Nigeria Is Not Known For Its Scrabble But It Should Be by Howard Debs

Last November in the final of the World Scrabble Championship held in Australia the Nigerian known as “The Cat in the Hat” for his penchant for fedoras beat a Brit becoming headline news in his homeland.

It is now considered that earlier reports incorrectly stated that a schoolgirl/mother rescued from Boko Haram was one of the 276 taken from the town of Chibok in 2014. Another girl also rescued was indeed one of those so abducted.

The strategy of the Nigerians who have the unheralded distinction of having more top 200 Scrabble players than any other country is a short-word approach, eschewing the long-word approach long held to be the sine qua non of the game.

Boko fighters have killed 20,000 since 2009, have kidnapped more than 2000 since 2014, mostly females; in pursuing their maniacal efforts they have the reprehensible distinction of being ranked as the world’s deadliest terror group.

The advent of the Nigerian Scrabble method, known for rack management, a defensive style, pins its success on the unintended consequences of using up all seven tiles each round, and on certain design quirks of the playing board itself which strangely favor shorter words.

The advent of Boko Haram can be pinned to the Nigerian history of dictatorial regimes, spawning corruption, social inequality, poverty, and horrendous human rights abuses including summary executions, torture, rape, restrictions on freedom of speech, press, assembly, religion, and movement.

The Nigerian Scrabble concept is changing the game. Using computer application simulations and analytics a secret list exists of the five-letter words that are most difficult for opponents to utilize. Knowledge of the five-letter words can result in beating the seven-, eight-, nine-letter word players. The Wellington Foundation for Scrabble and Mind Development in Africa has lobbied the government to add Scrabble to the national curriculum, success in this undertaking remains in question.

The current Nigerian President was elected last year on a pledge to destroy Boko Haram, and a combination of anti-Boko vigilantes, volunteer locals, and the army have mounted a counterinsurgency campaign to recapture Boko territory village by village, success in this undertaking is uncertain.


Howard Richard Debs received a University of Colorado Poetry Prize at age 19. After spending the past fifty years in the field of communications, with recognitions including a Distinguished Achievement Award from the Educational Press Association of America, he resumed his creative pursuits. Finalist and recipient 28th Annual 2015 Anna Davidson Rosenberg Poetry Awards, his work appears internationally in numerous publications recently in Yellow Chair Review, Silver Birch Press, Syzygy Poetry Journal, Scarlet Leaf Review, the Clear Poetry 2015 Anthology, among others, and his essay “The Poetry of Bearing Witness” in On Being – On The Blog. His photography will be found in select publications, including in Rattle online as “Ekphrastic Challenge” artist and guest editor.

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Baltimore Mom Proves Violence Is America’s Answer by Howard Debs

It starts once more on these streets. Bloodshed in

Baltimore took turns in 1812 against that conflict,

again in 1861, when the first deaths of that Civil War

came on that battleground, in 1968 after the King

assassination and now this latest chapter

of dread gone on a rampage goes into the

record book, along with the mom that stole

America’s heart and soul caught on video gone viral

in the throes of violence against her own son.

What does Twitter America have to say?

“To the mom who caught and beat her son

in the street for rioting, you’re a damn good parent,

you go lady.” “[Watch the] video of #Baltimore mom

after finding her son rioting; [see her] slapping sense into him.”

“This mom is the best.” “[This mom is] mom of the year.”

“She showed that mudder fukker (sic) kid.”

Mothers of America, this is another Answer:

grab his hand and hold it to your heart and beg him

to come with you. Say you feel unsafe and

you need him to come with you to protect you;

if you plead and beg and he still moves

towards that flame, let him go.

(with words and inspiration from my own grown child, now a mother herself)
Author’s Note: One of my two adult daughters, not the one who teaches autistic children who I am very proud of as well, the one who is an LCSW, therapist, and on the faculty of Kaplan U. posted on FB a counter position statement to that circulating about the Baltimore mom who tried using physical force with her son to get him to do the right thing during the riots there this past week. She wrote in part: “I understand why everyone is posting and applauding the Baltimore mom who is shown on video attempting to remove her son from the riots, but I find it baffling that no one is mentioning her own violent behavior. She is hitting and beating up her son. Caught in the moment or a cycle of family violence that leads her son to believe violence is the answer? Family violence is a core issue in our society and contributes to the high rate of violent crime in our communities. Kids are not only abused, but disciplined in ways that promote the notion that violence is a path to problem solving. We are saying violence is not the right path to protest injustice, and yet people are lifting this woman up who is acting out violently towards her son. I applaud her passion to get him to not act out, I feel for her as a mom and know she only wanted to protect her child from the current events unfolding, but I cannot applaud her method. In many ways, she is part of the problem.”
Howard Richard Debs received a University of Colorado Poetry Prize at age 19. After spending the past fifty years in the field of communications, with recognitions including a Distinguished Achievement Award from the Educational Press Association of America, he has recently resumed his literary pursuits, and his latest work appears or is forthcoming in The Germ, Calliope, Big River Poetry Review, Jewish Currents, Poetica Magazine, Eclectica Magazine, Misfitmagazine, Star 82 Review, The Review Review, Belle Reve Literary Journal, Verse-Virtual, Dialogual, Sediments Literary-Arts Journal, Piecemeal Review, Remarkable Doorways Literary Magazine, Indiana Voice Journal, Blue Bonnet Review, China Grove, and On Being. His background in photography goes back many years, both creative and technical, and his photography will be found in select publications, including forthcoming in Rattleonline as Ekphrastic Challenge artist and guest editor. Born and bred in Chicago, he now lives in sunny South Florida with his wife of 49 years Sheila, where they spend considerable time spoiling their four grandchildren. Author listing, Poets & Writers Directory