The writers, Su’eddie Vershima Agema and Amina Aboje have been announced as the winners of the new Mandela Day Competition. The winners for the new Mandela Day Short Story and Poetry Competition organised by the Abuja Writers’ Forum in collaboration with the South African High Commission were announced on Saturday 30th July 2016 in Abuja at an event to commemorate Nelson Mandela as part of activities for the 2016 Mandela Day Celebration in Nigeria. S. V. Agema won the star short story prize with his short story, ‘Washing the Earth’; while Amina Aboje won the poetry category of the competition with a long poem entitled, ‘Alone’. John Bosco Ezenwa’s ‘Prince of the City’ came as first runner up in the Short Story category while Ololade Oye Ajayi’s ‘The Allocation’ and Su’eddie Vershima Agema’s ‘The Three Sides of Confinement’ clinched the first and second runners-up position in the poetry category. Other honourable mentions for the poetry category include Olumide Olaniyan with ‘One Sojourn of the Moon’ and George Ndukwu with ‘My Whole Year.’
In addition to the poetry and short story categories, there was a special IDP category for children in IDP camps. One of the judges for the competition, Mr. Friday Inalegwu Ejilogo, noted that there were two main categories, based on age and classes, and two special mention categories for the girls. The winners in Category A (16-19) Years are Bishop Philemon (First Prize), Andrew Isa (Second) and Abubakar Abdulraman (Third). The girls in the special mention for this Category are Patience James (First), Rakiya Simon (Second) and Hauwa Ibrahim who came in third. For Category B (3-15 years), the winners are Ashifa John Musa (First), Ibrahim Simon (Second) and Rakiya Simon (Third). The Special Mentioned writers are Rakiya Simon (First), Hauwa Ibrahim (Second) and Ladi Emmanuel (Third).
The President of the Abuja Writers’ Forum, Dr. Emman Usman Shehu mentioned that the competition was envisioned to encourage the celebration of works that are relevant to society and show the need for good leadership, which Mandela epitomised. The Coordinator of the IDPs Skills Acquisition Centre, New Kuchingoro Camp, Lynette Johnson, who also partnered with the Abuja Writers’ Forum for the IDPs writing contest noted that it was the first of many steps in recognising areas where children in the camps could hone their writing skills.
Speaking at the event, the competition’s short story category winner, Su’eddie Vershima Agema, a past winner of the Association of Nigerian Authors prize for poetry, who has also been shortlisted for other awards including the Abubakar Gimba Prize for Short Stories, noted that while he was happy at the award, he found pride mainly in the IDP winners who showed that above their struggles, they had great depth. His words had been: ‘I am sure the awards will encourage them to do more. I have great faith in them and we will see how to work to support this effort while creating more avenues to improve their literary lives in what ways we can.’ On her part, Amina Aboje who won the poetry category said she was honoured by the prize and hoped it would inspire others.
In addition to the awards, earlier there had been a talk on Mandela by the South African Envoy Mr. Lulu Louis Mnguni. There were also performances by David Adzer who sang great tunes including a touching version of Bob Marley’s Redemption Song and Nkemneme Andy Chukwunonye who read from his poetry collection, Letters to Mandela. An excerpt from the Australian author, Margaret Hepworth’s Clarity in Time was read by her representative, Mrs. Nwanneka Nwala. The award winning poet and founder of Words, Rhymes and Rhythm Publishing and College of Poetry, Kukogho Iruesiri Samson (KIS) performed three short but deeply felt poems about Mandela. He read the last ‘Not Before the Flashbulb Crew’ in collaboration with Su’eddie Vershima Agema to applause by the audience. Kukogho noted that ‘Not Before the Flashbulb Crew’ was written in celebration of the year when several pressmen had gathered to get the scoop of Mandela’s death in 2012 but were disappointed as the leader defied death till a year later.
The event was attended by members of the diplomatic corps, representatives of the Nelson Mandela foundation and lovers of literature and the arts. Writers at the well-attended event include the award winning novelist, editor and publishing partner of Paressia Publishers, Richard Ali; Saraba Manuscript award winner, T. J. Benson; multiple award winning writer and critic, Mike Ekunno; Didi Nwala; Chioma Ogbu, Abdulaziz Abdulaziz, Iyanu Adebiyi, Aidee Erhime, Gabriel Agema; and the journalist, Ibrahim Ramalan.