Oluwatimilehin Odueso, Favour Olajide, and Solomon Nzere have emerged as top entrants in this year’s prize for satire competition organised by Punocracy. Odueso’s How to raise a true believer was adjudged the overall best entry by the judges, followed by Olajide’s The Next Nigerian Leader: A reality TV show, and Nzere’s The Gospelpreneur — Letter to David.

The trio will be awarded at a ceremony commemorating the World Satire Day set to be held in November alongside the honorably mentioned entrants in the visual arts category: Fatimah Otukoya and Mujeeb Jummah.

The three winners will be receiving cash prizes of N70,000, N50,000, and N30,000 respectively, as well as certificates and book prizes. And then, candidates in the honorable mentions will each receive a cash prize of N10,000 and certificates.

Here’s what our esteemed judges had to say about the shortlisted entries; they’ve also included their thoughts on satire generally and its significance in political discourse:

I received the entries of a satire competition with great anticipation. Engagement with society and its politics and culture through satire is at the very least a hopeful sign that citizens, especially younger ones, are thinking critically.

The power of this critical engagement becomes more potent as satirists and potential satirists deploy this skill thoughtfully. One thing that is clear to see from the entries is the general grasp of tools like sarcasm, exaggeration, wit and irony which constitute key elements of this genre.

Perhaps a few general points might be in order regarding how, as satirists, we may make our craft more effective in prodding society into introspection and at least triggering debate that interrogates our culture and politics. To write effective satire that goes beyond mild entertainment, it is important not just to capture but to sustain the engagement with one’s potential audience.

Good satire not only ridicules our political failures or cultural foibles, it is also a call to action. For satire to be this call to action, it must avoid things which may distract from this engagement. Poor editing, obvious grammar mistakes and overwrought metaphors, all stand in the way of engagement and more than most genres, satire must be meticulous. Satire can be subtle or brutal, and can use various styles, but it always has a serious concern. It cannot be flippant.  Like a person wielding a weapon, every stroke must be deliberate or one risks harming the wrong person or harming oneself.

“Good satire hits close enough to the mark to get under the skin of the person or institution being criticized.” This can only happen if the work is good enough, not just to capture the interest of its target but to sustain that interest long enough to provoke a reaction.

It is my hope that this competition is only the beginning of a movement to strengthen the skills of persons who undertake this challenging task of public criticism.

(Read more here: https://www.charlotteobserver.com/opinion/op-ed/article133439989.html#storylink=cpy)

Elnathan John

Satire is the most difficult dialect of the language of art, for good reason. It is a specialism for artists at the top of their game because, in the hands of the satirist, art no longer merely entertains or informs. It is weaponised. Beauty –  that end of all art – is merely the beginning for the skilled satirist, who wields a rapier of wit that can eviscerate his victims. He takes pains to rouse and to channel the mockery of his reader towards the object of his satire. Minor failures of craft, of grammar, of metaphor, of spelling even, invite the reader to laugh at the writer, rather than the subject of his satire. It is the literary equivalent of a swordsman falling upon his own blade.

Satires come with thorns; this is the nature of the art. To be effective, those thorns – be they soft or prickly – must be delivered on roses of distractingly beautiful writing. This speaks to a native balancing act of enchantment and vex. All this to say that the satirist’s anger must be subordinate to, and never overwhelm, his artistry. His literary devices must zing. They should be either novel or burnished, must be neither clunky nor heavy-handed. We the readers are drawn to wit, not to rage. But it is the writer’s superlative wit that gives him licence to rage against society’s failings. In the end, it is beauty – that lightness of touch, that spice shaker of humour and that creative nous of the skilled artist – that seduces us, again and again, to the pages of satire.

This shortlist interrogates nationality and religion (although Christianity appears, for some reason, more lampoonable than Islam). It is concerned with politics, parenthood, and the police. With a finger on society’s pulse, even Covid-19 pays its dues to satire. These writers are close students of life and literature and should accept this calling to an acerbic priesthood that holds her priests to a more exacting standard than her congregation.

Chuma Nwokolo

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