Players from the country make up almost one quarter of the World’s 100 top ranked Scrabble players: so, what is it about Scrabble in Nigeria that makes it one of the powerhouses of the sport?
Firstly, you can find Scrabble clubs in twenty-eight of the thirty-six states and federal capital territory: currently there are are forty clubs with a total membership of 398 registered/licensed players. Including independent players (those who do not belong to clubs but pay a premium registration to take part in national Scrabble events) the adult player base in Nigeria is over 1000 players.
Scrabble in Nigeria has enjoyed immense sponsorship of activities from the Government, companies and private individuals and, as a result, a lot of players have thus seen Scrabble as a source of livelihood. This, coupled with Nigeria's exploits at both continental and intercontinental levels, have helped in boosting interest in scrabble within the country with more and more willing to enter into tournament scrabble. This is a major boost to scrabble growth in Nigeria.
For the youth, there are thriving junior scrabble clubs in secondary schools which are scattered all over the country. Secondary schools can engage the services of senior scrabble players as coaches (all state associations in Nigeria have scrabble coaches and secretaries on the association's payroll whose jobs are to develop scrabble at grassroots level in the states.)
Players at a School Scrabble tournament
The most youth Scrabble players can be found in Lagos state, numbered in their hundreds. At a modest estimate, the number of youth players all over the country is put at no less than 500.
Also, there are sponsored Scrabble tournaments targeted at schools, which offer monetary prizes and scholarships to students that excel.
The National Scrabble Federation has also embarked on school Scrabble development awareness by introducing Spelling Bees along with Scrabble, thus getting the support and attention of Education Administrators in the states.
Secondary School Scrabble Tournament and Spelling Bee
Younger players considered as “up and coming” include Angela Osaigbovo, Okiki Hector-Fowogbaje, Pese Alo, Cherish Amby-Okolo, Davidking Olatunji, Olanrewaju Fajoyomi, Michael Mogbolu and Jimoh Abdulmumini amongst others.
At a modest estimate, the number of youth players all over the country is put at no less than 500
Nigeria sees different categories of tournaments played every weekend, with some also played during the week.
There is what is popularly called a 'retreat': These retreats are played daily once at least four players are gathered together at the various clubs and are remunerated from registration fees paid by the participants.
There have been such retreats with as many as 50 players (mostly on weekends). There are Birthday retreats; played on birthdays of scrabble players: Such are sponsored by the celebrant and his friends including entry fees paid.
Scrabble is also played at:
1. National Sport Festival made of the 37 constituents of the Nigeria Republic
2. Nigeria University Games
3. Nigeria Polytechnic Games
4. Nigeria Public Services Games
5. Nigeria Arm Forces Games and
6. Other paramilitary Games
There are also Championships sponsored by private individuals and are either open to players from all over the country or limited to players within the vicinity of the sponsors state. Such events can feature as many as 100 players.
WESPAC Qualifying Tournament 2017
In addition, at least 3 major National open tournaments are organised by Nigeria Scrabble Friends: these are all scrabble players themselves who donate monies to a common purse towards organising such tournaments. Tournaments are rotated around the country with city choice by popular vote or due to concentration of the highest donors. These feature over a hundred players usually.
For Scrabble, Nigeria is divided into six zones, ie North west, North East, North Central, South East, South South and South West. Each zone has a representative on the Nigeria Scrabble Federation board (comprising of 12 members). Each zone is expected to host at least one National Championship and one Zonal closed championship (for players within the region), with the aim of producing six National Open and six Closed Zonal Championships annually. It may not always be the case with at least half proceeding.
The national Scrabble Federation organises at least two major events yearly: Asaph Zadok National Championship (an invitational for the top six players in every state) and national Inter-club Championship for all the registered clubs in the country. Further, they also host other championships such as The Godswill Akpabio International Classics, Lagos Classics, etc
Nigel Richards in attendance at the Godswill Akpabio International Classic in 2014
Photo from Godswill Akpabio International Classic in 2013
At the time of writing, attendance in 2018 is planned for the African Championship (being held in Uganda) but if there are other international events of note, the Federation may help to facilitate attendance of players.
As Chief Toke Aka (Nigeria’s immediate past Scrabble President for twelve years and current international representative on WESPA) says, “The future looks very bright. Nigeria has a lot of intelligent youngsters who are eager to play Scrabble. And when these blossom, we shall see more of Nigeria's presence on the world map of Scrabble.
And because there is a lot of work going on at the grassroots level; Scrabble can only continue to soar in Nigeria”.
For those who want to learn more, or are interested in being a part of Scrabble in Nigeria, you can check the website
or on Facebook.
With thanks to Chief Toke Aka, Suleiman Gora (for text), Umar Faruq Baba-Inna and Fashola Kayode (for photos)