A former Chairman of the Oyo State chapter of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA), Akin Bello has been named by the judges of the Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature in Africa as the winner of the fifth edition of the prestigious prize in Literature.
Bello was crowned by Professor Wole Soyinka, assisted by the board of the Lumina Foundation, the organisers of the prize, Governor of River State, Rotimi Amaechi and Globacom’s Head of GloWorld, Titi Ebinisi, at the grand finale of the award at the Civic Centre, Victoria Island, Lagos on Saturday.
The fifth edition of the award, sponsored by the National Carrier, Globacom, was keenly contested by three authors, Bello, Othuke Ominibohs and Toyin Abiodun, whose entries were considered the best three of the total of 163 works submitted from across Africa.
One of the judges of the Prize, Professor Olu Obafemi, a prolific playwright, novelist and poet, who has himself published 14 scholarly and 15 creative books, formally announced the winner, who was promptly presented the much coveted trophy and his cheque.
The winner, Akin Bello, was born in Lagos in 1950, and educated at Oyo, Ghana and the University of Ife, (now Obafemi Awolowo University) Ile-Ife, where he obtained a B.Sc. (Hons) (Pol. Science) in the 2nd Class (Upper) Division in 1975.
A widely traveled man with a richly diversified work experience, Bello is currently an Executive Director of a Non-Governmental Organisation in Ibadan. He was the Chairman of the Oyo State Chapter of ANA for four years between 2008 and 2012.
Before now, Bello had published three novels and a poetry collection. His first play, ‘Egbon of Lagos’ has now won him recognition and fame at the Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature in Africa.
In his remarks, Professor Soyinka thanked the Lumina Foundation and its partners, including Globacom for organizing the grand event and making it a success.
In a goodwill message read on his behalf, Globacom’s Chairman, Dr. Mike Adenuga, said that “Globacom is delighted to be part of the successful execution of the project, which honours one of the world’s biggest literary giants, Professor Wole Soyinka and seeks to promote excellence in the literary arts on the continent of Africa."
Dr. Adenuga said, “As a teacher, role model, social activist and advocate, Professor Wole Soyinka has directly impacted millions of lives on the continent of Africa and beyond. We are deeply honoured to be part of a project like this, which celebrates this living legend and seeks to encourage the coming generation to aspire to attain such academic excellence in the literary world".
In her remarks, Mrs. Francesca Emmanuel, the Chairperson of the Board of Trustees of Lumina Foundation, equally thanked all the partners of the organization, without whose support the project might not have been a huge success that it has been.
The grand finale of the prize was graced by other literary icons, including renowned playwright and poet, John Pepper Clark, a former President of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA), and loyal protégé of Professor Soyinka, Odia Ofeimun, renowned Professor of International Law and Jurisprudence, Akin Oyebode, who delivered the keynote address, and many other distinguished scholars.
Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature in Africa is a biennial event staged to recognize the best literary work produced by an African. It was established by the Lumina Foundation in 2005 to promote literary excellence in Africa and has since become the African equivalent of the Nobel Prize. This year's Prize was dedicated to the drama genre.
The panel of five judges for the Prize is drawn from Uganda, South Africa, Mali, Nigeria and Algeria.
Guests were entertained by the Steve Rhodes Orchestra which reeled out tunes in different genres, cutting across old and contemporary. Also, multi-talented instrumentalist and Glo ambassador, Bez added spice to the event.