Abubakar Ibrahim, a Nigerian reporter and editor whose work conveys the human toll of terrorism and displacement, has been named winner of the 2018 Michael Elliott Award for Excellence in African Storytelling.
The International Center for Journalists said Ibrahim, a news editor at the Daily Trust in Nigeria, was selected by a distinguished jury selected him from among 238 applicants for this prize.
The prestigious award, which was established in 2016 in honour of Michael Elliott, is given by ICFJ in partnership with ONE and the Elliott family.
Elliott was an outstanding editor and philanthropist whose life was a testament to the power of storytelling to bear witness to and improve the human condition.
The prize aims to advance the work of an emerging journalist covering Africa who strives to strengthen people’s voices and improve their well-being.
The inaugural winner was BBC Kenya health reporter Mercy Juma, according to ICFJ, a non-profit, professional organisation that promotes journalism worldwide.
Ibrahim’s story that won him the prize: ‘All That Was Familiar’, was published in Granta magazine in May 2017.
His story puts a human face on a story often expressed in numbers: More than two million people from northeastern Nigeria, northern Cameroon and southern Niger have been internally displaced since Boko Haram began its insurgency.
Ibrahim tells about the struggle of two women, one from Cameroon and one from Nigeria, to find their loved ones and return home.
“Mike would be thrilled by the breadth and depth of talent displayed by the entrants for this year’s award,” said Emma Oxford, Elliott’s widow.
She added: “The Elliott family, along with ONE, ICFJ and many generous supporters, is proud to help support the development of quality journalism in Africa.
“I am hugely grateful to the staff of ICFJ and my fellow judges for their thoughtful review of the broad range of entries.”
The winning story “exemplifies outstanding storytelling on a difficult and important topic. Abubakar’s fearless reporting and powerful writing brought home to me the hardships faced by women, in particular, displaced by the scourge of Boko Haram,” Oxford said.
Two broadcast journalists were commended as finalists for the award, which includes Lindile Mpanza of South Africa’s SABC Digital news, for her report on sexual abuse of widows.
The other finalist is Ridwan Dini-Osman of Ghana’s GHOne, for his coverage of a community in crisis because its drinking water is contaminated.
Ibrahim would receive the award and a cash prize at a reception in New York on May 24.
He would also spend time in U.S. newsrooms to learn new skills and share knowledge in an intensive, customised programme run by ICFJ, to help deepen future reporting that engages and empowers Africans.
Elliott served as a top editor at The Economist, Newsweek and Time before becoming Chief Executive Officer of ONE.
A passionate writer and editor with a gift for unravelling complex issues, he shone a light on global development issues and the people at their centre.
A long-time board member of ICFJ, Elliott championed great journalism as a tool for empowerment and as ONE’s Chief Executive Officer, he lobbied to improve the lives of all Africans.
Shortly before his untimely death in 2016, he spoke of his dream to establish an award that would bring together his belief in great journalism with his commitment to progress in Africa.
ICFJ said the 16-member international panel that selected Ibrahim was chaired by Norman Pearlstine, chief information architect, Money.net and former Vice Chairman of Time Inc.
Others were: Lionel Barber of Financial Times; Joyce Barnathan, president, ICFJ; Matthew Bishop, managing director at The Rockefeller Foundation; Kate Critchley, executive director at ONE.
Also included were: Nic Dawes, Deputy Executive Director at Human Rights Watch; Jamie Drummond, co-founder and executive director at ONE; Daniel Franklin of The Economist; Chika Oduah from Senegal; and Declan Okpalaeke from Nigeria.