By Adedapo Adesanya
Nigerian writer, Ayobami Adebayo, has been announced as winner of the 2018 edition of the 9mobile Prize for Literature.
Ms Adebayo’s novel ‘Stay with Me’, earned her the coveted prize at an event held at the 9mobile headquarters in Banana Island, Lagos on Thursday.
She received a £15,000 prize money and a Montblanc Meisterstück pen among several other rewards which include a 9mobile-sponsored fellowship at the University of East Anglia where she will be mentored by Professor Giles Foden, author of The Last King of Scotland.
The award is one of the most prestigious literature prizes for first time fiction writers of African origin.
Another Nigerian, Lesley Nneka-Arimah, author of the book, ‘What it Means When a Man Falls Down from the Sky’, and a South African, Marcus Low, author of ‘Asylum’, emerged the runners-up.
Ms Ayobami’s announcement followed the unanimous selection of her book by the judging panel chaired by Nigerian academic, Harry Garuba, and supported by Siphiwo Mahala and Doreen Baingana.
The Acting Managing Director, 9mobile, Stephane Beuvelet, congratulated the winner and the runners-up, and restated the company’s commitment to continuously support Nigerians and other Africans with the best platforms to express their passion and creativity.
Mr Beuvelet, who was represented by the Executive Director, Regulatory and Corporate Affairs, 9mobile, Abdulrahman Ado, also assured of the company’s commitment to the prize, stating, “we will continue our sponsorship of the prize. It will continue; I assure you it’s not sunset.”
Speaking, Ms Ayobami Adabayo expressed shock at emerging the winner of the coveted prize and commended the runners-up.
“It’s unexpected. I’m surprised not just in terms of winning the prize itself because it was a very strong shortlist. The other books were very amazing. Leslie Arimah’s collection of short stories, I think, is one of the best books that was published that year. Marcus Low’s Asylum is also really brilliant. So, it’s surprising to win the prize. I’m shocked,” she said.
Ms Adebayo joins past winners of the 9mobile Prize for Literature (previously Etisalat Prize for Literature) include Nigeria’s Jowhor Ile, for his novel, And After Many Days; Democratic Republic of Congo’s Fiston Mwanza Mujila, for his novel, Tram 83; South African writer, Songeziwe Mahlangu for his novel, Penumbra and Zimbabwean writer NoViolet Bulawayo for her novel, We Need New Names.
Born in Lagos, Nigeria in 1988 and raised in Ilesa and Ile-Ife, Osun State, Ayobami has written for the BBC, LitHub, The Guardian (UK), and has worked as an editor for Saraba magazine since 2009. Her 260-page novel, Stay With Me, set between 1985 and 2008 in Nigeria, revolves around a childless couple – Akin and Yejide. They are young, educated Nigerians with modern sensibilities about work, marriage and children.
Early controversy sparked when the former judging panel for the prize resigned following inaction by the company for about a year on the price. A new panel was later constituted by the telecoms firm.
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