MR. Paul Ugbede has won the maiden edition of Beeta Playwright Competition. The organiser, Beeta Universal Arts Foundation (BUAF), led by award-winning actress and producer, Bikiya Graham-Douglas, is desirous of helping new theatrical voices to reflect the concerns and realities of modern Nigeria. Ugbede won with his play Our Son the Minister that deals with Nigeria’s current democratic situation with all its convoluted intrigues and shenanigans.
While acknowledging the contributions and continuing relevance of the older generation of playwrights like Wole Soyinka, J.P. Clark, Ola Rotimi, Femi Osofisan, Sam Ukala, Esiaba Irobi among others, Graham-Douglas said it was time new voices emerged on the theatrical scene to speak the language peculiar to current socio-political and cultural moment. The first Beeta Playwright Competition (BPC) is organised to give Nigerians scriptwriters between ages 18 to 40 a platform to “tell our stories in our own voices”.
According to Graham-Douglas, “It’s time for us to find new materials for our own generation. It will be nice to hear our own voices through the emerging new plays. We are trying to progress from the old generation, the era of Wole Soyinka, Ola Rotimi, J.P. Clark, Femi Osofisan, Sam Ukala. Why haven’t we evolved like them? It’s our time and our voices must be rise up and be heard like those of the older generation. And Ugbede’s winning play Our Son the Minister speaks to the moment. It’s amazing how it resonates with me, and the present time. The playwright puts responsibility not just on government, but also on the people, the citizens and their actions or inactions”.
The winner Ugbede expressed satisfaction not just with winning the competition, but with the platform BAUF has created for young playwrights across the country. “I feel good wining,” he said. “I’m happy not because I won, but that playwrights are beginning to be recognised. Apart from British Council supporting playwrights, there are no other platforms for young playwrights to grow.
“Our Son the Minister is a satire of Nigerian situation. We always cry about bad leadership, but we never look at our roles in creating bad leaders. Once our person wins election, we pay him courtesy visit and put plenty demands on people in authority. It’s one of the reasons we have bad leaders. So, Our Son the Minister is like a holding up a mirror up to ourselves”.
Over a four-month period, BUAF team received 176 entries from 30 states in Nigeria and the Diaspora. With the help of a panel of judges led by Prof. Ahmed Yerima, Shaibu Husseini, Lala Akindoju, Kenneth Uphopho and Ibiso Graham-Douglas, it was reduced to nine finalists for the Grand Finale. Affiong’s First Novel by Nikita Oroh and Echoes of the Drum by Mr. Olayiwola Awakan are the finalists. The three plays will be published by Paper Worth Books Limited and also staged by Beeta Universal Arts Foundation.
The competition was sponsored by Union Bank of Nigeria Plc, as part of the company’s CSR scope and it also had the support of Paper Worth Books Limited, Terra Kulture and Bin Zel Limited. The guest list included the Deputy Governor of Lagos State, Mrs. Oluranti Adebulu, represented by the Senior Special Assistant on Education, Mr. Abiola Seriki Ayeni, former Chief Whip, Lagos State House of Assembly, Hon. Rasaq Balogun, former Nigerian Ambassador to Ireland and Iceland, Dr. Bolere Ketebu, Mr. Pierre Cherrauau from the French Consulate, Nollywood actresses Damilola Attoh, Ufuoma Macdermott, Ijeoma Grace Agu, celebrated director and playwright, Mr. Wole Oguntokun, On-Air-Personality, Omoye Uzamere, and the Executive Producer of Saro and Wakaa musicals, Mrs. Bolanle Austin-Peters to mention a few.
Also, Beeta Appreciation Awards was inaugurated at the event to honour personalities and organisations that contribute to Nigerian theatre through sundry support. Some awardees included Total Nigeria, JARATV show, Prof. Ahmed Yerima, Shiabu Husseini, Beloxxi Industries Limited, Classic FM and ChannelsTV, etc .
There was a theatre skit presentation from the play, Affiong’s First Novel by Oroh that starred Opeyemi Dada and Tosin Adeyemi and directed by another finalist and Creative Director of Kininso Koncepts Production, Mr. Joshua Alabi.
The winner, Mr. Paul Ugbede got the grand prize of N1 million while Orok and Awakan finished as first and second Runners Up, and won N500,000 and N200,000 respectively.
It was a well-attended event that focused on producing a new generation of playwrights who aspire to become legends in the theatre profession. Guests were also thrilled to a beautiful musical performance by Isaac Gerald.