By Maxwell Kumoye
The dreams, objectives and goals of the first edition of the Pan African Scrabble Association (PANASA) President’s Cup and Africa Youth Scrabble Championship (AYSC) were noble and very exciting from the start.
The face and name behind both events is a proactive, dynamic and equally passionate scrabble lover who wants players from the continent to enjoy more lucrative tournaments and also grow the sport among the teeming youth population across Africa.
That explains why he added it to his eleven point to-do-list, if elected as President of Pan African Scrabble Association in Lusaka, Zambia, last year.
After several visits, calls and emails to The Gambia, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Kenya, Uganda, South Africa and Zambia as well as Cameroon and Botswana, the Ogun State born, scrabble player, supporter and administrator, Adekoyejo Adegbesan emerged as the new face of the mind game with a convincing win in October, 2022 in Lusaka, the Zambian capital.
The man fondly known in the Scrabble circuit as Sheikh did not just moved in to PANASA but also added some energy, drive, zeal and urgency to the game of words in Africa, giving it a huge lift.
The member Associations became more active, PANASA’s website was up and running, Secretariat fully functional, coaching and developmental programs as well as instructional materials were distributed to some selected schools and then came the Big Bang – PANASA President’s Cup and Africa Youth Scrabble Championship.
While PANASA’s President’s Cup was opened to Africa and the rest of the world, Africa Youth Scrabble Championship was restricted to young lovers of the sport on the continent with age limit in two categories, U15 and U19.
The President’s Cup came along with princely sum of 32,000 dollars attached to it, so too for the African Youth Scrabble Championship. Besides, the 9,000 dollars prize money pool, laptops, tablets, smart phones and other eye catching prizes and gift items have been factored in by the Organizers.
That’s not all, a historical Trophy Tour was introduced to the African Youth Scrabble Championship (AYSC) and the Tour started on the 30th of April in Accra, Ghana, it moved to landmark cities like Gulu and Kampala in the ‘Pearl of Africa’ Uganda, Edoret and Nairobi in Kenya including Abuja and Lagos in Nigeria.
On the caravan of the AYSC Dr Winifred Awosika Trophy Tour was a Scrabble icon, Wellington Jighere the 2015 World Championship winner, who is also a double winner of the African Scrabble Championship.
Ministers, governors, top sporting officials and members of the international Olympics family were on hand in Ghana, Nigeria, Uganda and Kenya to play host to the Trophy Tour that was garnished with visits to primary and secondary schools in these these countries, mini scrabble retreats took place in Tema, Ghana and national championships added fillips to the Trophy Tour in Uganda and Kenya.
It’s noteworthy to state that PANASA that boast of four executive members in World English Scrabble Players Association (WESPA) has opened up the sponsorship window and benefits that are so tantalizing that even the most jaded palate will find it difficult to resist.
As these events and different activities were holding in the sideline, the Pan African Scrabble Association (PANASA) and the Main Organizing Committee (MOC) for the two-in-one event were ticking the right boxes in the area of venues, accommodation and sponsorship.
One of Africa’s best educational institute Chrisland Schools became the title sponsor of the African Youth Scrabble Championship (AYSC) and a renowned educationist Dr. Mrs Winifred Awosika’s was inked to the top honour of the AYSC. The School’s first class ultra modern facilities in the Lekki axis of Lagos State was carefully selected to host the AYSC.
The serine and captivating environment coupled with a touch of excellent services, of the Orchid Hotel Ikota-Lekki won the hearts of members of the Main Organizing Committee as the choice venue for the PANASA President’s Cup and sponsorship partners of PANASA.
The three trophies on offer at the President’s Cup have been named after three illustrious sons of Africa, Engineer Gbenga Ojofeitimi, SM Quartey and Engineer Ojior Osikhena who have devoted their time, energy and financial resources for the game of scrabble to flourish.
Two leaders in the brewery industry, Nigeria Breweries Plc and Diageo Nigeria have since signed up for the two-in-one event along with Freisland Campina WAMCO Plc, PZ Wilmar and two Airlines, Kenya Airways and Air Peace all these are some the cooperate bodies fully behind these Championships.
Other corporate bodies that are completely backing this single largest scrabble congregation in Africa are Winifred Awosika Foundation, Ojeyz Security based in Ghana, Ayoci Energies Ltd, Atelier Architects, which is also a Ghanaian firm, Thrive Agriculture, SocialLiga, Midas Farm, Cinq-SAA, Madoms Global Trade, Boaz Commodities Ltd, Petrichor Group of Industries and BradMein Nigeria Ltd.
From the sidelines and hips, well meaning stakeholders and individuals like Engineer Gbenga Ojofeitimi, Musa Olasupo, Engineer Ojior Osikhena, Samuel Anikoh, Austin Isiekwe and SM Quartey have been oiling the sponsorship, partnership and support base of the PANASA President’s Cup.
As more sponsors key in and identify with this noble projects that is sure to change the narrative of the game on the continent, PANASA under the stewardship of Adekoyejo Adegbesan have gone a step ahead to procure, customized scrabble boards from Star Boards from Pakistan.
With over 350 players, officials and journalists expected in Lagos, Nigeria for the African Youth Scrabble Championship and the President’s Cup the game is firmly punching it way into the hearts of Africa and Africans.