed being sustained, and we expect to see more books published. We must join hands to bring back our world book capital, Nigerian LNG has set a good precedence by hosting this book fest but it takes a collective effort to bring back our world book capital city and we all have a role to play. We can begin by bringing back our week-long Port Harcourt book festival. Our festival was confluence of our city creatives, the melting point for information and ideas. Here the visual and dramatic theatre all met for interaction and business. it was a fertile ground for ideas. Together let us bring back our world book capital city, together let us bring back our book festivals, together let us bring back our creative Port Harcourt.”
In his address, Mr Andy Odey, General Manager External Relations and Sustainable Development, Nigeria LNG Limited, congratulated the three shortlisted authors for the Prize of $100,000. He said “We are here because of you but more importantly because of the works you have done, the books you have written”
Mr Odey, also expressed the company’s firmness and readiness to support excellence and human capital building to build a better Nigeria.
He stated, “Gradually we are helping to restore the glory of Port Harcourt. As you already know the Nigerian prize for Literature runs for four-year cycle between drama, prose, fiction, poetry, and children literature, and today the prize have over 5,000 entries and celebrated 17 winning books. The feedback is that the volume of works have inspired a lot of Nigerians not just in the literature community either movie making or documentary but ensuring that some of the works have been reference books in schools. Report so far shows that many of the entries that are believed to be top-notch have found their ways into different parts of the value chain of entertainment.
“This year, all eyes are on the shortlisted authors and we are eagerly expectant as the deal day approaches. Our focus remain to ensure that excellence continue to take the centre stage for foreign and home-based publishers. Instituting the Nigerian Prize for Literature and the Prize for Science, Nigeria LNG Limited set this up to stimulate excellence, insights and interaction. So far the prizes have enjoyed tremendous tributes from the public especially from readers, scientist and Media, making them a huge success at home and abroad. We owe this success to you authors publishers, administrators, scholars either scientist journalists or lovers of literature. These prizes coupled with our support for education, infrastructural development and human capital building particularly in our host Communities are so many of the ways that will help build a better Nigeria,” Odey said.
Odey also disclosed that the Winner will be announced in October 13th 2023, to commemorate the first export of LNG cargo by Nigeria LNG on October 9, 1999 from its Bonny Terminal.