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Saturday, May 29, 2010

West African Universities out


Shortly after the University of Maiduguri was knocked out by Egerton University in the second last quarterfinal last Sunday, Nes, a great fan of Nigeria said sadly, “All the academic giants of West Africa are out of the Zain Africa Challenge!”

Maiduguri was the last of the 11 West African universities that reached the knockout stage, including defending champions Ibadan University, but failed to proceed to the semis. I found irony in Nes’ use of “giants” and thought, “What great, hulking giants they must indeed be to be knocked out like this by ‘minnows’!”

Anyway, it was a poor start for Maiduguri, and Kalu Arunsi must rue fate making him the first to occupy the centre spot. The Electrical engineering student was shrewd with the buzzer but botched questions that followed, forcing show host John Sibi-Okumu to pass them on to Ralph Ombati who didn’t disappoint as Egerton went on to win that round with 140 points, against Maidugiri’s 60.

Don’t ask me about the second round; ask Umeme who for some mysterious reason offered me an unsolicited moment of pitch darkness, returning my power at the beginning of the Ultimate Challenge. Egerton was still leading at 310 points but at 250, the Nigerians had fought back and were very much still in the game. Would they choose wisely and upset their opponents?

Well, one would have thought that choosing the category Rebels and Revolutionaries or British Authors would have been choosing smartly seeing that Francis Chukwukeme, arguably their smartest, is a student of English. But they went for a category as capricious as Terminolo –G that required them to mention names or terms that begin with “G”. In the end they got eight correctly and therefore a grand total of 650 points.

Egerton chose Loyalty but not Rulers but got stuck just after five questions. Remember they needed seven correct answers to carry the day but now they were lost; tension heightened; the clock ticked. And just about three seconds to end time, they snatched up the two, and one more, and with a grand score of 710 points triumphantly became the second Kenyan team to reach the semis.

How relieved they looked; what sweet revenge remembering how the University of Lagos knocked them out at this stage last year in a showdown that went down in the history of this 30-minute brain game for going into ‘extra time’ with Peter’s memorable ‘golden goal’ helping the Nigerians to progress! Now it was their time of jubilation, but the Maiduguri players took it in the true spirit of sportsmanship, aided in part, by the consolation of $1,500 each plus $15,000 grant for their university.

--Saturday Monitor, May 15, 2010