Bayelsa State Governor, Senator Douye Diri, has emphasised the place of sports in state and national development, saying it is a veritable tool if properly utilised.
Represented by his deputy, Senator Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo, he spoke during the closing ceremonies of the first Governor Diri National Scrabble Championship in Yenagoa on Sunday evening.
About 300 scrabble players across the country participated in the championship with Oshevire Avwenagha of Delta State emerging winner of the Masters category.
The three-day tournament featured five categories, including Masters, Intermediate, Opens, Veterans and Students.
Governor Diri, who congratulated the participants for a successful tournament, noted that the state had a lot of landmark contribution to national development through sports.
This, he said, included areas the state had comparative advantage such as wrestling, boxing and swimming.
Governor Diri noted that scrabble does not only develop the mind but that it also enhances the capacity to think outside the box.
His words: “Our state has a lot of landmarks in terms of contributing towards national development. We are not only known for oil but we have also a lot of firsts in terms of sports.
“Seated with us is a world champion, an Olympian, Daniel Igali. We also have other champions in wrestling.
“Scrabble does not only develop the mind. It also develops our capacity to think outside the box. For Bayelsa, we have looked at four areas to improve our youths, and that is if your certificate cannot earn you three square meals, your skills should do it.
“We are poised to improve the skills of our young generation and even our elders. We believe that there is no time you cannot learn something new. People at old age can develop skills and feed with it.”
Diri emphasised that it was his administration’s policy on youth development that saw the state clinch the third position at the recent National Sports Festival.
The governor charged the Commissioner for Youths and Sports Development to capitalise on the readily available skills in scrabble and liaise with his Education counterpart to quickly set up scrabble clubs in schools across the state.
He allayed any fears of insecurity in the state, adding that the successful hosting of the scrabble championship proved doubters of the state’s peaceful disposition wrong.
The governor commended the organisers for taking the bold step in harnessing the potential of those skillful in the game of scrabble at the national level.
Also speaking, President of the Nigeria Scrabble Federation, Malam Sulaiman Gora, expressed appreciation to the state government for the hitch-free hosting of the championship.
Malam Gora noted the hospitality of the people and the peaceful atmosphere in the state as about 300 scrabble players converged on Yenagoa from across the country.
He appealed to the state government to invest more in the student scrabble players by catching them young through schools competition and the spelling bee.
In his remarks, the Commissioner for Youths and Sports Development, Mr. Daniel Igali, asserted that the tournament was one of six other international competitions that would be hosted in the state and congratulated the organisers for a job well done.
Earlier in his opening remarks, chairman of the Bayelsa State Scrabble Association (BYSA), Mr. Daniel Alabrah, expressed appreciation to Governor Diri for his support that ensured the success of the tournament.
Mr. Alabrah, who is also the Chief Press Secretary to the governor, said scrabble had the potential of beaming positive spotlights on Bayelsa with the right motivation and support.
Highpoint of the closing ceremony was the presentation of trophies and cash prizes to winners of the various categories.
Avwenagha won the N500,000 star prize and a trophy in the Masters while Raji Kazeem of Oyo State won the Intermediate category.
Tariye Alari of Bayelsa was winner in the Opens, Engr. Ojior Osikhena of Edo State won the Veterans.
The students category was won by 16-year-old Ikoko David of Federal Government College, Odi in Bayelsa State.
Others who won best female in different categories were Tuoyo Mayuku, Akpos Malafakumo and Priscillia Akhabue.