Kunle Kalejaye 29 January 2015, Sweetcrude, Lagos – Professor Samuel Chinedum Ukala’s book, ‘Iredi War’, has clinched the 2014 edition of the Nigeria LNG Limited’s prize for literature award worth $100,000.
Ukala’s successful entry, Iredi War, edged out 123 others in the competition that focused on drama genre last year.
The playwright’s submission withstood the rigorous scrutiny and requisite checks for high standards that NLNG’s Literature Prize is revered for by the literati.
NLNG said books submitted by Nigerian writers based in the country and in the diaspora were put through a screening process carried out by an eminent panel of judges and literary critics, including a non-Nigerian assessor, checking for originality, relevance, quality of production, form and style, among other criteria.
The company, in a statement explained that this led to the total 124 works considered for Africa’s highest cash award for a literary laureate progressively reduced to 41, then 25, later eleven, and an eventual three, before Professor Ukala was announced winner on 9th October, 2014.
Speaking at the public presentation of the winner in Lagos, NlNG’s General Manager, External Relations Division, Kudo Eresia-Eke, said: “Nigeria LNG is happy to bring Professor Sam Ukala and his formidable work, Iredi War, to the public for a robust interaction and celebration.
“This is one of the reasons we set up the prize in the first place— to celebrate outstanding Nigerian authors and their works.”
Managing Director of NLNG, Mr. Babs Omotowa said 11 years ago, the competition started with $20,000 but has increased to $100,000, adding that the company will continue to support literal works despite fall in crude oil price.
“I can assure you that despite challenges in our industry where energy price has fallen more than 60 percent, we remain fully committed to this prize and to ensure its continuity,” Omotowa said.
in his acceptance speech, Prof Ukala said: “I feel fulfilled, grateful to God Almighty for the inspiration, talent and energy. I also feel indebted to NLNG for endowing the prize and processing the entries with utmost integrity and transparency through the appointment of an Advisory Board of truly honourable men, who, in turn, appointed persons of impeccable character as judges.
“I also think the public presentation is a great idea. It might result in the promotion of this author and his work as well as the promotion of literature and literary artists in general. It might be a forum to spotlight the need for Nigeria to consciously cultivate and maintain a robust reading culture as a way of improving the standard of education in the country.”
Beginning in his undergraduate days at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, where he studied English, Ukala has written, performed and directed many stage plays.
His most popular play, ‘The Slave Wife’ was written during his first year as an undergraduate.
Some of his published works include ‘The Log in Your Eye” (UPL, 1986), “Break a Boil” (Oris, 1992), “Odour of Justice” (Oris, 1992) and “Fumes of Fuel in Rumbling Creeks of the Niger Delta”.
In 1989, Ukala’s “Akpakaland” won the Association of Nigerian Authors, ANA, British Council Prize for Drama. Similarly, “Skeletons”, his collection of stories, won ANA’s Prose Prize in 2000.
He began his lecturing career at the defunct Bendel State University, Ekpoma, in 1985, and moved over to Delta State University, Abraka, in 2001.
In 1993/94 session, he lectured at the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom while there as a Commonwealth Senior Academic Staff Fellow.
In 1998/99, he was a Folk Art Consultant and Writer- and-Director-in-Residence at Horse and Bamboo Theatre, Waterfoot, Lancashire, UK.
Between 2007 and 2010, Professor Ukala was the Provost of the Asaba Campus of Delta State University.