Obari Gomba has won the 2023 NLNG Nigeria Prize for Literature for his astounding play Grit, bagging the $100,000 cash award. He has been listed for the award four times already, but the fifth time’s a charm!

The Nigeria Prize for Literature is an annual award sponsored by the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG). It celebrates literary talent in the nation and awards a cash prize of $100,000. This year’s edition of the prize focused on drama and three brilliant playwrights emerged in the shortlist, Gomba, Abideen Abolaji Ojomu, and Henry Akubuiro.

Gomba was announced as the winner of the prize at the award ceremony on Friday, October 13 at the Eko Hotel and Suites, Lagos. The winning play beat beat the Ojomu’s The Ojuelegba Crossroads and Akubuiro’s Yamtarawala – The Warrior King along with 140 others.

Prof. Akachi Ezigbo-Adimora, the Chairman of the Advisory Board for the Nigeria Prize for Literature, made the winning speech. She emphasized that all three shortlisted plays were well written, edited and published, but one stood out as the clear winner. Labeling Grit a “dramatic tour de force”, she remarked:

Grit is a dramatic journey into the destructive impacts of the soulless politics of power and profit, which brings out the beast in man. The play builds the motivations for the actions of every character in a lifelike manner with art, characterization, and purposeful manipulation of plot and conflict. The play is filled with conflict that create the mood of the inevitability of tragedy and the language is full of twists and entertain in the midst of pain. The conflict declares itself right from the second scene where the battle line between the brothers engenders the major dramatic question: What will it take to reconcile these brothers in this particularly turbulent political environment? Pa Nyimemu’s inability to get them to rethink their stance becomes a foreshadowing of the bitter rivalry that would consume both brothers. This is a dramatic tour de force and a spectacular addition to African literature.

Grit is set in the fictional town of Sonofa and revolves around two half brothers, who are goaded by two separate political groups to run for the office of chairman. But this political conflict ultimately tears apart the family from the inside. Read our review of Gomba’s play and an exclusive interview with him.

Obari Gomba teaches Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Port Harcourt. He has published the play Guerilla Post, the poetry collections For Every Homeland, Thunder Protocol, Length of Eyes, and Pearls of the Mangrove. He was the Honorary Fellow in Writing at the University of Iowa, and previously won the ANA Drama Prize in 2018 and the ANA Poetry Prize in 2017. He was also shortlisted for the Nigeria Prize for Literature in 2017 and 2013.

Congrats to Gomba on the well-deserved win!