We agreed among us before the prize award, Agema affirms
By Anote Ajeluorou
IN what must obviously rank as the Three-Musketeer-Poets of Nigeria’s literary landscape, the prize winner of The Nigeria Prize for Literature 2022 in poetry category, Romeo Oriogun will share his prize money with his two fellow poets who are runners up for the USD$100,000 prize money. Oriogun won the prestigious literary prize with his poetry collection Nomad on October 14, 2022 in Lagos in a glittering grand finale for a prize contest that started in April.
In an unprecedented move, the first of its kind for the prize in its 18th year since inception, the winner will not be going home with all the money alone as winner-takes-all. Oriogun will gift his poet-soulmates – Saddiq Dzukogi (Your Crib, My Qibla) and Su’eddie Vershima Agema (Memory and the Call of Waters) – USD$10,000 each from his prize money. He made the startling revelation on his verified Twitter handle shortly after being announced winner by the Advisory Board Chairperson, Prof. Akachi Ezeigbo who was flanked by her board members – Professors Ahmed Yerima and Olu Obafemi while NLNG’ss Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Philip Mshelbila stood in the background.
In the revelatory post, Oriogun said, “I give thanks to the judges for finding Nomad worthy of the 2022 Nigeria Prize for Literature. I give thanks and congratulations (to) my brothers, Saddiq and Su’eddie, for their poetry and the many journeys ahead of us. And as agreed upon, I will be sending $20,000 out of the prize money to Saddiq and Su’eddie.”
A call put through to Agema, who Oriogun mandated at the prize award ceremony to collect his plaque on his behalf, confirmed the new temper among the three young poets who are literary soulmates. Agema described the event as exciting and memorable with so much fun.
“We had agreed among us that whoever wins will actually give the other two USD$10,000 each, that whoever wins will reach out to the other two,” Agema said. “It was in that spirit that I went to collect the prize on his behalf. So there was so issue. We already had the agreement. As a matter of fact, we spoke yesterday and even before the event we were chatting, and even after the event, all of us still spoke generally. Even before the award, we were always talking on a daily basis on stuffs like that.”
Prodded further if it was time the prize Advisory Board and the prize sponsor Nigeria LNG Ltd borrowed a leaf from the action of the three poets who took the initiative to democratise the prize money among themselves as friends such that the last three all smile home as ‘winners’, but with only one going away with the biggest prize money, Agema affirmed that he was in total agreement, noting that their action has demonstrated such temper, and said it would be nice if NLNG took that route going forward.