So Nigerian writer Rotimi Babatunde has won the 13th Caine Prize and painted a smile on the face of lovers of writing in Nigeria and elsewhere.
It was a heart-warming triumph coming in a bleak period for Nigerians who have been inundated by security challenges and economic woes bedevilling the country of late.
Babatunde's crowning moment came in Oxford, England, when he was declared winner of the 10, 000 BPS (British Proud Sterling) prize at a dinner in the Bodleian Library. He beat off challenges from four other writers on the shortlist.
Regardless, the quartet of Stanley Kenani (Malawi) Jenna Bass (South Africa) Billy Kahora (Kenya) and Melissa Tandiwe Myambo (Zimbabwe) must be acknowledged for coming close to winning what is the most prestigious prize for writing on the African continent.
Babatunde's story, 'Bombay's Republic' appealed to the judges who had said they wanted to take the prize in a different direction from previous years.
Chair of judges Bernadine Evaristo said, "'Bombay's Republic vividly describes the story of a Nigerian soldier fighting in the Burma campaign of World War Two. It is ambitious, darkly humorous and in soaring, scorching prose exposes the exploitative nature of the colonial project and the psychology of Independence.'"
So what does Babatunde's triumph imply? Well, it demonstrates the Caine Prize's determination to move away from the 'tragic African' story - stories of famished children in refugee camps, of drug abusing children living on garbage dumps and the likes.
Bombay's Republic focuses on Colour Sergent Bombay, a Nigerian soldier who went to Burma during the Second World War to fight for the British and is met by subtle racism and witnessed firsthand the vulnerability of the supposedly superior colonial officers.
"He lost his reverence for the colonial officers," Babatunde told the BBC after his triumph.
On his return home, a mentally unstable and piqued Bombay establishes his own republic, where he is the only citizen and president for life until his eventual death, years later.
Babatunde says it is a story of an African soldier who went to war and came back with "a sense of new realities and new possibilities."
It is a remarkable story, for its narrative and language, which was another thing that caught the eye of the Caine Prize judges. But reading this story immediately brings back memories of Biyi Bandele's Burma Boy.
And this is where controversy arose. Writer and critic Ahmed Maiwada, after the shortlist was announced in April, alleged that Babatunde plagiarised Bandele's novel. Babatunde has since denied this allegation and reportedly forwarded evidence to some interested parties that his story predates the publication of Bandele's novels.
The debate however degenerated into an exchange of invectives, with friends of Babatunde particularly taking strong exception to Maiwada's serious allegations. But the critic held his ground and promised to produce an essay to back up his claim. The much awaited essay, when it came out, fell flat on its face and succeeded only in highlighting the similarities in the two stories, and not proving any case of plagiarism.
Whether Babatunde's camp will stick to their guns and sue the critic to court remains to be seen, but what is certain is that the episode has sowed a rather unsavoury stench in the air.
But for now, Babatunde, a poet and playwright, who had previously won the BBC Meridian Tragic Love Story Competition and whose plays have been performed at Halcyon Theatre, Chicago, USA, continues to bask in the glow of his most important literary triumph yet.
Many Nigerian writers took to Facebook and Twitter Monday night to express their joys over Babatunde's success. Congratulatory messages have been pouring in and still continue doing so. And a huge welcome party is being planned for the writer in his Ibadan base.
What the prize means for Babatunde? Apart from the cash prize, bragging rights and instant fame, he gets to spend a month at the Goerge Town University in the US as a writer-in-residence at the Lanna Centre for politics and political sciences, where he could continue work on the novel he is writing.
What it means for literature in Nigeria is an added boost, coming on the heals of Jekwu Anyaegbuna winning the Commonwealth Prize for short story Africa Region and a renewed vigour in publishing and increased literary activities. So far it hasn't been a bad year for writers in Nigeria.
And for a country that has been in the international news for the very wrong reasons of late, this bit of good news has put a smile on the faces of Nigerians home and abroad as it announces the birth of a new literary star.