Winners of the 2019 Nigeria Prize for Teen Authors – Judges Report

Judge: Ismail Bala, Bayero University, Kano (poetry).

Judge: Mahmud Zukogi, Bayero University, Kano (prose).

1st Positions  - N120, 000 each.
2nd positions  - N80, 000 each.
3rd positions  - N50, 000 each.


1st Position:
Do not Bury Me by Adamu Usman Garko - Gombe High School, Gombe State.

2nd Position:
Carved by Zakiyyah Dzukogi - Himma International College, Minna, Niger State.

3rd Position:
Poetic Musings by Muna Sheikh Lemu - Himma International College, Minna, Niger State.


1st Position:
Nowhere to Run by Tofunmi Adeoya Abiola - Dansol High School, Ikeja, Lagos.

2nd Position:
City of Smoke by Mujaheed Ameen Lilo - Sunshine International School, Kano.

3rd Position:
Destined by Salamatu Abdullahi - Himma International College, Minna, Niger State.

Judge’s Report: Poetry.

The following texts are deserving of this year’s Prize:

Do Not Bury Me     Winner

Carved                     1st Runner up

Poetic Musings        2nd Runner up

Adamu Usman Garko, Do Not Bury Me

ADAMU USMAN GARKO is not a “new” voice just emerging into the cacophony of voices that of late has become of contemporary Nigerian poetry; even though his name may not strike an immediate cord of familiarity. Several of his poems have appeared in newspapers and web blogs, journals and anthologies, or are read in local writers’ fora. His debut collection, When Day Breaks (2019) is a culmination, certainly a handsome reward of his long standing poetic enthusiasm, even at his tender age. Now he comes with another manuscript, “Do Not Bury Me”.

The poems clearly standout in a sort of “in-your-face” to the reader, since they vitiate, in a defying, though innovative way the conventional form, following, instead, that streak of the poetics associated with American poetry where the poet effaces himself, leaving behind his clear, resonating, voice with no pretension, or complexity. They seek to tell a tale, couched in the sensitivity and sensibility of the poet’s encounter (and indeed ours) with the many challenges of life in contemporary Nigeria. In more ways than one, the poems here are a resounding response to the context, nay the environment in which they are envisioned and caringly composed.

The generous selection of poems in the collection, numbering 41 were written largely around mundane, idiosyncratic themes bordering on both the personal and the political, the public and private: there are poems here on time and the effect of its passing, love, desire; themes which traverse local, national and global affairs to bestow on the collection a distinctive ubiquity. In short, the collection is replete and quite bulging with almost all the issues one is likely to encounter in an aesthetically alert poetry of the kind and disposition one associates with contemporary Nigerian poetry.

All in all, “Do Not Bury Me” gives us an insight into the poet’s mind, and no less flourishes from our reading as a memorable manuscript of poems. The poems are gifted to the discerning and discriminating reader in a simple (though not simplistic) tone with well worked out metaphors.

Zakiyyah Dzukogi, Carved  

INDEED IT IS always a tiding to treasure (if not an event to celebrate) when the Muse blesses us: and a new poet is born into the Poetryville, even more so when the birth heralds a promising manuscript and may eventually put a new poetry publication into our hands. Poetry aficionados would welcome this new manuscript, Carved by Zakiyyah Dzukogi. The poet is a young lady whose zeal for creativity is quite evident in the poems collected here.

The book contains fifty poems bordering on diverse subjects, ranging from short love poems to poetic takes on life generally, the precarious state of purring cats and a portrait of poetry amidst the chaos of contemporary life.      

Though the voice of the poet may still be “young”, given her relative age and writing experience, her satisfying of the demands of poetics may not be all too “mature”, though the imageries may be uncluttered, and the metaphors come up less tropological, the language may be simple; yet this is an important poetic offering, and for that it deserves an honourable mention in this Prize.

Muna Sheikh-Lemu, Poetic Musings    

“POETIC MUSINGS” IS a manuscript of thirty three poems. Almost always short and not more than a page long, the poems together as an over-arching whole express the young poet’s impressions and reactions about a number of issues, many of which are quite germane, and topical and are therefore likely to appeal, in equal measure, to both young and adult readers alike. Despite the relatively young age of Muna Sheik-Lemu, a number of things in both the style and overall presentation of most of the poems make them stand out quite forcefully within the lean corpus of teenage poetry in Nigeria.

Clearly, the inspiration behind the poems—not to mention the zeal and the enthusiasm to reach a wider audience through (hopely) eventual publication—is indubitably what could pass for the readers (teenage or otherwise) as the heightened level of concern about the situation in contemporary Nigeria. As such, the poems explore in their own little ways familiar everyday issues as much relevant and important to the young and adult alike. Quite easily young readers could recognize not just their collective anguish but also their tender hope, aspirations, and dreams in times where such is increasingly proving difficult if not impossible. The subtle fusion of celebration and lamentation, happiness and a streak of sadness in “Poetic Musings” beautifully represent the nascent complexity of thought and intelligence of Nigerian teenage writers; the poems are indeed a mark of that feat.



There were seven entries in all for the prose, which is the short story writing competition. These entries are divided into four novella, namely: Ramatu Abdullahi, Last Word, Sa’adatu Abdullahi, Little Trophy, Tofunmi Adeoya, Nowhere To Run, and Salamatu Abdullahi, Destined. The short stories include Sakina Aliyu Wara, The Valuable Treasure; Mujaheed Ameen Lilo, City of Smoke and Oluwatosin Ajayi, Raped.

These works, seven in all, represented in varying degrees of style, young, innocent and fresh, yet bourgeoning imagination, images of orphaned life, parental infidelity, female teen pressures, truncated dreams, destruction, dislocation and displacement associated with insurgency in the Northeast.

It is interesting to report that these teen authors have demonstrated great promise in their grappling with style and marriage between form and content. What is most endearing in each one of these works is the innocence of the imagination and the weave of plot in the midst of fitting and bungling imageries. There are brilliant representations of reality and there are a potpourri of plots fastened together by uncommon determination to tell a story anyhow and somehow. These two realities demonstrates the true essence of the teen authorship competition; essence driven by desire to develop and produce young emerging writers whose ink will fertilize the spectre of drought left behind by forebears.

In our attempt to arrive at a fair assessment of entries and come up with final shortlist, we examined the originality of work, the style, by which we mean effortless use of language to represent reality in different shades of imageries and metaphors, and structural harmony, coherence and flow. To this end, using these criteria, we narrowed our selection to three final entries, namely Salamatu Abdullahi, Destined, Mujaheed Aminu Lilo, City of Smoke and Tofunmi Adeoya, Nowhere To Run.

Winner: Tofunmi Adeoya, Nowhere To Run

Tofunmi Adeoya’s Nowhere To Run is a nine chapter novella that is striking both for its form and content. The style is original and bears no allegiance to any pronounced influence. The use of language is effortlessly lucid and flows with the tide of the plot. The themes of parental abuse, domestic violence and harsh realities of a broken home were beautifully woven and represented in this unassuming yet compelling novella. Tofunmi has presented herself as a short story writer with a great promise, given the opportunity to improve and excel.

First Runner-up: Mujaheed Ameen Lilo, City of Smoke

The first runner-up is a short story composed of nine stories with the title City of Smoke. Although Mujaheed has had some exposure in literary circles in the last two years, no thanks to his winning the Wole Soyinka International Cultural Exchange Essay contest, this is his first known publication. City of Smoke is an ambitious prose work that draws strength from intertextual influence in terms of style and content. Although the themes especially of the aftereffects of insurgency in the Northeast are rich and germane, there is the palpable attempt to overreach the use of language to force imageries and metaphors, leading to unconscious de-ornamentation of representation in the stories. In spite of this, City of Smoke stood out as an engaging short story text and one which can compete in other spheres if appropriately improved upon.

Second Runner-up: Salamatu Abdullahi, Destined

This is another unassuming yet lucid novella. Salamatu’s prose is original and is not constrained by the pressure to align to any style of influence. If Salamatu has read many works, they may have expanded her world view and not impacted on her style. Destined represents orphaned life of two sisters who were overcome by pressures of teenage life and independent living, leading to forced separation, quest and return. There is flow and coherence in the plot of the novella and this contribute to the general power of representation. This has earned the novella a second runner-up position.


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