Despite challenges, students expand Nigerian literary narrative

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Prof. John Pepper Clark

Students-led literary effusions on campuses have always bolstered the Nigerian literature.

Since the era when John Pepper Clark-Bekederemo edited the journal, The Horn, as a student at the University of Ibadan, in the late 50s, there has not been short supply of works birthed on campuses by students who would then go on to become literary giants.

It, however, seemed the days when students from Nigeria’s higher institutions churned out great literary pieces had gone, as literary culture looked to have long died on campuses, with less emphasis placed on encouraging creativity among students.

The incessant closure of schools is one of such discouraging factors and has contributed to the urge by students to just-get-out-of-schools.

Despite these mitigating circumstances, however, the current generation of students on campus has had to put their budding arts to act, by evolving literary competitions aimed at honing their skills.

One of such is, the Nigerian Students Poetry Prize, which began in 2016 by Poets in Nigeria (PIN).

Kolade Olarenwaju Freedom, who moderates the prize, said, “the NSPP was instituted to stimulate literary creativity among Nigerian students.”

Since it started, the prize has received close to 2,000 entries the country and one noticeable trend from the submissions and winners is that literary practice is not limited to students in humanities.

In fact, the winner of the prize, in 2018, was Iberiyenari Godstime Tamunofiri, a 400-level chemical science student at the Niger Delta University, Wilberforce Island, Yenagoa. His poem, Deep Dreams, was adjudged the best of the 464 entries received this year.

Also, Amagwula Comfort, a 200-level student of physiology at the University of Lagos came second with her poem, Yet Another Head, while Two Sides of Hakeem, authored by Ikeobi, a 500-level student of electrical electronics engineering at the University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, was third.

On the literary merits of the entries submitted by these budding student-writers, Professor Hulya Yilmaz, a member of the Liberal Arts Faculty at the Pennsylvania State University, who was one of the prize’s judges, said, “it has not been an easy feat for me to narrow down the requested number of poems from a large pool of submitted poetry of substance and beauty.

“The selected poems have come to my attention time and time again throughout my repeated readings for their authorial message and tone: The unconditionally accepting universal spirit that shone through them was nothing to be overlooked nor to be taken lightly.

Those voices had to be vocalised in order for the globally relevant and vital conceptualisations of their authors to be heard by humanity at large.”

Mallam Denja Abdullahi, president of Association of Nigerian Authors, who chaired the prize jury in 2016, said: “Entries received from the 2016 PIN students’ poetry competition were of high quality, reflecting a refreshing diversity of themes and styles; so much so that one can conclude that poetry is gradually emerging from being considered by the multitude as a closet art to being regarded as a capable carrier of weighty messages encased in melody.”

Aside from participating in literary competitions, students have even gone to the extent of having their literary works published.

Recently, a 400-level student of the University of Ibadan, Emmanuel Darasimi, published his collection of short stories, Unscripted Illusions, which has garnered positive reviews.

He had earlier published Tragedy Of Whispers, a collection of poems, released in 2017.

Darasimi is certainly not the only student-writer who has courageously shown his literary mettle by getting his creative works in print, there are many others exploring other means of publishing their works.

Most students have had to explore the possibility brought on by advancement in technology that has remarkably changed the literary landscapes across the globe.

Countless online journals and magazines are now open to students to show their literary worth.

Some of the platforms include, Agbowo.org, Saraba Magazine, Praxi, Sentinel and Brittle Papers.