* ‘Grit is a dramatic journey into the destructive impact of soulless politics of power and profit, says Prof. Ezeigbo
THE accolade for literary excellence for drama category in 2023 finally went to writer and academic, an Associate Professor of English and Literary Studies at the University of Port Harcourt, Obari Gomba. He won The Nigeria Prize for Literature 2023 with his politically charged play, Grit, published by the Odia Ofeimun-led Hornbill House of the Arts, Lagos. Gomba beat two other contestants – Henry Akubuiro (Yamtarawala – The Warrior King) and Abideen Ojomu (The Ojuelegba Crossroads) – to clinch the handsome USD$100,000 prize money. Gomba won at the fifth attempt in chasing the elusive prize.
Grit is Hornbill House of the Arts’ second book to win The Nigeria Prize for Literature award. In 2013 Tade Ipadeola’s The Sahara Testament won in the poetry category. The theme for this year’s award celebration was ‘Redefinition’; and it prompted former Central Bank of Nigeria Governor Muhammad Sanusi to charge every Nigeria to redefine their role within the larger Nigerian polity for a better society to emerge.
Winner of The Nigeria Prize for Literature 2023, Dr. Obari Gomba addressing guests
An elated Gomba said in his acceptance speech after winning the coveted prize, “It pleased the Almighty for time and chance to make it happen in my favour. God bless the Nigeria LNG Ltd for investing in The Nigeria Prize for Literature! This is the fifth time I have been listed for this prize. And I thank the jury for counting Girt worthy of this prize. It’s a victory for Nigerian writers all over the world who, through creativity and resilience, have continued to thrive and redefine our country.
“To my publisher, the one and only Odia Ofeimun of Hornbill House. No words are enough to thank you. You represent all those who work to enrich Nigeria’s book chain – those who edit, design covers, print, bind and stitch, trim, stock and sell, review or critique or simply read the wonders that we create with words. On a day like this I cannot mention all my friends and well wishers across the world. I’m grateful to you for your prayers and support. But I will single out my boss and Vice Chancellor of the University of Port Harcourt, who is represented here.
“I will single out my super wife, Dr. Victoria Gomba, who endures my restlessness and shares my rivers spirit. I single out my daughter Ohimanka Gomba, aka Ohima I, who has been watching on Youtube since five years. Thank you for sharing my courage and dreams with me.”
In the citation for Grit before the announcement of winner, Chairperson for Advisory Board, Prof. Akachi Ezeigbo said, “Grit is a dramatic journey into the destructive impact of soulless politics of power and profit, which brings out the beast in man. The play deals with the motivations for the actions of every character in a life-like manner, with apt characterisation and purposeful manipulation of plot and conflict. The play is filled with conflict that creates the mood for inevitability of tragedy and the language is full of twists right from the second scene where the battle line between the brothers is drawn.”