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The Saraba Manuscript Prize—Judges’ Report

The stylistic variety of the ten works longlisted for the Saraba Manuscript Prize, as well as their diversity in matters of theme and setting, is refreshing. Noteworthy in their different ways, the works collectively communicate the impressive creative energies powering the practice of rising voices in new Nigerian fiction. The longlist confirms the abundance of literary potential yet untapped by publishing in Nigeria. We hope that all the manuscripts, including the ones that did not make the shortlist, will find a home in the hearts of readers in Nigeria and around the world.

In choosing the shortlist, my fellow judges—Azafi Omoluabi-Ogosi and Eghosa Imasuen—and I did not crave perfection, even though we would have been glad if we had encountered it; rather, we were on the lookout for talent and undeniable potential. The qualities we privileged during the judging process include the following: the ability to create convincing and stimulating fictional worlds; distinctiveness and potency of linguistic expression; freshness of vision and the avoidance of clichéd tropes in the conception and treatment of lived experience; and the adroit use of storytelling to provoke reflection on aspects of the human condition.

All the longlisted works were read blind by the judges. This precluded the possibility of distraction by the identities of the writers and focused the judges’ attention solely on the texts. After extensive deliberations, we found these five works (in alphabetical order) most worthy of inclusion in the shortlist:

  1. 1994 — Hajara Hussaini Ashara
  2. Beyond the Beautiful Sea — Amarachi Priscilla Ekekwe
  3. IJBG and Other Stories — Ebelechukwu Ijeoma Mogo
  4. Mosaic: Stitches of Stories Lived, Stories Learned and Stories Told — Eboka Chukwudi Peter
  5. We Won’t Fade into Darkness — TJ Benson

The stories in Hajara Hussaini Ashara’s 1994 range from striking metacritical explorations of the writing life to narratives that incarnate, in the concrete world, the multiple selves inhabiting the turmoil of bipolar consciousness. The stories boldly highlight the power relations inherent in the patriarchal contexts that hold her characters hostage. Beyond the Beautiful Sea by Amarachi Priscilla Ekekwe chronicles a family’s travails from just before the Nigerian Civil War to the aftermath of the conflict. By eschewing sentimentality, the novel’s always clear, sometimes luminous prose throws the actions and experiences of the characters into stark relief.

Ebelechukwu Ijeoma Mogo’s disguises art with art so cleverly in IJBG and Other Stories that it seems one could bump into one of her psychologically complex characters while walking down a familiar street. Her intimate portrayals of people at significant crossroads in their lives, which appear to continue running on even after the last words of her stories have been read, sparkle with nuance. In Mosaic: Stitches of Stories Lived, Stories Learned and Stories Told, Eboka Chukwudi Peter’s intricate investigations paradoxically illuminate the impenetrable black holes that warp the fabric of human existence. His cultivated daring and brutal honesty confirm the arrival of a notable new voice in fiction.

Rounding off the shortlist, the vivid, awe-inducing futurescapes in TJ Benson’s We Won’t Fade into Darkness startle you with spine-tingling visions of a post-apocalyptic, technology-reconfigured Africa. The sterling qualities of TJ Benson’s writing will earn his stories comparison with stellar works imbued with similar virtues—the oneiric, fable-like texture of Italo Calvino’s Cosmicomics and the chilling dystopianism of George Orwell’s 1984, for instance. Essentially though, TJ Benson’s resolute centring of Nigeria in his projections of the future, his clipped precision of utterance and his idiosyncratic imagination make his fictional universe patently his.

Deciding on the winner of the Saraba Manuscript Prize was a challenging task but ultimately, our choice was unanimous.

The Saraba Manuscript Prize goes to Eboka Chukwudi Peter for his visceral excavations of the subterranean anguish of contemporary life using sinuous, prehensile prose that opens up new aesthetic possibilities in Nigerian fiction.

—Rotimi Babatunde

Longlist—Saraba Manuscript Prize (Fiction Category)

The following writers were long-listed for the Saraba Manuscript Prize (Fiction Category). The winner and shortlist have been announced. Congratulations to all the writers who made it this far, drawn from over eighty submissions. 


Santi Femi

Santi Femi, Cross-Stitched

Santi Femi is a graduate of the Faculty of Law, University of Ibadan and a member of the Nigerian Bar. His short stories have been published on several online platforms including Sankofa magazine, The Naked Convos, Kalahari Review, etc. He was a writer in residence at the Ebedi Writers’ Residency in Iseyin and he is a 2015 alumnus of the Farafina Creative Writing Trust. He writes and lives in Ibadan.

Cross-Stitched is his first novel.

Ebele Mogo

Ebelechukwu Ijeoma Mogo, IJBG and ​Other ​S​tories

Ebelechukwu Ijeoma Mogo is a doctoral candidate and practitioner in public health. Her writing varies widely and ranges from creative fiction, non-fiction and poetry to health and development issues. She blogs on and is on Twitter and Instagram as @ebyral.

Hannah Onoguwe

Hannah Onoguwe, Sister Dear

Hannah Onoguwe’s work has appeared in Adanna and BLACKBERRY: a magazine, as well as online in Litro, The Missing Slate, Cassava Republic, African Writer, The Kalahari Review, Lawino, The Stockholm Review and Brittle Paper. She is one of the contributing authors to the Imagine Africa 500 anthology. She’s the author of Cupid’s Catapult, a collection of short stories, published under the Nigerian Writers Series, an imprint of ANA.

She studied at the Universities of Ibadan and Jos. When she’s not reading or writing—or being distracted by the Internet—you can probably find her experimenting with a new recipe. She lives in Bayelsa.


Amarachi Priscilla Ekekwe, Beyond the Beautiful Sea

Amarachi Priscilla Ekekwe is a Software Engineer by day and an aspiring author by night. She loves to read and enjoys writing just as much. She has written several short stories and flash fiction, some of which are featured on her personal website and other online platforms.

When she is not writing, she enjoys travelling and exploring new cultures and traditions. She has visited 20 states in her home country of Nigeria and has also travelled to a few countries abroad. You can find her on

Chioma Iwunze-Ibiam

Chioma Iwunze, The Heiress’ Bodyguard

Chioma Iwunze-Ibiam is studying for a Post-Graduate Diploma in Education. Her first novel Finding Love Again was published by Ankara Press. Her second novel, The Heiress’ Bodyguard, was longlisted for the Saraba Manuscript Prize.

She writes about the writing world and offers editorial consultation for budding and professional writers on her award-winning website, Her short stories have appeared in several newspapers and literary journals. Some of them include: MTLS, Long Story Short, Fiction 365, Saraba, Tribes Write, Flash Fiction Press and others. She has also published several journalism stories in newspapers. Awards and prizes include the 2014 ACT award semi-finalist, Cecilia Unaegbu flash fiction contest and farafinablog’s Voice of America flash fiction contest.

Her short stories have been selected for Chimamanda Adichie’s Farafina Trust Creative Writing Workshop (2010), The Nigerian Academy of Letters (2010), Fidelity Bank International Workshop (2011), Ebedi Hills International Residency Program (2013), FEMRITE Uganda Residency Program (2012).

Israel Okwuje

Israel Okwuje, Frayed Tightropes

Israel Okwuje writes from Festac Town. His short fiction has appeared in such journals as Eclectica, Saraba, and The Kalahari Review. An occasional essayist, he’s got narrative essays in Litro and LitroNY. In 2015, he was selected for the nonfiction seminar at the International Writing Program. Currently, he is completing a book-length memoir on hypertension and hopes to begin a novel immediately afterwards.

Eboka Chukwudi Peter-2

Eboka Chukwudi Peter, Mosaic: Stitches of Stories Lived, Stories Learned and Stories Told

Eboka Chukwudi Peter is from Delta State, Nigeria. He grew up in Benin City, Edo state and has a B.Sc in Business Administration from the University of Benin as well as a Masters Degree in Investment Analysis from Aston Business School, United Kingdom.

In 2008 He attended the Farafina Creative Writing Workshop with Chimamanda Adichie and in 2016 he attended the Writivism Nonfiction Workshop that was held at Accra Ghana. He has had works published in Saraba Magazine and Blanck Digital.

He lives in Lagos, where he co-owns a technology startup and is currently at work on a collection of short stories and a memoir.


Hajara Hussaini Ashara, 1994

Hajara Hussaini Ashara is a twenty-one year old final year Law student at ABU, Zaria. She has been writing since childhood, and most times she loves to think it’s her hobby.


Olisaeloka Onyekaonwu, God of Weeping Skies

Olisaeloka Onyekaonwu grew up in Awka, Anambra state. He studies Mass Communication at the University of Benin, Benin City. He derives delight in staring at stars and in research. He is deeply interested in world history. His work have been published in anthologies, newspapers and magazines both in Nigeria and the UK. He is 19.

TJ Benson

T J Benson, We Won’t Fade into Darkness

TJ Benson is a short story writer, creative photographer and Spaghetti enthusiast whose works have appeared in online and print journals like Kalahari Review, Munyori Journal, the 14th issue of Sentinel Magazine, Paragram Uk, Afridiaspora, Expound Magazine, Sankofa, Contemporary Literary Review, India African Hadithi and more recently Transition Magazine. “An Abundance of Yellow Paper” has been shortlisted for Amab-HBF prize. He has completed a collection of photography and poetry on commission titled Self, a collection of prose-poetry and parables The Devils Music, a collection of afro-sci-fi stories titled We Won’t Fade into Darkness and is currently at work on a novel The Madhouse.

An Interview on This is Africa

Read an interview on This is Africa with Saraba Magazine co-founder Emmanuel Iduma, on the manuscript project.


The prizes are both for fiction and non-fiction. Overall Nigerian writers are probably better known for fiction. Why did you feel non-fiction important to include and what kind of entries do you expect?

Great writers have always excelled in more than one genre. It’s a disservice to the literary community to create hierarchies—and actually a failure of the imagination of how writing should perform. Our award-systems seemed to have perpetuated the idea, inadvertently or not, that your wonderful fiction makes you an important writer. Few writers manage to rise above this entrapment. Hopefully, by publishing fiction side by side with nonfiction, we can draw attention to the importance of excellent nonfiction. We expect nonfiction that is, in one word, compelling. There’s something Barthes said, “Every critic should be a novelist in disguise.” I’m hoping that, in addition, even the novelists would be critics in disguise.