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Scrabble: Rumble of giants starts today in Uyo

*Who carts away the $10,000 star prize for Masters?

By Kayode Fashola

When in 2014 we had the 8th edition of the global Scrabble jamboree tagged Godswill Akpabio International Scrabble Classics, it was with mixed feelings as that edition actually marked the end of eight years of one of the richest and memorable Scrabble sponsorships by a man who no doubt have put his footsteps indelibly in the Scrabble global sand of time.

But how wrong can one be as just few months later Scrabble dons, mafiosos and mafiosi were once converged in the State of unequal transformation to say thank you and bye for now to the uncommon transformer himself the then Governor of Akwa Ibom State now a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Senator Godswill Akpabio.

At that gathering, it was like a prophetic seer came to town when Senator Akpabio predicted that in not too distant future Nigeria will rule the world as champion.

Senator Godswill Akpabio...the pillar of our game
Senator Godswill Akpabio…the pillar of our game

Senator Akpabio was overwhelmed by the torrents of accolades heaped on him and achievements that his token unprecedented efforts had yielded from the grassroots to the international Masterly rated players of the game.

As if on cue, The WESPAC 2015 was held in far away Perth Australia and just like The African Pillar of Scrabble predicted, Nigeria ruled the world of Scrabble as Wellington Jighere emerged as the first ever black man to win the Scrabble World Championship laurel by defeating a Briton in their own game, an epochal feat unequalled since the game of Scrabble became internationally contested game.

We waited in vain for this Classic that is already a landmark on the calendar of World English Speaking Scrabble Association (WESPA) as promised by our Grand Patron of Scrabble in Nigeria, a very enthusiastic and diehard lover of the game if ever there is one.

Like a dog in pain, we whimpered and waited and waited.

Then the Scrabble players of Nigeria rose up to the occasion and in support of our traditionally sponsored yearly tournaments by Nigeria Scrabble friend an online forum of Scrabble for Scrabble players started organising series of tournaments tagged Nigeria Scrabble Friends championships but if it is not Godswill Akpabio Classics definitely it cannot be our yearly Scrabble jamboree.

Then like thunder bolt from the deep blue sky, the news started filtering and like 2015 and 2016, the pundits of the game took it as another voice from the rumour mills and treated the news with a pinch of the salt.

Then, abracadabra! It begin to flesh up as Local Organising Committee reached out to the President of NSF Alhadji Sulaiman Garba Gora and then, the news became real that the 9th Godswill Akpabio International Scrabble Classic will hold.

The joy of players knew no bound as the event was published on WESPA calendar and news started trickling in that world renowned players will attend especially Nigel Richards that enigma who is known globally as the indomitable champion of Scrabble sport globally and the chair of global youth Scrabble, Karen Richards.

Modalities trickle in as to how many categories, what will the purse be and players started preparing seriously for this global festival of Scrabble.

The image maker of Nigeria Scrabble Federation and the Players’ Representative Fashola Kayode sprung into action and was in his elements as he bombarded all known Scrabble forums worldwide with news of the jamboree and blow by blow accounts as events unfold as we inch towards the D-Day.

As I write the Team Kenya are already on their way with a 10-man delegate of the best players from that Scrabble loving nation that coincidentally will be hosting this year’s edition of WESPAC that will be holding later in November.

As of Monday when the list of registered players were released, the five categories of Veteran, Masters, Intermediate, Opens and Youths were already agog with over 300 players all angling for the over 50 prizes with the winner of The Master Category to cart away trophy and a mouth watering $10,000 (ten thousand Dollars).

This edition of Godswill Classic will serve as a testing ground for the WESPAC that will be defended by Nigeria through the outgoing World Champion Jighere Wellington.

The NSF Technical Director Hadji Umar Faruq Baba-Inna is already on ground in Uyo with his technical crew and the webmaster Dokun David Okunmuyide who had already assured that the Master Category will be streamed worldwide real time.

The advance team of the Board of NSF led by Hadji Sulaiman Gora, Chief Toke Aka and the Secretary General Mamman Salisu touched down early enough in Uyo.

From Wednesday the 27th hostilities will start through Saturday the 30th of September when the Classic will come to an end with fanfare and Gala night for prizes distribution.

The closing ceremony will be graced by Senator Akpabio and the host, Governor Emmanuel Udom of Akwa Ibom State.

The Local Organising Committee assured all that state of the art hotel facilities are already on ground while the games will be played in the new ultramodern State Stadium with out of this world facilities built by the man called Transformer, also vehicles are already provided for ease of movements from hotels to the venues.

Meanwhile, two vehicles were provided from the stable of Lagos State Sports Commission (one of them sponsored by a Diaspora-based player) to commute players in and around Southwest to Uyo, the capital of Akwa Ibom.

This year’s edition coincides with 30 years celebration of the creation of Akwa Ibom State as it promises to be a rumble in the oil rich State.

The Nemesis of Champions contributed this piece from Ibadan.

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