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The wonders we create with words, says prize-winner, Obari Gomba

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  • October 14, 2023
  • 7 min read
The wonders we create with words, says prize-winner, Obari Gomba

THE Advisory Board for The Nigeria Prize for Literature, sponsored by Nigeria LNG Limited on Friday announced ‘Grit’, authored by the academic, poet and playwright, Dr. Obari Gomba, as the winner of the USD$100,000 prize for the 2023 cycle on Drama. Chairperson of the Advisory Board, Professor Akachi Adimora-Ezeigbo, made the announcement at the Grand Award Night ceremony in Lagos, which had as theme ‘Redefinition.’ She also announced Dr. Eyoh Asuquo Etim’s entry “Herstory Versus ‘History’: A Motherist Rememory in Akachi Ezeigbo’s ‘The Last of the Strong Ones’ and Chimamanda Adichie’s ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’” as the 2023 winner of The Nigeria Prize for Literary Criticism, which comes with USD$10,000 prize money.

The winning book beat two others on the shortlist of three, ‘The Ojuelegba Crossroads’ by Abideen Abolaji Ojomu and ‘Yamtarawala – The Warrior King’ by Henry Akubuiro. The book competed against 143 plays submitted for the competition in 2023.

Professor Hippolite Amadi, the 2023 winner of The Nigeria Prize for Science, also sponsored by NLNG, was also awarded the prize money of USD$100,000 for his ground-breaking work on respiratory technologies for keeping Nigerian new-born babies alive. He was announced winner in September by the Advisory Board, led by Professor Barth Nnaji.

In his welcome address, the CEO/MD of Nigeria LNG Ltd, Dr. Philip Mshelbila, said the theme for the event “Re-definition” emphasised the need for redefinition in a rapidly changing world characterised by pandemics, geopolitical events, climate change, technological advancements, and more. He stated that redefinition involved looking at things in new ways, whether at a national, communal, or personal level, which often begins with re-evaluation, reassessment, and revision of established positions.

Mshelbila expressed excitement about Nigeria’s prospects in the energy transition journey, particularly with natural gas as an enabler, highlighting Nigeria LNG’s support for the ‘Decade of Gas’ policy.

According to him, “In Nigeria LNG, we supported the declaration of the ‘Decade of Gas,’ which the Federal Government launched in 2021 to help Nigeria achieve industrialisation, economic prosperity, and tackle energy poverty by using gas as an enabler which aligns with Nigeria LNG’s vision to be a globally competitive LNG company helping to build a better Nigeria. I have expressed optimism in several fora that the ‘Decade of Gas’ policy would enable the country to catch up with the industrialised countries of the world if successfully implemented as planned, while at the same time decarbonising our ecosystem.

“Our bid for redefinition is further contextualised through the sponsorship of the Nigeria Prizes: the Nigeria Prize for Science, Literature, and Literary Criticism. This year, the theme for the science prize is ‘Innovation for Enhancement of Healthcare Therapy.’ We need our people to be in their best form—physically, mentally, and emotionally—to tap into the wealth attainable through Nigeria’s reasoned potential. Likewise, the genre for the 2023 Nigeria Prize for Literature is drama. As is apparent, drama has an adept way of communicating themes and messages for our deeper reflection.”

Speaking on the theme of the event, the Special Guest of Honour, His Highness Muhammad Sanusi II, stated that the ‘Redefinition’ theme transcends science and literature, and that it was time for Nigeria to redefine itself.

“We often lament our image, but what have we done to change it?” he queried. “When will we celebrate scientists like Professor Amadi? Nigeria LNG is shedding light on such individuals, and I hope more Nigerians will do the same. This is the essence of redefinition.

“We just listened to Professor Amadi. What I like about the speech is that in his work, he’s looking at the human being at the end of his work. I have always told people that one of the best ways to get value out of your life, out of your career and out of your position is to try, from the beginning, to figure out who is the human being at the end of your work. If you think of the human being at the end of your work, you will realise how important it is for you to stay alive so those human beings work.

“So the question is this: is it not time for our public office holders to redefine their roles and start thinking of the human being at the end of their actions? Is it not time to start asking that when you are made a public officer, after four years or after eight years, can you honestly look at yourself and say that you have positively impacted the lives of millions of Nigerians? You don’t know their faces or names, but you are thinking of the human being. Hippolite Amadi, the winner of the Nigeria Prizes for Science, does not know the names of the mothers of the babies he saved. He does not know. But he is telling you that he has an innovation that can reduce the mortality rate of newborns in Nigeria. He does not need to know the names of those people to know that his work has value to define himself. He has defined himself as somebody whose work is aimed at saving life.”

Sanusi stated further that Nigeria LNG has the potential to redefine the Nigerian economy by helping the country transition from oil to gas, which could cut energy costs by 50% to 60% in the country, significantly impacting inflation, people’s livelihoods, and the nation as a whole.

According to Professor Adimora-Ezeigbo, the winning book, Grit, is a dramatic journey into the destructive impact of soul-less politics of power and profit which brings out the beast in man. She stated that the play builds the motivations for the actions of every character in a lifelike manner “with apt characterisation and purposeful manipulation of plot and conflict. The play is filled with conflicts that create the mood of the inevitability of tragedy and the language is full of twists that entertain in the midst of pain.”

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.”

according to the General Manager, External Relations and Sustainable Development, Mr. Andy Odeh, Nigeria LNG Limited remains committed to responsible corporate citizenship, and The Nigeria Prize for Science, The Nigeria Prize for Literature and The Nigeria Prize for Literary Criticism are some of the company’s numerous contributions towards building a better Nigeria.

Member, Advisory Board of The Nigeria Prize for Literature (NPL), Prof. Olu Obafemi (left); Chairperson, NPL Advisory Board, Prof. Akachi Adimora-Ezeigbo; 2023 NPL winner, Dr. Obari Gomba; former Nigeria LNG MD, Chief G.T. Grant and Nigeria LNG MD/CEO, Dr. Philip Mshelbila at the literary Grand Award Night sponsord by Nigeria LNG. Gomba won for his play, Grit

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