By Simon Ibe
Many companies across the world often come up with programmes or initiatives aimed at positively impacting their societies and it has not been any different in Nigeria.
The Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas, NLNG, company Limited has sustained a trail it blazed several years ago, which has set it apart as a model, not only in Nigeria but in the African continent and beyond,
The Nigeria Prize for Science and The Nigeria Prize for Literature, solely sponsored by the NLNG Ltd., have over the years become the most celebrated Prizes in Africa and among the most sought after in the world, not only because of the prize money but also because of the indisputable excellence that has come to be associated with the winning entries and the quality of administration of the Prizes.
The aim of the Prizes is to bring Nigerian scientists and creative writers to public attention and celebrate excellence in scientific breakthroughs and literary accomplishments in the country and over the years, this aim has continued to be achieved, especially given the quality of entries, the caliber of Judges assembled by the administrators of the Prizes and the global applause that attends the winning entries.
The Science Prize is administered by an Advisory Board made up of distinguished scientists while the Advisory Board for Literature that handles the Literature Prize is made up of members of the Nigerian Academy of Letters (NAL} and Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA).
The prize money, which has grown from $20,000 in 2004 to $30,000 in 2006 and to $50,000 in 2008, has since 2011 become a princely $100,000 for the winner(s) in each category.
Although the money cannot have been the major motivating factor for most of the hardnosed scientists and thorough-bred literary artists that have sent in entries for the competitions, it cannot, but must have helped to raise the bar and attract the best in the categories that are advertised annually.
Carefully chosen themes have produced internationally acknowledged scientific results are waiting for governments and other stakeholders to adopt and put them to public use for general good in keeping with the goal of the Science Prize which is to provide leaders with answers to crucial issues of development, improve standards of living and re-energise the scientific community to seek solutions to national problems.
The different genres – Poetry, Prose Fiction, Drama and Children’s Literature – that are focused on in rotation each year for the Literature Prize also turn out book that are equally internationally celebrated, also in line with the goal of the Prize, which is to improve the quality of writing, editing, proof reading and publishing.
Past winners of the Science Prize are Prof. Akpoveta Susu and now Dr. Kingsley Abhulimen (2004); Prof. Michael Adikwu (2006); Dr. Ebenezer Meshida (2008); Prof. Andrew Nok (2009); Prof. Akahehomen O. Akii Ibhadode (2010) and in 2017, joint winners emerged for their researches on solutions to the malaria scourge. The winners are Ikeoluwapo Ajayi, Ayodele Jegede and Bidemi Yusuf; Olugbenga Mokuolu; and Chukwuma Agubata.
There were years when the entries for both the Science and Literature Prizes were adjudged not deserving, and no winners were announced.
Winners of the Literature Prize in the different genres have been Ezenwa Ohaeto and Gabriel Okara (2005); Dr. Ahmed Yerimah (2006); Prof. Akachi Adimora-Ezeigbo and Mabel Segun (2007); Kaime Agary (2008); Dr. Esiaba Irobi (2010); Adeleke Adeyemi (2011); Chika Unigwe (2012); Tade Ipadeola (2013); Sam Ukala (2014); Abubakar Adam Ibrahim (2016) and Ikeogu Oke (2017).
The Literary Criticism Award has not been as popular as the Science and Literature Prizes, despite efforts the administrators of the Award and NLNG say they have made to popularize it in universities in the country.
This should not be so. Literary critics are very important components of the creative process and lecturers, especially in Departments of Literature and English Studies should wake up and send in entries for the Award that has a N1million price tag.
There cannot be vibrant Literature without correspondingly vibrant literary critics.
The trail blazer, NLNG, has played its part. It has advertised calls for entries for the Prizes for year 2018. The theme for the Science Prize is ‘Innovations in Electric Power Solutions’ and the Literature Prize focuses on Drama. Scientists, creative writers (Drama) and literary critics should, therefore, send in their entries before the closing date of March 29, 2018 for the Literature Prize and May 25, 2018 for the Science Prize..
Winners of the Prizes will be announced in October to commemorate the first export of Liquefied Natural Gas, LNG cargo by NLNG on October 9, 1999.
Everyone should, indeed, identify with these Prizes, which have since become the Nigerian equivalent of the Nobel Prizes, especially for Science and Literature in the country.