UNIVERSITY of Port Harcourt don, award-winning poet and currently a Fellow at University of Oxford, United Kingdom, Dr. Obari Gomba, has emerged the best poet in the English-speaking part of Africa. He won the Pan-African Writers Association’s (PAWA) poetry prize 2022 worth $2,000, announced in a virtual ceremony on March 3, 2022 after beating other shortlisted five Nigerian poets who were shortlisted alongside him. He won with his collection, ‘The Lilt Of The Rebel’.
The other five Nigeria poets and their works shortlisted for the Pan-African Writers Association Poetry Prize 2022 included Echezonachukwu Nduka (‘Chrysanthemum For Wide Eyed Ghosts’), Tanure Ojaide (‘A Poetic Diary Of The Coronavirus Epidemic’) Servio Gbadamosi (‘Where The Light Enters You’), and Olumide Olaniyan (‘Akimbo In Limbo’). It will be no surprise when the same poets also make the longlist and later shortlist of The Nigeria Prize for Literature 2022 later in July and September respectively.
In the Arabic category that had Ashraf Aboul-Yazid (Egypt) and Fatima Bouhraka (Morocco) as judges, Abdul Monem Ramadan (Egypt) with his collection, ‘Lover’ and Mohamed Naquib Mohamed Ali (Sudan) with his collection, ‘The Cell Of The Wings’ emerged joint winners. Other contenders were Miftah Al–Amari (‘People Of The Wind’) and Nosaiba Atta Allah (‘Hosted by Godo’).
In the French category that had Dr. Alain Serge Agnessan (Ivory Coast), Eric Bekale (Gabon), and Ketline Adodo (Togo) as judges, Sékou Chérif Haidara (Guinea) with his collection, ‘Cahier de vertiges’ became the winner. Other contenders were Ernest Koffiga Kavege (‘Demain, La Plenitude’), Danielle Gonai (‘Mosaique’), , Fatoumata Keita (‘Ce n’est jamais fini’), Abdoulaye Seck (‘Délices de l’âme et coeur’), and Kossi Sena Adufu (‘Des profondeurs de la vie’) as the poets vying for the top prize.
Also in Kiswahili category that had Dr. Hamisi Babusa (Kenya) and Esther Karin Mngodo (Tanzania) as judges, Bashiru Abdallah with his collection, ‘Wino Was Dhahabu’ which the Babusa described as ‘‘golden poems from the ‘golden ink’ (meaning of his collection title) of Abdallah.’’ Other contenders in Swahili included Ali Mohammed (‘Kilio Cha Sisimizi’), Djibril Adamu (‘Kipeto Cha Risala’), and Rashid Othman Ali (‘Mapinduzi Ya Kalamu’).
The masculine nature of the finalists for the English-speaking poets made the lead judge, Maureen Isaacson to remark about the absence of female poets particularly in Nigeria and on the continent. She gave a subtle charge of encouragement to the womenfolk who were writing poetry on the continent to up their ante.