By Ngozi Onyeakusi–‘The Nigeria Prize for Literature, sponsored by Nigeria LNG Limited (NLNG), and the Rainbow Book Club on Sunday in Port Harcourt held a bookfest in honour of three shortlisted playwrights for the 2023 edition of the Prize.

The bookfest featured readings from the shortlisted plays and a session with the playwrights who participated in person or virtually.

Playwrights on the shortlist who attended the event include Abideen Abolaji Ojomu (Ojuelegba Crossroads), Henry Akubuiro (Yamtarawala – The Warrior King) and Obari Gomba (Grit).

In his remarks, the General Manager of External Relations and Sustainable Development at NLNG, Mr Andy Odeh, commended the shortlisted playwrights, stating that their books were the best of the 143 works submitted for this year’s prize.

He expressed delight in bringing the shortlisted playwrights to Port Harcourt, a World Book Capital. He stated that the excellence exhibited in the shortlisted works was a testament to the Nigerian writer’s highly creative and resilient spirit. He said The Nigeria Prize for Literature owes its success to Nigerian writers who have entered the prize, which has recorded well over 2,500 entries and celebrated 17 winning works.

Mr. Odeh urged the creative and entertainment industry to tap into the talents the Nigeria Prize for Literature has showcased over the years, especially in the Drama category, which has produced a winner since the first one in 2006 when Ahmed Yerima clinched the award with his book Hard Ground. He emphasized that the corpus of Nigerian Literature played a pivotal role in redefining the political, economic, social, and cultural identity as part of the journey towards transformation and progress.

In her speech, the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Rainbow Book Club, Mrs. Koko Kolango, represented by Mrs Ijeoma Aruba, stressed the need for stakeholders in Port Harcourt to collaborate and bring back the glory of Port Harcourt as the World Book Capital.

“We must all join hands to bring back our World Book Capital. NLNG has set a good precedence by hosting this Bookfest. But it would take 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 a confluence of our city’s creatives, a melting point for information and ideas,” she stated.

Guests who graced the event include Past President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Chief O.C.J. Okocha; former Rivers State Commissioner of Information, Ibim Semenitari; Nollywood actor, Sam Dede; former Bonny Gas Transport Director, Mrs. Aleruchi Cookey-Gam, among others.

The three entries were selected out of 143 for this year’s prize round, which focuses on Drama. The final verdict on the winning entry is expected to be announced in October 2023.

The Nigeria Prize for Literature rotates yearly among four genres: prose fiction, poetry, drama and children’s literature.