Mai Nasara, Winner of the Prestigious NLNG Prize
On October 10, 2011 at the Eko Hotels, an almost unknown writer, hiding under the pseudonym Mai Nasara, won the most prestigious award in Nigeria's literary calendar with his book The Missing Clock. In fact, the money attached to this award is better than most of the awards the literary world has to offer. At US$ 100,000 this prize is comparable to the Man Booker which offers the winner an astounding 50,000 Pounds; however, whereas the Booker is opened to all writers in the Commonwealth who have published a book in the awarding-year, the NLNG is awarded to a Nigerian author who has published a literary book that happen to fall within the category that the award will be going to for that year. Sounds complicated? I guess not. The award rotates amongst four literary groupings: Children Fiction (which was the awarding category in 2011), Poetry, Poetry and Drama.
From a list of 126 entries, a long shortlist comprising six authors were selected. This was further shortened to three consisting of Ayodele Olofintuade' Eno's Story, Chinyere Obi-Obasi's The Great Fall and Mai Nasara's The Missing Clock, the winning story. The expectation was high as it is with every money-laden award. And like most awards, the Booker being a recent example, the NLNG has its own controversies like there not being any winner in the previous year because the judges deemed the shortlisted books not good enough. That year the award was to go to poetry.
However, last year's episode was not repeated, at least not for literature (there was no Science winner this year). In fact, the quality this year was so high that had any of the other two shortlisted writers won, there would have been no grumblings or murmurings from the any side and no organisation would have jumped in to protest on 'dumbing down' the award or threatened to form another literature prize. Officials of the awards described The Missing Clock as
a genial heart-warming account of how a young boy's simple acts inspires his family to fortune.
The Chairman of the Panel of Judges, Akachi Adimora-Ezeigbo, a professor of English at the University of Lagos and past co-winner of the prize said
The Missing Clock celebrates ingenuity, hard work and sparkles in its prose
describing the author as 'a gifted story teller'. According to a pleasantly surprised Adeleke Adeyemi, his real name, who had entered the competition with sheer hope and conviction that he finally had to turn something in for assessment:
My plan has always been to use this story, which is timely, to help children grow as human beings. This is why money is not my motivation. In fact, 10% of all proceeds from sales of the book will be used to fight malaria and promote girl-child education, especially in Northern Nigeria.