When a hobby grows into a passion, there’s just no limit to how much greatness it can yield through a determined soul.
For Wellington Jighere, scrabble was just an awesome game which soon translated into a golden pursuit; one he could deny himself good sleep for.
Today Jighere is celebrated around the world as a scrabble icon, having made history as the first African to win the English-Language World Scrabble Championships. He defeated his British rival, Lewis Mackay in what he described as “a battle between one man and a whole continent”.
Jighere announced his presence in the Nigerian Scrabble Federation in style and remained one of the country’s best Scrabble players for a long time. In 2007, he was just one game away from making the finals of the World Scrabble Championship in Mumbai, but he fell in round 24. Yet, he wasn’t ruffled.
He rebounded in 2008 and swept to victory, taking the Africa Scrabble Championship title, in Nairobi, Kenya and defended his title in 2010 in Accra, Ghana, after falling from 4th to 11th in the 2009 Worlds. He also won the prestigious Godswill Akpabio International Scrabble Classics that year.
Indeed, Jighere’s upward scale hasn’t been without setbacks, but each time, he bounces back stronger. The 32 year old scrabble icon is a fresh graduate from Edo State, Nigeria who only recently completed his national service.
In Nigeria and indeed Africa, Jighere’s victory is celebrated as “our” victory. A feat that has brought smiles on the faces of many Africans including that of president Muhammed Buhari, who was one of the first to congratulate Jighere for a job well done.
In all, Jighere remains humble; unwilling to take the glory to himself. He insists that his win was divinely orchestrated especially since he hadn’t slept well in days. “…The fact that I was able to perform in spite of the sleeplessness still baffles me. It only goes to prove that God was deeply involved in this matter.”
According to Sulaiman Gora, president of Nigeria’s Scrabble federation in an interview with BBC, Jighere and his teammates had trained for a year in a succession of “Scrabble camps”. He further described the new world champion as a quiet person whose “greatest strength is humility”.