As Obi Joins The Laureates With SONTA Prize | Independent Newspapers Limited
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As Obi Joins The Laureates With SONTA Prize

Posted: Sep 8, 2015 at 3:41 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

By Sam Anokam,


Commendation have continued to trail Professor of English and Dramatic Literature at University of Ilorin, Professor Olu Obafemi  who through the Society of Nigeria Theatre Artists (SONTA) endowed a prize category for unpublished plays.

The emergence of Nwagbo Patrick Obi’s unpublished Play, “When Women Go Naked” as the winner of 2015 SONTA-Olu Obafemi Playwriting Prize is an indication that future of playwriting and writing in general is bright in Nigeria. 

L-R: Profesors Akinwale, Ododo, Obafemi, Obi and Prof. Gbilekaa

L-R: Profesors Akinwale, Ododo, Obafemi, Obi and Prof. Gbilekaa

As Obi, (formerly Nwagbo Nnenyelike) an ex-arts journalist, now a civil servant with the National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO), Abuja is being celebrated, the decision of the Society of Nigeria Theatre Artists (SONTA), the body of theatre arts scholars in Nigerian Tertiary Institution to include unpublished plays in the creative writing composition should be applauded. In addition Obafemi who endowed the prize is commended for this encouragement to the art of playwriting among young writers for the theatre. Another award on playwriting but for category of the published plays was won by Denja Abdullahi with his play Death and the King’s Grey Hair.

Obi who was however presented with a cheque of N100,000 by Prof. Ayo Akinwale, Dean Faculty of Arts University of Ilorin.

This first edition of the awards took place at opening ceremony of the 28th edition of SONTA conference with the theme Repositioning Nollywood for the Promotion of Nigeria’s Cultural Diplomacy and National Security at the Shehu Yar’Adua Centre, Central Area, Abuja. A lot of personalities including professors of Theatre arts, top government functionaries, captains of industry, Nollywood star actors, stakeholders in the culture sector and journalists etc graced the event.

However, in most cases, unpublished plays have lapses, which Prof. Victor Dugga, Federal University Lafia, a member of the panel of judges who read about the play When Women Go Naked pointed out. “The actions in the play are amenable to staging but the stage directions appear more in tune with screen scripts that tailored for the stage. The play has prospects especially with good editing.” Other judges include, Dr. Barclays Ayakoroma (NICO), Prof. Tracie Utoh-Ezeajugh  (NAU  Awka),  Prof. Chris Ugolo (UNI BEN ) and  Dr. Stephen Olusoji (UNI LAG).

Prof. Dugga further stated that When Women Go Naked is a play on an outmoded form of patriarchy that is impervious to social change. Ogana, the protagonist is a wealthy man who uses his wealth to become the king of Umundiagu. It is however the domestic narrative of his refusal to give Udenkwo, his orphaned niece’s hand in marriage to Udunna because he was less endowed. His great struggles to establish a dynasty for himself leads to the tragic death of his only surviving son, Akubuike. The writer weaves an interesting cultural setting in which the play takes place. 

With Obi’s unpublished When Women Go Naked to have gotten the above balanced critical commentaries from the body of theatre scholars, it means it met the criteria for the unpublished plays competitions, in addition to answering the questions SONTA president, Prof Ododo had stipulated in making the SONTA Creative Writing and Music Composition Awards 2015 award known to the public. According to him: “This prize is for the best submitted unpublished play. Unpublished plays must be submitted individually, not presented in a manuscript that includes more than one work. In addition to the general qualities of a drama script, plays will be evaluated for their potential as theatre. In other words: Does the author show knowledge of what works with an audience as well as what is stageable? How do any divisions or breaks in the play contribute to the experience of the audience? How effective is the characterization? Is the style appropriate to the play’s overall intentions; does it help to distinguish one character from another? If stylized or poetic, will the language cause difficulties for either actors or audience?

Ododo added: “The first as SONTA/ Olu Obafemi Playwriting Award is available to young playwrights who are trying to find their bearing and it is purposefully limited to manuscripts and not published works. It is our hope that, by the time a winner emerges, we may also be able to source for funds to publish such work. The second prize is SONTA/Chris Iyimoga Master Playwright award. It is for the established writers and to encourage everybody. We believe the outcome of these prizes would further encourage other writers to take more interest in creative writing especially in playwriting. The awards are open to the public as well. “

Obi, a native of Ichi, Ekwusigo LGA, Anambra State, had his first degree in Theatre Arts University of Port Harcourt and Masters in the same theatre arts in the University of Lagos. Apart from playwriting, which he has other plays yet to be published, he trained as an actor in the highly professionally rated Certificate in Theatre Arts (CTA) programme at University of Port Harcourt. For instance Amaechina, an unpublished play, its Play Reading Session (PRS) was organized as the 5th joint and 13th in the series by the National Troupe of Nigeria (NTN) with Prof. Ahmed Yerima as Artistic Director and French Cultural Centre (FCC) Lagos with Paschal Letelier as the Director in 2002 at the French Cultural Centre, Kingsway Road, Ikoyi, Lagos. He is an ex-journalist who worked in Daily Times, The Comet and The Sun Newspapers, where apart from working in the arts and features desks, became Kwara State Correspondent of The Sun and subsequently a sub-editor. As an arts writer and literary/theatre critic, he critiques and reviews books, theatrical performances of drama, dance and music in many Nigerian Newspapers; The Guardian, National Mirror, New Telegraph etc.   

He has many research and scholarly publications to his credit, which includes Chapters in Books and in peer review journals on theatre scholarship. Some of them which are on theatre criticism includes; Communication Social Change in Nigeria Through Criticism: Oga Steve Abah’s Theatre for Development in Theatre Unbound: Reflections on Theatre for Development and Social Change in Theatre Unbound: Reflections on Theatre for Development and Social Change: A Festschrift in Honour of Oga Steve Abah edited by Samuel Kafewo, Tor Iorapuu, Emmanuel Dandaura, “Criticism in Nigerian Theatre Design Practice:  The Examples of Duro Oni” in Fireworks for a Lighting Aesthetician: Essays and Tributes in Honour of Duro Oni @ 60 edited by Sunday Ododo, “The Nigerian Actor As A Theatre Sociologist: The Example of Ayo Akinwale” in The Dramaturgy of a Theatre Sociologist: Festschrift in Honour of Ayo Akinwale edited by AbdulRasheed Abiodun Adeoye, “The Director As A Theatre Critic: The Case of Dapo Adelugba” in The Creative Artist: A Journal of Theatre and Media Studies, Volume 4. No. 1, edited by Alex Asigbo, Doing Peace through Drama: Isiaka Aliagan’s Oba Mama as Paradigm” in Nigerian Theatre Journal A Journal of the Society of Nigeria Theatre Artistes edited by Tor Iorapuu etc. “Theatre Practice, Hypothesis and Theories of Performance in Africa:  Ododo’s  Facekuerade Theatre Model in Nigeria” in Nigerian Theatre Journal A Journal of the Society of Nigeria Theatre Artistes Vol. 14:2 edited by. Ameh Dennis Akoh, among others.