The Humble alumna of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Chika Unigwe has emerged the winner of the 2012 Nigeria Prize for literature award sponsored by Nigeria LNG Limited. The Award winning book is titled; “On Black Sisters’ Street” with the theme of trans-Atlantic prostitution.
The award was presented to Chika at the Princess Alexandra Auditorium and theatre, UNN, in a public ceremony organised by Nigeria LNG in partnership with the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
Speaking during the ceremony, the Vice-Chancellor of the University, Prof. Bartho Okolo, thanked Nigeria LNG for choosing to host the event in the alma mater of the awardee. He said that over the years, alumnae of the University had distinguished themselves to prove that success was not an exclusive preserve of the male folk.
“Hardwork and excellence are not the exclusive preserve of one gender. That is what great lionesses have proved all these five decades of the existence of the great University of Nigeria.
Dora Akunyili has proved it, Oby Ezekwesili has proved it, Prof. Mrs Okeke has proved it and today Chika Unigwe has also proved it. It is also noteworthy that for the last two consecutive sessions at the University of Nigeria, female students had emerged the best graduating students of the year, that is evidence of the indefatigable spirit of the Lionesses”, he said.
Prof Okolo, who was represented by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) Prof. Isaac Asuzu, expressed the belief that the celebration of Chika would inspire students of the University, particularly the female ones. He urged the young ones to tow the footsteps of the likes of Chika in order to be celebrated.
Also in his remarks, the Executive Governor of Anambra State, Mr Peter Obi said that the celebration was not only for Chika but a celebration of the process of change which had started in Nigeria.
He said that Nigeria was passing through bad times because it had spent its time and resources celebrating criminality and rascality, while the real people who were supposed to be celebrated were left unsung.
The Governor expressed the commitment of his administration to celebrating and encouraging scholars and literary giants of Anambra extraction as a way of discouraging criminality in the state.
Mr. Obi promised to provide a piece of land and build it to house a centre for creative writing in the state. It is his belief that the centre will create and nurture future writers like Chika Unigwe.Further, Governor Obi said that he was thrilled and happy that Miss Oluchukwu Roseline Ejindu, who was the best graduating studentof the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, in the 2011/2012 session, comes from Anambra state. In the spirit of rewarding excellence, he announced that Anmbra State government will support and train Miss Ejindu to any level of her choice in any part of the world.
He enjoined indigenes of Anambra to strive for excellence in whatever they do; and reeled out a long list of “firsts” that come from Anambra State in different professions.
Also speaking, the Managing Director of Nigeria LNG, Mr. Babs Omotowa, appreciated the authorities of the UNN for allowing LNG to partner with it in hosting the event. He noted that the choice to host the celebration at the UNN was based on the fact that the winner of the award, Chika Unigwe and the runner up, Ngozi Achebe, were both alumnae of the University.
Mr. Omotowa noted that LNG instituted the award in order to provide role models for the youths. He added that the award was also “a true breath of fresh air in a country where heroes, heroines and role models have all disappeared, and were stars of reality shows are more appreciated.
“This ceremony serves to assure all of us that we have not been completely overrun by the far ranging mediocrity running far in our land”, he said
The Managing Director remarked that Nigerian Prize for Literature, which was started in 2004, had grown to become one of the most prestigious awards for writing in Africa.
The award winner in her acceptance speech titled “Discovering Magic”, thanked her lecturers in the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, for laying the foundation in creative writing and said she was happy to join the league of winners of the prestigious LNG award.
She however lamented the low quality of education in Nigeria at the moment, and wished that in the years to come; the standard of education would improve and become a reality to every willing Nigerian.
The writer who had won many awards including; 2003 BBC short story competition, Commonwealth short story award, the Flemish literary prize for short story, 2007 UNESCO Aschberg fellowship for creative writing, and 2009 Rockefeller Foundation fellowship for creative writing, prayed that schools in the country be provided with functional libraries.
According to her, that would provide opportunities for young Nigerian girls and prevent them from becoming like the girls portrayed in the book “On Black Sisters’ Street” who were forced into prostitution by the vicissitudes of life.
A number of prominent Nigerians, including past winners of the award, enjoined young students to emulate the example of Chika Unigwe in their various good will messages delivered during the ceremony.
Inya Agha E.