Winners of the 2021 Kreative Diadem Creative Writing Contest

Winners of the 2021 Kreative Diadem Creative Writing Contest

Winners of the 2021 Kreative Diadem Creative Writing Contest

Here is the highly anticipated list of the winners of the 2021 Kreative Diadem Creative Writing Contest. Now in its fifth year, the prize seeks to recognize the best literary works by Nigerian writers aged 21 years and below.

Our guest judges: Ernest Ogunyemi, selected three winners for the poetry category and Jerry Chiemeke picked the top three flash fiction entries.

Here are the winners with comments from the judges:

Poetry Category

Winner: “It is Hope That Keeps the Flame of Dreams Dancing” by Abdulmueed Balogun

There’s a decay in our consciousness—the individual and the national consciousness—a deep and flourishing decay, and there’s a rot in our conscience: this poem reaches and speaks to that decay, it addresses and peels itself away from that rot. Yahoo (also Yahoo Yahoo) is presently at the heart of Nigeria’s popular culture; consequently, the morally upright young person is frustrated at every turn by his peers. Abdulmueed writes:

[Dear God] Gaze upon me—a poet, 

a pilgrim and dust, with your merciful eyes, I do not want to brew my bliss like birds my


age who have murdered their conscience with knives of greed, from the core of what you 

ordained profane, I do not crave to oil my harmattan-bitten lips like my peers with my neighbors’


oil, while they go to bed with growling stomachs, with bleeding hearts.

This poetry is not marked by a sense of self-morality, however, but is rooted in a God-consciousness, a knowledge of His commandments for the living and how He has put parents in place as landmarks. And though deeply reminiscent of Khalil Gibran’s poetry (The Prophet), the long lines and the cadence of Abdulmueed’s voice kin the man’s, it is the young prophet Jeremiah, speaking of a nation rotten at the very heart, that I hear in a corner of my head when I read this  poem: “I sat not in the assembly of the mockers, nor rejoiced; I sat alone because of thy hand: for thou hast filled me with indignation.”

This poem sings of hope, and it is itself a thing with feathers. It filled me up with joy; I am glad to have encountered it.

First Runner-up: “Elocutio” by Olaitan Junaid

This poem, about grief and friendship, with faith woven into its fabric, sustains its power despite its length, and no word feels out of place. Its careful lineation and a masterful use of // allow for a containment of the overwhelming emotions that want to burst the poem’s seams. This is why it is remarkable; it holds heart-tearing grief so tenderly.

It’s also wonderful how it moves beyond the self and engages other bodies, even a ghost body and the body of the earth: “but o, i keep screaming/ & screaming // subhanallah // when a termite bites // & now /// my tongue // is lost // to grief’s brutal dialect.” In this way, this poem reminds me of J. P. Clark’s succinct ‘Streamside Exchange.’

After reading this poem, it felt like I had taken a walk with the poet in a park, on a warm afternoon, and we’d held hands and he’d touched my face and opened to me a throbbing, bleeding room in his chest. That’s how intimate this poem feels.

Second Runner-up: “Euphemism” by Samuel A. Adeyemi

Samuel A. Adeyemi is one of the few young Nigerian poets whose sense of observation is acute, and who has a language to deliver what he sees in plain yet highly lyrical lines. 

Here is a surreal poem, bone quietly sharp. There’s a death-sharp tissue; by calling a wound a flower an ache could be tapered. Though dark and brutal, in language Adeyemi makes possible a softening of violence, which is just what an euphemism is. The poet thus employs a literary device as the internal driving force of the poem: ‘Euphemism’ itself is a long euphemistic song.

The poet’s deliberateness makes for a gentle and shocking—at the turn of the lines, which are broken with care—read. I am deeply humbled and honoured to be writing at the same time as this poet, and to be able to share this poem!

Honourable mentions:

“Overuse” by Chijindu Terrence James-Ibe

“Sunrise” by Chinedu Gospel

Flash Fiction Category

Winner: “A Matching Pair” by Agbai Emmaterry Chinonso

I like the earnestness with which it was delivered, as well as the buildup, use of active language, and the narrative voice. It’s a nicely-written story on paternity fraud, infidelity, trust and broken bonds. The final three paragraphs pack the punch.

First Runner-up: “And This is How They Become Beautiful” by Mhembeuter Jeremiah Orhemba

I see potential, and I see what the writer was trying to do by trying to render the narrative from the perspective of the child. It’s poignant, it sheds light on a germane topic, and I like that the end is a little bit open-ended: does the child die??

Second Runner-up: “One Dark Night” by Oloruntobi Ayomikun

“One Dark Night” could have been better written, but it’s not particularly disastrous prose. There is a decent use of dialogue, and the writer manages to build a little tension via the antics of the corrupt, trigger-happy policemen on duty. The prose paints a graphic picture of what it’s like to navigate Nigerian roads, and while there are not many fireworks, Ayomiku manages to tell a coherent story.

Honourable mentions:

“Her Baby” by Ndukwe Uchenna Raphael

Congratulations to the winners!

We are grateful to our guest judges — Ernest Ogunyemi and Jerry Chiemeke– and everyone who sent in their work. Thanks to all our sponsors for their generous donations.

Interviews with the contest winners will be published at a later date.

The maiden edition which held in 2017 was judged by Sueddie Vershima Agema (Flash Fiction) and Okwudili Nebeolisa (Poetry).



Our third issue ever, "Isolation" is out. We had thought-provoking conversations with Alexis Teyie and Tobi Nifesi. It's a collection of works from some of the finest minds out there -- poetry, short stories, interviews, and creative essays.

Do you love our published works?

You can add your literary work to an endless list of poems, short stories, flash fiction, and essays.

AND THIS IS HOW THEY BECOME BEAUTIFUL by Mhembeuter Jeremiah Orhemba

AND THIS IS HOW THEY BECOME BEAUTIFUL by Mhembeuter Jeremiah Orhemba

photo of daughter hugs her mother


by Mhembeuter Jeremiah Orhemba

First Runner-up of the 2021 Kreative Diadem Annual Creative Writing Contest (Flash Fiction Category)

The boy wants to cry. 

He sniffs in mucus for the umpteenth time, but his mother holds his arm and tells him that he will have to make a choice. He stares into her face, searchingly. Tears stream out of her eyes. And so he turns to his father, but his father stares into space. Hopeless, he turns back to his mother. “I want to stay with both of you,” he drawls.

His mother’s hand finds her face. She sniffs. She says she can no longer tolerate his father, and the boy shudders. But he cannot deny his mother’s words either. They are fact, and his memories are proving it. In recall, his mother’s wails are loud and raw. His father keeps lashing her. The cane in his hand comes down swiftly, eliciting pleas from her. He joins his mother, pleading, pleading. His father barks at him: “Get away from here, asongo!” 

The boy buries his face into his palms. His father might be wicked, but he still loves him. And his mother—ankara-clad, ginger scenting—he can’t part from her—his sweet mother who kisses his forehead and pinches away his nightmares.

He lifts his face. Breath raspy, his mind tears into a whirlwind. His mother’s countenance prods him and the thought that he will have to choose scatters shivers all over his body. He looks onward. The door is ajar. So he gets up suddenly, chest heaving, and bursts through the door. One thought in his head, he runs and runs. Runs through the sandy street. Past houses. Past Madame Ura’s puff-puff stall and takes a turn around the bend. A tarred road ahead of him, people scream. It teems with vehicles whooshing back and forth, but the boy’s body is no longer his own. Before he realizes, a massive force slams into him and he is not on the other side of the road but rolling and rolling over its roughened surface.

 “Jesus, Jesus!”

“Yesu terem ka tor!” 

“Check pulse, check pulse. Is he dead?”

Everything in the boy’s vision blurs. Mind muddled, he can barely decipher what people are saying.  A sharp pain blazes in his ear, but it is becoming mild because he is growing lighter and lighter. When his father and mother arrive, their faces hover over him, he, however, makes out their faces. He smiles. His parents are here with him and all is beautiful. 

He doesn’t have to choose anymore.



Mhembeuter Jeremiah Orhemba (b.2002) is Nigerian. A 2021 ARTmosterrific artist-in-residence and an alumnus of the 2020 AFRIKA-WRITES PROSE WORKSHOP, his works have found a home in FictionWrit Magazine, The Shallow Tales Review, Arts Lounge, Eboquills and The Muse. He is an Editor at FictionWrit Magazine, wishes to attain the serenity of water, and enjoys watching TK and Carlos kiss. 

A MATCHING PAIR by Agbai Emmaterry Chinonso

A MATCHING PAIR by Agbai Emmaterry Chinonso

man in black long sleeved shirt and woman in black dress


by Agbai Emmaterry Chinonso

Winner of the 2021 Kreative Diadem Annual Creative Writing Contest (Flash Fiction Category)

“Good night mummy!” Benjamin calls as I walk past their room. 

“Sleep dear, you have school tomorrow.”

“Must we go?” Grace, the 5-year-old miscreant, whispered from the dimly lit room.

“Yes, you must go,” I answer calmly.

“What if Daddy says we can stay?” This time it was Benjamin, a 7-year-old, who always encourages his sister’s mischief a little too much.

“He won’t,” I say with finality. “Now good night.”

I walk away and head into our room. Easing the door open, you hurriedly stand to your feet, blanket and pillow in hand.

“Are they sleeping?” You ask carefully, your eyes watchful of my expressions.

“Not yet, wait a while.” Quietly, you lowered yourself into the couch in our room.

Even though it was more of my room these days. For the past few weeks, it had only acted as a storeroom for your belongings. My nights now end with you sneaking away to the guest room and the mornings had you crawling back in. 

It was a noisy process that always woke me up, no matter how quiet you tried to be. But the sounds of you ‘tip-toeing’ through the house had never woken the kids. That was the aim, to not let the kids know. That was why we were only true to ourselves under the hood of the night, only then could we drop our acts.

Turning off the lights by the wardrobe, I quickly begin to change into my pyjamas. I swing my head backwards to ensure you’re not watching. Testament to your smartness, your gaze is averted. Your eyes pointedly fix on the unplugged television, you understand that you lost the right to see me naked.

My eyes quickly go over your body before turning to unfasten my bra. It was a mere glance but I still noticed the difference, I have always noticed the little things about you. Your white tee, the one worn out from being a night-shirt, now hangs loosely on your frame. You had never been a very bulky man, but you were looking leaner within a month. 

A month of anger. A month since betrayal broke my trust in you. Since I donned on a unique shade of hypocrisy. 

Ben’s question echoes in my memory, “What if Daddy says we can stay?

How could daddy say ‘yes’ when he was struggling to appease mummy? How could he go against her after he had cheated? 

 *     *     *

man in black long sleeved shirt and woman in black dress

One month ago, on a night like any other, my feet were folded underneath me as I worked on my laptop. I had managed to procrastinate another task until the dying moment and now scrambled to compile a report one hour before its deadline. 

‘You say I led you on, you sef dey follow me’ Ckay sang to Ayra Starr on their track – Beggie Beggie, on her new album. My head bobbed absent-mindedly and my lips sang along unconsciously; that was how much I had listened to the album. 

You stirred beside me, over and over again, making me wonder if the music was a disturbance. It never was, you always slept so deeply, only your biological alarm could wake you. But then you stirred again, 

“Maybe I should just turn it off,” I thought.

The silence that descended on the room was comfortable, leaving the irregular tapping of my fingers on my keyboard. But something was unusual, I couldn’t hear your snore. This was not the first time I noticed the absence of that light gravelly noise punctuating the air at night. After ten years of marriage, it was a sound I had grown accustomed to. I had come to even depend on it on some days, to lull me to sleep, my personal lullaby.

“Babe?” I called out lightly to you, unsure if you were actually asleep.

There was no reply. “Babe?” I called again, just to double-check.

“Yeah?” Came the reluctant reply.

“You good?” I asked, already getting distracted by the fact that my report was still waiting.

“Yeah, I am.”

“Are you sure?” I asked, my fingers skidding across the keyboard again, “You’re not snoring.” I added.

“What?” You turned slightly to look up at me.

“You’re not snoring,” I repeated, “That means you’re not sleeping well.”

“You know I’m not sleeping well because I’m not snoring?” You asked, your voice sounding surprised.

My eyes were fixed on the laptop as I answered, “Of course.”

“But I thought you hated snoring?” You asked, I could feel you watching me.

“I do, but not yours. I like yours now, I kind of even need it.” 

I smiled at the irony, remembering how I gave you grief about it when we had just started dating. The night I first slept over, it served as the subject of my playful jabs at you the next day.

“Oh.” Was all you said.

“So, what’s up, why aren’t you sleeping well?” I asked again as I flipped through one of the documents, I had brought home.

You were quiet for so long, I thought you had ignored me and tried to sleep again. But when I turned, I saw you blankly staring at the ceiling.

“Gozie what is it?” I was getting genuinely concerned now. Far off wonderment was not your thing, I was the ‘deep’ person in this relationship while you never got bothered or dwelled on one thing for too long.

You sat up and looked at me. Your left eye twitched, in some other people, that may be a sign of anger or dishonesty, but in you, it had always been evidence of nerves. 

“I-” You began to say then stopped, then tried reaching for my hand but stopped that too. 

“Gozie?” My interest was piqued. I set my laptop aside and watched as you sprang up from the bed and began pacing. 

With every step, the pending report slipped further into the back of my mind-forgotten. Your lower lip suffered between your teeth as you began to chew on it like a stubborn piece of ‘shaki’ – this was your other nervous tic. Whatever you had to tell me was big.

“Babe, I’m so so sorry.”

My heart began to slap against my ribcage. The broken look in your eyes tempted me to tell you to keep whatever you had done to yourself.

“What did you do?” I asked carefully.

“Babe, I’m sorry, I promise I love you, with all my heart. I love you, I love the kids, I love you.” You professed on and on until I raised my hand to stop you.

There was silence in the room, quite unlike the one I experienced earlier. This one was thick with unspoken confessions hanging in the air. An open secret I now suspected but you were terrified to admit.

“Did you cheat?”

My eyes followed you as you knelt beside me, holding my hands in yours. “Ebube, my love, please!”

I snatched my hands from yours and scurried away, “Oh my God!”

“How could you Gozie?!” I spat.

“She meant nothing to me, I promise you it was a foolish mistake!” Your words arranged like something in a nollywood script.

Sadness sank in my belly, like boulder thrown in a lake. My eyes glazed over as tears quietly ran tracks down my cheeks.

The kids could not wake up, I couldn’t risk having them witness this, so I swallowed my urgent scream. After what felt like an hour, but could’ve been 5 minutes, my voice croaked out, 

“Why are you telling me now?” 

“Uhm…” You paused, “She’s pregnant and threatening to tell you.” The words ran out of your mouth in one breath.

My head snapped up so fast, it’s a miracle I didn’t strain a muscle. “She’s what?”

“Pregnant.” You repeated quietly.

A peal of sardonic laughter bubbled in my throat and escaped my lips, then ended as suddenly as it began. 

“So, you’re only scared of blackmail, you’re not even sorry,” I stated flatly.

“I am sorry.” You emphasized the ‘am’, your eyes pleaded with mine. 

If there was one thing you knew how to do, it was how to be repentant, apologetic; you were always quick to be remorseful. So now that apologies easily fell out of your seemingly sincere face, it meant nothing.

“Get out.” It was almost a whisper, laced with intense anger and disgust. There was no protest, you slipped out quietly.

I immediately leapt towards the bathroom, the bile I had been suppressing now clawed its way out. The sounds of me retching into the toilet bowl echoed off the tiled walls.

Maybe you would feel the same, if you know that we deserve each other, cheats deserve cheats.

But mine was different. I cheated out of necessity, and that was why I knew your mistress was a lying whore. The child in her womb could not be yours.

The two sleeping angels in the other room were proof, no child could be. 

EUPHEMISM by Samuel Adeyemi

EUPHEMISM by Samuel Adeyemi

faceless muscular ethnic man grabbing wrist of girlfriend during dispute


by Samuel Adeyemi

Second Runner-up of the 2021 Kreative Diadem Annual Creative Writing Contest (Poetry Category)

Murder by a scalpel is pronounced death, 

not surgery. There is no intricacy 


when the blade drowns in a body, whirling

inside like a wet threading of gut. 


Whatever the instrument, do not hesitate

to call your suffering by its name. 


It won’t soften it, but it will unshroud the 

mystique. I have stared at my misery 


for so long, it seems less oblique. How this

works—the fangs still terrify, but they


look just like teeth. The tissue, death-sharp 

yet quite familiar in its whiteness.


Our prophets have always been about pre-

tending. They think calling a wound 


a flower will taper its ache, sugar the poison

that mars the blood. But the first step


to wholeness has always been recognition.

It is a lie that the lie will be


the genesis of healing. The greatest miracle 

lies within the same truth we are taught 


to abandon. When you stare at the mirror, do

not invert the image. There, your open 


chest. Gaze. Is that a nail where your heart 

used to be? Wipe off the honey & tell


the wound as it is. Metal organ. Blood rust.

Why must we wait until our suffering 


ends before we name it? What happens when 

we are the ones outlived? I have chosen 


to resit the ritual of time, to call every bruise 

by its colour. For what is a scar, 


if not a wound waiting to become? Come 

unto me. I will show you where I hurt 

on the river’s body. Look. I am touching 

all over the water. 


ELOCUTIO by Olaitan Junaid

ELOCUTIO by Olaitan Junaid

woman looking at sea while sitting on beach


by Olaitan Junaid

First Runner-up of the 2021 Kreative Diadem Annual Creative Writing Contest (Poetry Category)

depending on // how //    it is handled     //   a poem // 

could be //  a knife //     like a toddler //      with boobs // 

i handle   my grief     // so gingerly //   it knows not // 

to spill // in my wildest dreams // everyone // runs //

away from me // says // i hold onto grief // so close // 

i sometimes forget //   to hold   //   myself   //     often  // 

i wake // to the bleating of // bukhatir’s last breath // &  

even though //  this poem //  isn’t about   // my mother // 

everything // here // pretends // to be alive // alhamdulillah // 

it’s juma’ah // & i want to tell a story // without // 

the grave // i want to tell a story // where // the void //

between us // maintains // just as void // never as // 

the strange woman or // the boy // my father’s with // 

a new // wife // & i, a brother // to love // & why //

does my mother keep // ghosting back // to me // whole

as secrets // anyone around // to love her back // & why // 

won’t she // just // live happily // ever after // 

it’s the semester’s end // alhamdulillah // next weekend //  

i’ll be sleeping // all through // the one after //

i’ll be lost // someplace // with no one // to // find me // 

forgive me // mother // i keep // pretending // nothing dies // 

here // forgive me // mother // i keep pretending // there isn’t //

any silence // in this poem // even when // the closest // 

i’ve come // to joy // is // finger // thru it // to be honest //

i want to believe // grief isn’t bilingual // but o, i keep screaming 

& screaming // subhanallah // when a termite bites // & now // 

my tongue // is lost // to grief’s brutal dialect // & when // 

i mean to sing // i shed // once // or twice in response // to prayer // 

i screamed // asẹ́ // when i only meant // to amen // àṣẹ // & again 

// everything i love // sieves // through me // the ones //

less porous // & wouldn’t let go // keeps falling&falling // like //

luck // o, lord, speak to me // of grace immeasurable // & i’ll tell 

of my friend // who’s barely twenty-four // & hypertensive // & dying 

// & soon // she’ll begin // to fork // through drugs // to stay alive // 

& soon // she’ll be too busy // arranging what’s left // of her body // into //

a collage // of memories // that we may hold // on to // &  soon //

she’ll be too tired // to stir fries // to say // hey // old friend // 

how many dreams // have you survived // today // & soon // 

i’ll mistake her for my mother // a tired beauty // only that // come

tomorrow // she’ll be home // sleeping // her lover // still hers //

watching // she won’t be dying // too soon.

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