Beeta Universal Art Foundation celebrates 6th playwright competition winner — Terh Agbedeh

The 6th edition of the Beeta Playwright Competition culminated in a night of celebration and recognition at the Agip Hall of the Muson Centre in Lagos. The prestigious event, organised by the Beeta Universal Art Foundation, showcased top talents in the realm of playwriting, with a focus on fostering creativity and innovation in the arts.

Amongst the array of talented finalists, Olaide Nurat Mohammed emerged as the standout winner with her captivating piece titled “Abistwin.” Mohammed’s work impressed the judges with its depth, originality, and thought-provoking narrative, earning her the coveted first place.


She walks away with $3,000 in prize money and a three-month stay at a writing residency in the United Kingdom. And has been tradition since inception of the competition, the play will not only be published it will also be staged by the organisers.

Cheta Igbokwe claimed the title of first runner-up with his compelling play “Dimkpa,” while Alemoh Victory Omomei clinched the second runner-up position with “Dance of the Masquerade,” a piece that resonated with audiences for its cultural significance and artistic flair.

The competition, which saw an impressive lineup of finalists, also included notable works such as “Lutopia” by Olalekan Fadare Awawu, “Bride and Widower” by Elias Ozikpu, and “Of Love and War” by Efe Ronald Chesterfield.

From left: Mrs Solate Akarolo, Founder of Five2Media, Ibiso Graham-Douglas, MD of Paperworth Books Limited, Olaide Nurat Mohammed, Winner of 6th BPC, Bikiya Graham-Douglas, Actress and Creator of Beeta Playwright Competition, and Mr Adokiye Ikpoki, MD/CEO Chairborne Global Services Limited

Matthew David’s “One Dagger Two Souls,” Ayoola Adesewa Akinyemi’s “Life in Many Shades,” Jeff Iwu’s “Beneath the Garment,” and Kelvinmary Ndukwe’s “Kaineto” rounded out the top ten finalists, each showcasing the diverse talent and rich storytelling prevalent in Nigeria’s burgeoning theatrical scene.

While welcoming guests, BUAF Founder, Bikiya Graham-Douglas restated her reasons for organising the competition, saying, “I came back to Nigeria as a young actress looking for opportunities to be a part of new stories, and I found none. We always had to refer back to our old playwrights, and I kept on asking: ‘where are the voices of my generation?’ We had none documented, and so we started this competition to create opportunities for the new voices in the literary genre of drama to shine, and that’s exactly what we are doing.  

“We received over 3,000 entries from across the 30 states of Nigeria and the diaspora for this edition. So far, we have had five winners already, 50 finalists, and we’ve been working with a number of them. We are very happy to be chosen by the Almighty to create a platform for young people, and we see how it’s changing the performing arts industry in Nigeria, and contributing to storytelling. 

“To the finalists and participants, I’d like to thank you for trusting us. It’s not easy to put yourself out there, especially in the world today, where there is a lot of dishonesty and you take risks when you put your work out. And for that, you are all winners. Thank you, and congratulations to all of you for being here.”

Sanya also shared a few words on the collaboration between MTN Foundation and Beeta Universal Arts Foundation. According to her, “the question we always get at MTN Foundation, when people see us getting involved in events like this is, ‘why do we do what we do?’ Through the years, we have supported various businesses. For us at the foundation, it’s really been about enabling people to birth their ideas. We saw with Bikiya, a path for young people who are arts inclined, and we thought it was important to be a part of this.

“For us, it was really about the capacity building behind the stories and production when they get staged. It’s about how young talents in the rough pass through a process that enables them to become stronger in their minds and talents that they already have. So, I’ll say the relationship has been great. This is our third outing, and hopefully, we will do it again.”

Sanya commended the young dramatists for their daring spirit, adding,  “To the 40 participants, I would like to say you’ve gone through a process that lands you in this room today, but the lesson is not about whether you win or not, but out of thousands of entries, you made it. That sort of strength, for you, when you hit a roadblock, remember the moment you submitted your entry and you were selected out of thousands. I would like to say congratulations in advance.

“I think the most important thing here today is that we are putting our trust upfront, and we are giving it to these 40 people, and our expectations are that you don’t let us down. You use that trust to gain more trust for yourself, and the most important thing is that you come back and change your immediate environment.” 

Ikpoki, whose Chairborne company is supporting the prize for the third year running, also applauded the finalists for their efforts, noting, “This particular objective speaks to us because of the fact that we are putting in hard work and integrity. I see very hardworking youths and I’m happy that we are partnering with Beeta on this. My advice for Beeta is to see if we can publish these plays, because I’m sure there is a lot of good content here. I know playwriting is like craftsmanship and you need your mind to be clear to sit down to write and how hard the work is, but I want to encourage you to continue doing what you are doing. A lot of your peers have turned to a life of crime, but you decided to continue to write to contribute to this art history, providing quality content for movies and drama.

“I’m very proud of you, and as I said last year, as long as we are in business, we will continue supporting this. As you continue to be trained in playwriting, I believe that more quality would come out of you. I wish you all the best and we will continue to support, and see that you publish works.”

Veteran journalist and politician Momodu said, “Playwriting is a specialised type of writing. Anyone can be a writer, but playwriting is different. I read a lot of plays as a young man at Ile-Ife. I remember Ola Rotimi in Ife, and the great actors like Jimi Solanke. I grew up with the Wole Soyinka’s in Ife and I worked at the university library, and we used to all say we wanted to act, and I used to wonder how a person would just sit down and write plays that we will all enjoy. So, for us to have all of you in this room, I am hoping that there would be a way that I would participate more in the future. I want to congratulate you all because it has not been easy, and I want to congratulate you all, and Bikiya, for a job well done.”

The theatre administrator Eboh also shared a few words of encouragement and praised the finalists as well as BUAF for the prize initiative, when he said, “It’s a great day and the storytellers are being celebrated today. The playwrights are the storytellers. They create the story. Every other thing that happens emerges through the eyes and the storytelling of the playwright. I want to congratulate the 40 of you being recognized.

“There are a lot of playwriting competitions in the country, but very few recognize more than five or three. So, for BUAF to be celebrating 40 of you is a great recognition. I want to congratulate BUAF. Some of your discoveries are doing great things out there. They have conquered and are still conquering, telling stories about Nigeria through the eyes of Nigerians, promoting our culture with the pathway provided by Beeta Universal Arts Foundation. Thank you for what you’ve been doing. I want to welcome you into the professional space. In the next couple of years, we will be seeing your works on television and on stage, and our association would be willing to participate with some of you and provide greater platforms to be able to project what you’re doing.” 

Two Jury members for the competition, the Festival Director of Lagos Fringe, Mr. Kenneth Uphopho and the Founder of Paperworth Books, Ibiso Graham-Douglas, unveiled the 10 finalists for the prize. Uphopho congratulated the finalists, and also shared his experience while deciding the finalists.

According to him, “Your stories are phenomenal, and it was so tough trying to judge this particular edition. We’ve been here since the beginning, but this one was particularly tough, because the stories were amazing. I want you to know that as writers nothing is lost. If you don’t win today, it doesn’t mean that story won’t be made into a movie tomorrow. I wrote a play in 2020, and that story has gone farther than I imagined. Everything is possible for you. I’d like to say a big thank you to the organisers of the event led by Bikiya — a phenomenal woman who has been at it for a very long time, and we are always going to be there to support you.”

Ibiso also commended the finalists and assured them that Beeta Universal Arts Foundation would always be available for them to reach out to, adding, “You don’t have to win to benefit from the network of the Beeta Universal Arts Foundation. We had a play written by someone who wasn’t in the top three, but we have produced that play twice a year since, and we’ve done it here and in Abuja. We also have another who was part of the Covid-19 anthology we just did. So once you’re a finalist, you become part of the BUAF and we carry you wherever we go. Our ethos is to build capacity in whatever genre you choose to dabble in. You can reach out to us anytime.”

An excited Mohammed spoke about her journey into scriptwriting, when she said, “I still feel like I’m in a dream. 2020 was the first time I heard about Beeta Playwright Competition. It was during the Covid-19 pandemic, and I had just lost my job at the time. So, I was home doing nothing and a friend told me about it and asked me to give it a try, and that was my first attempt at scriptwriting. I submitted a play Diligence on a Throne, and I was a finalist back in 2021. Though I didn’t win then, I kept on pushing and submitting plays. Last year, it was my first week in film school and classes were on; it was rigorous and tiring, and I was still contemplating on submitting a play. But then, it was a day before the deadline that I submitted my play and it was just 22-pages.

“The play is about postpartum psychosis and it’s a story I hold dearly to my heart, because it’s a true life story about a distant relative of mine. In Yoruba culture, it is called ‘Abisiwin,’ but many people are not aware of what it means. Most times, it’s diagnosed as a spiritual problem and they take victims to unorthodox doctors to care for them. It’s a play to create more awareness that postpartum psychosis is real, and it’s not a spiritual problem, but something that needs to be treated as important.”

The evening was marked by a glamorous ceremony, attended by industry luminaries, art enthusiasts, and aspiring playwrights alike, all gathered to honour and celebrate the creativity and vision of Nigeria’s brightest theatrical talents. As the curtains close on another successful edition of the Beeta Playwright Competition, anticipation builds for the future of Nigerian theatre, buoyed by the talent and innovation displayed by this year’s finalists.

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