Literary prizes and the future of literature in Nigeria


Emma Shercliff photo



Ogunniyi Abayomi


Joy and celebration are the tone of my emotions towards Nigerian writers and poets clinching major literary prizes such as the Etisalat Prize for Literature, Brunel University African Poetry prize and Commonwealth Short Story competition in spite of the social, economic and political challenges that have crippled our national identity, our creative art effective and efficient.

Jowhor Ile, Romeo Oriogun and Akwaeke Emezi‘s status as winner of the above literary prizes is reminiscent of a vibrant and effective literary sphere in Nigeria that has raised literary giants in reference to the Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, late Professor Chinua Achebe, Chimamanda Adichie, Ben Okri, Chika Unigwe, Lola Shoneyin, Unoma Azuah, Helon Habila, Taiye Selasi, Uche Nduka and Teju Cole whose literary achievements within and outside the shores of Africa have been a focal point on the efficiency and contribution of African writers to the development of literature globally.

I am positive over the potential literature has upheld within Nigerian society and the bright talent that emerges from our society, yet am critical towards the poor awareness of literary workshops, poor state of publishers in our country, poor educational standards and facilities, poor reading culture and the lackadaisical attitude from an instituted authority and ministry of education towards implementing programs that would engage writers while they develop their talent ensuring theyu are able to compete with their counterparts in Europe and America.

These situations within our territory, along with the poor welfare and distorted policies of our system, leave writers with the decision of departing Nigeria to reside in Europe and America for greener pastures, likewise for success and development. A sad and unfortunate tale is that of home grown talent who are victim of these challenges, languishing continuously, their writing career trapped because there are no sponsors, welfare or platform to exhibit their innate ability, therefore the switch to odd jobs as an excuse for an alternative to survive if their gift cannot make a way for them, discarding the pursuit required to succeed within the realm of the art.

This is an issue we have always endured over time yet we lose our best hands to the pleasure of Europe and American literature while our craft is neglected. In Nigeria young and aspiring writers have always sought the attention of online literary journals for the publication of their stories, poems and essays in absence of seeking a book publisher because it is less costly for the writer.

The state of publishing in Nigeria is critical when there are low electricity outputs to publish a writer’s piece rendering the writer to publish at a higher cost along with a shipping fee paid if sending the book home to sell rather than the low cost and lesser burden of travelling afar. Publishing firms such as Kachifo, FarafinaCassava Republic and others have taken it within themselves to give new and aspiring writers a voice in spite of the challenges yet are embattled with the public who prefer an entertainer to a book.

There is little or no market for literary work to thrive which is a challenge to writers prompting him or her to abscond the project hereby abandoning a great gift. In spite of all these challenges, African stories and poems are rated highly across the globe. Our narratives are critically observed by literary enthusiasts because of their infusion of folklores, tales, proverbs and events that shape our world, yet there is no market for this at home, whereas western countries are in tune with our literature exploiting our work to their market for higher sales while Africans deny their own because of no European influence.

Our orientation towards our stories needs to be revived, if only we could patronize our works and writings…African literature is beautiful to read, we need to patronize and encourage our beautiful writers to ensure our potential as a leading giant in the literary sphere.







Ogunniyi Abayomi

Ogunniyi Abayomi was born July 11, 1991 in the city of Lagos, where he resides. A poet and essayist whose works have been published in various journals.


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