Monday, March 21, 2011

The shortcomings of the Nigeria Prize for Literature



The shortcomings of the Nigeria Prize for Literature

The Nigeria Prize for Literature, endowed by the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) Limited is a great thing. It is an unprecedented initiative of immense benefit to Nigerian writers and the society for the appreciation of our literary culture.
I have been following the progress of the Nigeria Prize for Literature without any objection to the administration, but not impressed by the impact on the sustainable development of Nigerian literature. There is too much emphasis on the cash prize of $50,000 when the focus should be on promoting the revival of our reading culture for the intellectual development of the Nigerian society that is presently breeding philistines.

The Nigerian Prize for Literature has made the lucky winners richer, but it has failed to make us wiser, because many of the prizes winning books have not reached the majority of the Nigerian society, except the intelligentsia.
The Man Booker Prize, Orange Prize, Pulitzer Prize, Commonwealth Prize and other highly coveted literary awards increase the public appreciation of the winners and their books, but the Nigeria Prize for Literature has failed to make the winners bestsellers and becoming a bestselling author is the dream of every writer.
It looks like there is no budget for a comprehensive media plan for the Nigeria Prize for Literature, because there is no tangible publicity plan for the public appreciation of the winning books beyond the public announcements of the shortlisted authors, the winners and prize giving gala ceremonies. Everybody returns to business as usual after the events and the lucky winner of the $50, 000 prize smiles to the bank. But none of the prize winning books has become a bestseller and the author hardly goes on any book signing tour like in America, the UK or other countries where prize winning books become sought after collector’s items and sell like hot cakes.
What is the use of winning a book prize, but your book is not in demand?
The fact that is; the reading culture in Nigeria is still poor after the efforts of some individuals and groups to promote reading and President Goodluck Jonathan launched a widely publicized “Bring Back the Book” campaign.
The revival of our reading culture is a challenge to the administrators of the Nigeria Prize for Literature.
How can we use the prize to revive the general appreciation of reading in Nigeria?

May I advise the administrators of the Nigeria Prize for Literature to review the budget and the media plan and consider spending more on the promotion of the prize winning books to attract the attention and appreciation of the public.
The promotion of the winning book will attract more readers and boost our reading culture.
Invite the public to vote for the shortlisted books, because such an open invitation will be a good motivation for the public appreciation of the books and will definitely boost their interest to read them.

The Nigeria Prize for Literature needs more cooperation and support of the Nigerian news media to achieve more for the overall benefit of the Nigerian society. The Guardian and other Nigerian newspapers should learn from The New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, the Guardian of the UK and others in America and Europe by dedicating more pages to literary appreciation such as initiating and promoting a Nigerian Bestsellers List for both fiction and non-fiction like New York Times: Best-Seller Lists, Book of the Month and other promotions that will go a long way to increase the public appreciation of the goals and objectives of the Nigeria Prize for Literature beyond the competition for the cash prize and the glitz of the ceremony.


~ By Ekenyerengozi Michael Chima


















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