In an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria this week, 2016 National Scrabble Champion Olatunde Oduwole expressed his optimism that Nigeria would repeat as world champions in Scrabble after a surprise victory achieved last year. “I will try my best to qualify and show to the world once again that I can do it,” Oduwole said in the interview. The 2017 Scrabble World Championship will take place in Kenya in September.
Oduwole just made it into the next round of qualifying after finishing in fourth place at the 2017 National Scrabble Championship held over the weekend. The new National Scrabble Champion is Dipo Akanbi out of Lagos, who finished with 18 wins in the tournament. Dayo Tayo of Lagos and Moses Peter of Akwa Ibom also finished ahead of Oduwole. Akanbi dedicated his victory to God in a post-game comment, saying that “Scrabble is part of us because we play every day.” Former President of the Nigeria Scrabble Federation Suleiman Gora took the opportunity to urge the country to continue its grassroots promotion of the game of Scrabble, as well as ask corporate bodies who are interested in youth development to contribute funding to the grassroots organizations.
One notable contestant outside the top four was Wellington Jighere, who is the reigning World Scrabble Champion. At the 2017 National Scrabble Championship, he could only muster a 14th place finish thanks to 14 victories. As a result, World Championship hopefuls like Oduwole are aware of the dangers of being content with one world championship under their belt already. “We don’t have to relent because we won… So we are going there with our best, pray hard, not just praying, we need to work hard then you now complement it with prayers, God’s favor, and be able to do it once again, which is possible,” Oduwole said.