Prof. Cheluchi Onyemelukwe-Onuobia, academic and lawyer wins N50m Literature Prize for her debut novel, The Son of the House.

Penguin in January 2019 published the novel by Cheluchi, a professor of law at Nigeria’s Babcock University.

The NLNG-sponsored Prize, easily Africa’s richest literary award, delivers $100,000 (about N50 million) to the winner each year.

Ultimately, the advisory board considered Prose Fiction entries for this year’s Prize.

The son of the House beat two other entry finalists to grab a win, announced at the Weekend by the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) Company.

The three title novels that made it to the final stages are:

  • Abi Dare, The Girl with The Louding Voice
  • Obinna Udenwa, The Colours of Hatred, and
  • Cheluchi Onyemelukwe-Onuobia, The Son of The House

The Board Advisory Chair for the Prize, Prof. Akachi Adimora-Ezeigbo, anounced the three finalists at a virtual press conference on 27 August.

The Selection Process

A total 202 authors successfully submitted entries for the Prize.

However a board of judges subsequently pruned the entries to 11 best works from the pack.

The Best Eleven included the following:

Obianuju V. ChukwuorjiDelusion of Patriots
Samuel MonyeGive Us Each Day
Chukwudi EzeThe Return of Half- Something
Anaele IhuomaImminent River
Olukorede S. YishauIn The Name of Our Father
Tony NwakaMountain of Yesterday
Lucy Chiamaka OkwumaNeglected
Obinna UdenwaThe Colours of Hatred
Abi DareThe Girl with The Louding Voice
Law Ikay Ezeh Your Church My Shrine
Cheluchi Onyemelukwe-OnuobiaThe Son of The House

Toyin Jegede, professor of Literature in English at the University of Ibadan, chaired the 3-person panel that shortlisted the 11.

Others were Prof. Tanimu Abubakar (Arts Department, Ahmadu Bello University), and Dr. Solomon Azumurana (Department of English, University of Lagos).

About the Book

The Son of the House is the story of two kidnapped women who spend their time in captivity swapping stories that connected their childhood challenges to contemporary pains of women in an African cultural setting. Thus, the novel explores subsisting African cultural themes around polygamy and patriarchy and their gender impact.

The Son was consequently greeted with critical acclaim at its publication, and has now chalked up three significant awards.

A reviewer in GoodReads said the following of the book’s technique and ending:

“I wasn’t ready for the book to end when it did. It leaves the reader on a semi-cliffhanger, although not an unsatisfying one. Rather than feeling cheated as I often do when things don’t feel fully concluded, I instead felt free to imagine the next chapters of the story (and) how I’d like to see them.”

The Son of the House has been shortlisted for Canada’s prestigious Scotiabank Giller Prize for 2021.

However, it already chalked up three big wins including the NLNG Prize and the 2020 SprinNG Women Authors Prize.

In addition, it also won Best International Fiction Book Award at the Sharjah International Book Fair its first publication year (2019).

About the NLNG Prize

Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) announced the Prize in 2004 as the NLNG Prize for Literature.

Today, advisory board members who administer the Prize come from the Nigeria Academy of Letters and Association of Nigerian Authors.

At its inception, the prize winner took home $20,000. The amount was progressively raised to $30,000 (2006), $50,000 (2008) and $100,000 in 2011.

The Prize was not awarded in three years (2004, 2009, 2015) because award judges considered entries sub-standard.

The Prize rotates yearly amongst four literary categories: prose fiction, poetry, drama, and children’s literature.

Lawyer wins N50m Literature Prize