The $100,000 NLNG Prize Longlist a Mix of Young and Veteran Nigerian Poets

The 11 nominees for Africa’s richest literary award, led by rising star Romeo Oriogun, include Iquo DianaAbasi and Su’eddie Vershima Agema—a departure from its tradition of ignoring newer voices.
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Romeo Oriogun by Romeo Oriogun

Romeo Oriogun by Romeo Oriogun.

The NLNG Nigeria Prize for Literature has revealed its 2022 longlist, which observers are calling one of the most diverse in the award’s history.

Nominees include Nomad author Romeo Oriogun, recently profiled in Open Country Mag’s The Next Generation special issue, and fellow poets Iquo DianaAbasi, Su’eddie Vershima Agema, Obari Gomba, Chijioke Amu Nnadi, and Saddiq Dzukogi, whose My Crib, My Qibla was, like Oriogun’s, on our list of the most anticipated books of 2022. It is the prize’s best attempt to include younger voices who now dominate the scene.

Organized by Nigeria Liquefied and Natural Gas, the biennial prize began in 2004 and rotates among the genres of fiction, poetry, drama, and children’s literature. At $100,000, it is the richest in Africa.

IquoDiana Abasi by Anotearthub
IquoDiana Abasi. From Anotearthub.

Previous winners include novelists Cheluchi Onyemelukwe-Onuobia, Abubakar Adam Ibrahim, and Chika Unigwe, dramatists Jude Idada, Soji Cole, and Sam Ukala, and poets Ikeogu Oke and Tade Ipadeola.

This year is for poetry and considers books published in the last four years.

Su'eddie Vershima Agema.
Su’eddie Vershima Agema.

The judging panel is chaired by Professor Sule Emmanuel Egya and includes Toyin Adewale-Gabriel and Dike Chukwumerije. Former winner Professor Akachi Adimora-Ezeigbo is chair of the advisory board, which also counts Professors Olu Bafemi and Ahmed Yerima, another former winner, as members.

Here is the longlist, with the judges’ citation.

Augusta’s Poodle by Ogaga Ifowodo

This volume has a distinct feature of deploying oral tradition, memory, and childhood to reflect on the vagaries of life.

Coming Undone as Stitches Tighten by IquoDiana Abasi

The collection has a strong oral quality and exhibits a seamless transition from performance poetry to print poetry.

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Dispossessed by James Eze

This collection is distinguished by its introspective style with images that build intimacy with the reader.

Ife Testament by Segun Adekoya

The collection is distinguished by the scope of its subject matter coupled with brilliant experimentations in form and style.

Memory and the Call of Water by Su’eddie Vershima Agema

In this collection, there is a consistent use of memory to reflect on life and destiny through the metaphor of water.

Nomad by Romeo Oriogun

The collection has a fresh language and a nostalgic engagement with the themes of exile and displacement.

The Lilt of the Rebel by Obari Gomba

An exceptionally lyrical reflection on diverse social issues.

The Love Canticles by Chijioke Amu Nnadi

This volume exhibits an elevated use of language in its engagement with the powerful theme of love.

Wanderer Cantos by Remi Raji

This book engages a medley of public and personal issues, experiments with diverse forms as well as indigenous language.

Yawns and Belches by Joe Ushie

This collection has a strong social tenor crafted with witticism and fresh metaphors.

Your Crib, My Qibla by Saddiq Dzukogi

This volume translates tragedy into lyrical poetry with pathos and effortless imagery.

NLNG Prize 2022 Longlist

The judges picked the longlist from 287 submissions. They will announce a three-name shortlist in September, and the winner in October.

Emmanuel Esomnofu
Emmanuel Esomnofu is a staff writer at Open Country Mag. He is a culture journalist and has written extensively on Nigerian music and on several moving parts of popular culture. His writing appears online in Native Mag, Okay Africa, Kalahari Review, Praxis Magazine, and elsewhere. He was published in print in The Muse, the oldest student journal in West Africa. In December 2020, he worked on "Fuji: A Opera" as a copywriter, creating informative and exciting stories from Fuji's rich history.

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