July 19, 2024

Why ‘Grit’ is worth the prize by every standard

  • June 21, 2024
  • 3 min read
Why ‘Grit’ is worth the prize by every standard

By Ismaila Umaisha

I love reading winning literary works to see what made the judges pick them out of hundreds of other entries as the best. I’ve just read Obari Gomba’s play, Grit, which won The Nigeria Prize for Literature 2023, sponsored by Nigeria LNG. And it made my day; it is worth the prize by every standard.

I particularly love the almost novel-like style of narration. It starts near the end of the story, the climax of a bloody riot, and swings into a flashback on how it all began, and then reconnects with the opening scene, finishing up with a bang! As one would expect from a good play, the scenes are full of suspense, mystery, twists and turns that keep the reader/audience at the edge of their seat. In my own case, I was reclining on my bed, so I kept punching the pillows each time a scene hit me hard – throughout the one hour it took me to finish the book.

I love the subject-matter too; how two brothers are pitched against each other, contesting for the same position in a dirty political arena typical of the Nigerian politics. The real tragic irony of it is that the two political novices and their family (including the reader/audience) do not know that their selection by the parties to contest against each other is a setup by some individuals with personal grudges against the family until almost the end of the drama. The real drama comes when their old father discovers almost too late that the two are not actually picked for the contest to win any election, but to be muddled up in a crisis that would consume the family; he decides to fight evil with evil. And the result is the ghastly Shakespeare-style tragedy that leaves the stage bloody.

Another quality of the play is the use of simple but captivating expressions. I leave you with these fine lines by the leader of one of the political parties:

TOWNSE: Evil is relentless. Evil can be both meticulous and careless. Evil is emboldened by its own success till it comes to believe it cannot be questioned or held accountable for its atrocities. The bolder evil becomes, the more careless it becomes. And at that stage, many will die in the large dragnet of evil.

And then this closing line by the old man:

PA NYIMENU: Let us all pray that a better community will emerge from the ashes of this night.

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