Uniben Prize for poetry and short stories shortlist

Posted: April 25, 2015 in short stories

The 2015 Uniben Prize for Poetry and Short Stories attracted nearly 200 entries this year, which was indeed a great delight!

After an initial sift by a team of experienced readers, the Foundation panel have chosen the shortlist.

Ten short stories and five poems from students of the university have been selected.

They reflect the breadth and quality of writing in the Campus today.

The shortlisted stories and poems have been sent to the panel of international Judges and they will select the final winners in the coming weeks.

The Fiction Limbo Foundation will announce the final winners of both categories just after the end of the first semester’s examination.

In the meantime, you can read a passage from each of the 10 shortlisted stories and 5 poems below.

Short stories

  1. The Ghost in the dark: 207

Every morning, when the sun seemed reluctant to rise, my father would sit by the well. He would tune his radio to a news station, widen his lap in an accustomed ritual to accommodate the size of the newspaper, and pore through every page of The Nation. Neck craned forward, head bent over- his cracked lips would momentarily whisper a few lines from the paper. On days when he could not afford to buy The Nation, he would pick from the pile of old issues that were neatly propped up at a corner in the bedroom. He wore a pained look as he read them.

Whenever my father finished a copy of The Nation, he would throw frightening jabs into the air, talk in thick croaked tones, and curse General Babangida’s government. The other Sunday that was Esomchi’s birthday; I made a colourful card and showed it to my father. He took the card, turned it up- and-down, and tore it into shreds. He was not frowning. He was sneering. Sneers and more sneers even after I left him. And what was once a gift to my younger brother became tufts of colourful pieces that were trampled under the feet of a man I called my father.

  1. Sally of No. 3 dream avenue (or the unexpected dreams of an unknown girl) : 182

She lifted her head and directed the smile at him. His heart did a back flip and skipped a bit, but as he opened his mouth to speak—‘James.’ He heard his name inside his head. It seemed to have affected the world around him. The building began to quake vigorously, the picture frames on the wall started to fall off their hooks, shattering glass everywhere. He docked to avoid the massive light bulbs that came crashing down from the ceiling. ‘James.’ The Voice within called out again. His vision began to blur, but he could still see the pretty girl sitting on the sofa, smiling. The momentum of the chaos increased. The roof was completely blown off and water from the rain started to pour in at liberty. The walls of the house were breaking in full swing into bits. Everything was slithering out of focus but the girl on the sofa remained static. He felt someone holding on to him firmly, and as he turned to see who it was, he broke out of the dream

  1. Of bishops and bodyguards: 304

It happened in a moment. The car veered off the road and its tire ravaged the shrubbery on the sidewalk.  What happened next could pass as a scene from a blockbuster. James kicked the door open, performed a cartwheel and let off four bullets in the direction of the lorry that knocked him off the road. The hawkers who had been watching keenly took off then. Some let their wares fall to the ground, the more devout held on tightly as they darted off. The lorry pulled to a stop across the road, cutting off the flow of traffic from the north. James paused to check how much ammo he had left whilst his assailants poured out the lorry like pus from a pimple. No sooner had they lifted their weapons than James took out one, two, three of them! He was still grossly outnumbered but now they knew not to count that as an advantage. They ran behind the truck as James let off more deadly shots. He was not looking for a standoff; he knew that 5 years in the academy and just as many years of experience hadn’t prepared him for this. He looked around him for an escape route or a safe haven and found neither. The road he was on stretched too long and too thin, so that even if he were to drive off, they would be right on his tail, not to mention his Toyota Chevrolet wasn’t made for the crooked teeth of the Lagos mainland roads. He had no place to hide either. Kiosks and small apartments clustered around him. He might have to fight after all. A fresh assault of bullets came his way and he got on all fours, crawling till he was behind his automobile.  Obstruction regardless, his assailants kept firing, he wasn’t sure if it was a show of strength or a general lack of common sense. There was no way any of their bullets would touch him where he was but they seemed content with bathing him in glass. He hunched over to protect his eyes and face suddenly assured of two things.  His assailants were untrained, and he would not die that day.

  1. Dreams of the undead: 177

I had always wanted to be like my sister, a dreamer, sleeping through time almost unnoticed, walking through worlds beyond existence and threading paths after death. It was an enchanting life, the life that my sister lived. I envied her; I longed to be like her, chosen by the gods and kissed by the saintly lips of the supernatural. For one thing I was assured, my sister was special, or so I thought, until recently.

It was almost midnight, and I was seated, staring at the coffin that was placed at the middle of my father’s shrine. I was alone, and the resonance of the silence around me was tearing me into smithereens.

Izazi had told me about loads of her dreams, how refreshing it was, to be in a world other than ours. She would tell, as she smiled, how beautiful the spirit realm was, how majestic and how grand.

But my sister never mentioned anything about the anxiety that would overwhelm me; she never talked about the slick taste of death I would feel every time I laid in the coffin, Izazi never told me about the most important thing, the maze, the sanctuary of the undead.

  1. The arrangement: 206

Onyinye levered her naked self out of bed, and walked in nervous trots round her room. She got to her wardrobe, turned the brass knob, pulled the door open, and picked a pair of scissors. She wanted everything to end. Quick and soon.

Facing the Victorian wall mirror, she held back a handful of her hair in one hand, the pair of scissors in the other. She stared deeply at the mirror, and saw many faces: the dark-skinned face of a lady full of affable smiles; the beaming face of a tender young girl that giggled, as if a box of chocolates had been offered her. Countless faces, she saw; but only one face was she sure of: her real face, ashen by choicelessness, saddened by the loss of what used to be.

The scissors swished as it went into her hair. And what followed were tufts of black hair that smelled of Apple relaxer. They fell on the beige rug, into the pulled-out drawer, on her bare shoulders. The scissors hissed while being withdrawn and driven in again; confidently this time, like its handler was sure. Sure of getting rid of the once entangled swell of adorned hair. Sure of reducing her glorious hair into long strands of blackish fluff that floated in air, till they fell to the earth.

  1. Wolves of the desert : 203


Dusk was descending and he remembered the vague description one survivor had given of the heathens that attacked her settlement, while he scribbled on a notepad. After raping the women, she said, they had driven long sticks, sharp as spikes into the holes between their legs till it almost pooped out of their anuses. They had with daggers, poked holes into the belles of pregnant women, till they were wide as fish nets. They had severed the manhood of men with irons dipped in red fire, then slit their throats so that their tongues hung in-between their teeth like that of a slaughtered goat.   He had not believed most of what she had said but took notes all the same. It was the shocks speaking. How stupid of him to have thought so. Those wielders of unrelenting penises cautiously were advancing towards him, grinning wickedly. The sneer in their darting eyes paralyzed. He wanted to move, to run past them with all his might, but his legs were no longer his. Yet a muffled prayer surprisingly escaped his lips to a god he did not believe in, before familiar stench of nostalgia hit him.

  1. Lion-Cloth : 208

Aisha was comfortable in her mother’s obscured beauty. Above her callused skin however was a dreadful May and stripped from the skyline around her was the feeling of adequacy- that she couldn’t look through the beams of sun curtains and not feel too overworked. Jatto’s pastures splattered all around her in flaxened tendrils. What could she do? She felt helpless in her own expanse of withering cassava. And while she flipped between the moist umbra of leaf debris, her hands moved slowly.

Aisha heaved when she felt herself thawing thin into her wrapper. She pressed her legs together. Instinctively, she balled up a chunk of wrapper between her legs. The pangs of heat in her belly surged as steady as the sun climbed. Her breast clasped against the upper hems of her wrapper. She had expected to be tormented by her youth; but if only she knew a better way to rebuke her unborn child from slipping premature.

  1. My sister’s madness: 205

I grew up learning that madness was meant for a reserved kind of people. That it was a disease one inflicted on one’s self by thinking too much. At least that was what Papa said. That madness was a health problem, like dysentery, people got from not taking proper care of themselves. After all, my childhood friend’s madness came from smoking too much Indian hemp, from drinking several bottles of undiluted schnapps, from identifying with a fearless gang of brutes in the streets of Lagos. He didn’t take care of himself. But Mama said that madness was often sent from the village, from people who’d rather die than watch you progress in life, from people who saw happiness as something unhealthy for others but themselves – that kind of native tale-telling thing.

But now, having lived several lives, with my parents, with uncles and aunts, and then with myself, I knew that madness was no disease. Madness was not what you ate as poison in the village. Madness was in everyone, depending only on the extent to which you controlled it.

  1. War of the elder demons: 198

It was in 1914 that we first came into this galaxy, me, myself, and I. The triads, we were called, or worse still, legions.

It was an insult, to be called by such titles, names befitting for creatures less than the mohnguls, names that even lesser demons would detest.

They knew we hated the names, but they called us yet. We hated them, all of them, butt fucking catholic priests.

They had hunted us for centuries, killing whatever body we demented, but now, the tides have changed, and for the first time in a hundred years, the hunted has become the hunter.

  1. Before the wow : 202

Cake, balloons, bottles of wine, and of course, my girls. I looked around and I could feel the excitement in the atmosphere. My palms were sweaty. After several failed relationships, a nice gentleman had finally put a ring on it. At last, I was kissing singlehood goodbye. I had earlier called the radio station, requesting ‘Single Ladies’ by Beyoncé. There was a synchronised rush of screams from all over the room when we heard it being played on the radio. My bridesmaid and I all sang along as we prepared for my bachelorette at the Phoenix night club down town.


  1. Righteous Fury: 111

If I had the right words,

And all the power to make sour words sweet,

Or the slyness of the serpent,

I would say to Rebecca,

I hate you.

Hidden in the love she pretended to have for me,

I would say it.

If I could turn back the sands of time,

I would tell her of all the things I had in mind,

I would tell her she failed me,

I would say to Rebecca,

I hate you.

Hidden in the love she said to have for me,

I would say it.

  1. We don’t live here anymore: 204


we dont live here any more

the raffia rafters

have fallen on us

the sky now

is a parody of our roof

and faithless sabians

we are

Stargazing nonetheless

like an absentminded child

mopping at his rabbi

  1. Who answers prayers: 103

I bowed my head, facing the east, saying a prayer of mercy

Standing aloof, the west I hopefully gazed,

To mutter some verses of abundance,

Believing, deeply in my soul,

That they were answered

But alas, none came my way.

Is he there?

Listening, soberly so, to my heap of requests,

My letter of wish, my desires, my tablet of will

Or could this he I thought a she be?

Could it, as I know not what it is,

Own a soul with softened heart, and fluffy lips, as little as mine,

And sensual gait and…

But why is my prayer always an exception?

  1. Metamorphosis: 302

Can you choose the difference between

Caterpillars’ cocoons and snake skins?

Can you become, anything but

The shadow cast of every thought

I’m spinning in the depths of change,

It invades my lungs and spills out my brains,

Yet to drown is not in the least macabre.

  1. I salute you : 209

Our development is retarded

Our minds focused on getting a degree when there’s no employment

We salute these lying brides

Their faces in veils as they coin words to suit their own coins

Why do we still make camps at their campaigns?

Why do we still bother to listen to their manifestos and propaganda when they are not even half the average proper man?

Why do I still write when I know my own people would never take five minutes to read this?

Well for u who did my name is Zazi and I salute you.

Note: All shortlisted writers should please send a brief bio about themselves to unibenprize@gmail.com before 30th april, 2015.

  1. O wonderful ! That’s what you discussed with us few months before,right? I enjoyed reading five short stories today. Rest of it tomorrow. Nice to see you again on these pages.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. […] Uniben Prize for poetry and short stories shortlist […]


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