Reviews for shortlisted stories

Reviews for shortlisted stories

Nigeria by 2050 – Joshua J. Omojuwa

Given that this was a competition about writing a story about Nigeria’s independence, I wasn’t surprised to see this entry which cast its eye to the future of Nigeria. I was tickled pink at the idea of Britain and France being debtor nations to Nigeria, and people marrying Nigerians to obtain a Nigerian passport. However, in parts, the story read like a treatise on how to fix Nigeria rather than an engaging work of fiction, and the ending left me somewhat confused.

Bundle of Joy – Iweka Kingsley
I found this a straightforward, easily readable story about a birth on Independence Day. However, this is a rather ordinary story – there’s nothing really exceptional or memorable about it. In addition, it is only tangentially related to Nigeria’s indepdendence; perhaps the story could have made a stronger connection by remarking that childbirth is a kind of independence from the mother’s womb.

Nigeria’s Independence Day – Boomingsols
I had several issues with this story. For a start, ‘Independence’ was spelt as ‘Indepence’. Then I was confused by the constant switching from past to present to past tense. I also felt that there were parts in the story that didn’t seem realistic – for example, I don’t know how many cattle rearers worked in an urban setting (implied by the busy road reference) for white people. But I did like the way the writer captured the expectant and fevered atmosphere, as the story of Independence Day flitted from person to person.

The Parade – Sylva Nze Ifedigbo
I started out liking this story, which is told from the point of view of a young child who is taking part in a parade for the state governor, but for whom life at home is made difficult because of current harsh economic conditions. I especially liked it because of the way the writer subtly builds up the picture of the difficulty the boy’s family faces in providing for him. However, the story was let down by the ending, which I felt was too abrupt – it would have been better as a climactic point.

Never Again – Dipo Adesida
I enjoyed this well-written story, not least because of the rather unusual style of its telling – short sentences delivered verse-style, each with its own punchy point. I also liked the idea of the child who seems condemned to a struggle at the time of his birth, but who is determined not to let the struggle get the better of him. The only issue with the story was that for its length, it should have had an obviously dominant theme – it wasn’t clear whether this theme was the independence day celebrations, his recent birth, or the reality of his struggle.

When the Green Storm Calms – Emmanuel Ukoh
This story attempts to read into the future, and it does so with a positive outlook. However, much of the story reads like a straight reading of events, rather than a creative endeavour, and this takes away much of the memorability of the story for me. I wish the writer had spent more time talking about history in more personal terms; I actually enjoyed the part where he talks about his family coming to visit.

A Heart for the Game – Remi Roy
I liked how this story related a very personal story that was forever in the mind of the protagonist and tied it to the event of Independence Day. But I felt that in some cases, the descriptive language was a bit over-dramatic, e.g. “at the very moment when my foot should have jutted forward, knocking the life out of the ball”. The best part is the way it showed how the passage of time had tempered his excitement and expectations, and how he realised how much older and much more aware of his physical limitations he had become – perhaps this is a metaphor contrasting the exuberance of independence day in 1960 with the realism of the situation today?

Party Hats and Cake Optimus – Chika Eneanya
I’m guessing that the narrator was supposed to attend a party at which a baked national cake was supposed to be cut. For me, the telling was somewhat disjointed as it jumped from scene to scene, and this made it hard to follow. It didn’t help that the sentences in places were too long.

My Independence Day – Paul Anderson
This was a story about an independence day event told through the eyes of a child. I like that I could see the excitement of the child at being chosen to participate in the indepedence day parade. However, I wish the narrative had been left in the past; I felt that the part where the story is brought up to date and the narrator is now a senator was somewhat contrived. And the many typos were a further distraction from the quality of the work.

Passing of a Memory – Fred Nwonwu
This story goes far, far into the future with a science fiction theme. I like the idea of exploring how the death of a person marked the passing of an era. However, I thought the contrived figures of expression and many typos detracted from this story. Also, the writer could have done a better job to show us why the protagonist should be sad at the passing of a time he would hardly have been able to relate to.

Electronic Freedom – Emmanual Iduma
I thought this was a brilliant story which for me evoked the relationship between the governing elite and governed citizens of Nigeria. I especially like the way the writer creatively expressed a desire for a change at 50, using the device of a mutating Facebook relationship. And even though the narrative spoke of an abusive relationship, it was amusing in the way the female protagonist chronicled its progression with terse updates, and it was ultimately uplifting to see the final update – ‘Free’.

Lonely Hearts – Funmi F.
I found this a beautifully written story about two unhappy souls in a chance encounter. I especially like the part where her bursting into tears invokes a feeling of responsibility in Laja. Unfortunately, this story is only tangentially related to the Independence Day theme; if the young boys had said “Ah, Aunty, Today is Christmas…” it would not have made any difference to the story.

The Dance – GG87
The challenge of writing a story that is set in the past is to create the sense of those times in the reader. Unfortunately, I don’t think that this story manages to do that. For example, phrases like “we get to call our own shots” does not sound like what a girl in the 1960s might have said. Also, it doesn’t quite feel realistic that young girls who are excited at practicing for their independence dance would be spending more time talking about the country’s political future; I wish more time had been spent enlarging on sense of excitement and hopefulness that the writer did a good job of conveying in this story.

Mr Olumide’s Experience – Lawal Opeyemi
The story recounting the protagonist’s memories of Independence Day at 1960 started well enough – but it got seriously sidetracked by the theme of poor educational standards, and the ending left the story hanging. Perhaps the story would have worked better if Mr Olumide had recalled his memory of how much better things were in 1960, and contrasted them with what he had just heard from the girl.

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