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Good deeds speak for Herbert Wigwe

The testimonies of the good deeds of Herbert Wigwe remain endless, just like the testimonials of his far-reaching vision.

All combined, seemingly speaking in one voice, including the latest from former Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, who wrote “thoughtful, progressive, compassionate—he quietly did great things,” have shut down false claims about the late Chief Executive Officer at Access Corporation (Access Holdings Plc).

Herbert, his wife, Chizoba, son, Chizzy, and friend, Abimbola Ogunbanjo, a former chairman of the NGX, died in a helicopter crash that happened around California in the United States of America (USA) on Friday, February 9, 2024.

The tragic occurrence was described by President Bola Tinubu as “an overwhelming tragedy that is shocking beyond comprehension.” in an open condolence message to the families of the “exceptional Nigerian business leader” continues to attract grief and celebration of high-impact living.

In the face of the mourning of the holder of the national honour of Commander of the Order of the Federal Republic, whom Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu labelled “king of visionary and disruptive ideas” in his tribute, a smearing claim was thrown up about Wigwe by person(s) supposedly fronting for the defunct Intercontinental Bank and its founder, Dr Erastus Akingbola.

Read also: Herbert Wigwe and the story of Nigerian banking

Interestingly what the smear is premised on – a letter written in 2010 by Intercontinental Bank’s chief promoter Erastus Akingbola to the then Minister of Justice Michael Kaase Aôndoakaa protesting his removal as the Chief Executive Officer by the Central Bank of Nigeria when Sanusi Lamido Sanusi was Governor, as well as the takeover of the bank over allegations bordering on abuse of and mismanagement – did not in any part of its content have a mention or reference to Wigwe, our checks revealed.

It was two years after Akingbola’s letter – January 2012- that Access Bank, with Wigwe and his friend Aigboje Aig Imoukhuede as lead persons, acquired the defunct Intercontinental Bank.

They became owners of Access Bank in 2002 by acquiring the N1 Billion public subscription offer the Bank put up in 2001. They were both 36 years old at the time, though different months, but just days apart – Wigwe is August 15 while Imoukhuede is September 24. They were born in 1966.

The huge sacrifices and tremendous efforts put on by the duo in building the then new acquisition, ensured a turnaround story that put Access Bank in a good position to acquire Intercontinental Bank in 2012, when the Central Bank put it “on sale”, although Wigwe was not Group Managing Director at the time until 2014 after Aig-Imoukhuede exited the post.

Read also: Herbert Wigwe: The things yet unsaid!

Leveraging the head start provided by Aig-Imoukhuede, Wigwe as Chief Executive Officer, led Access Bank through what is described as “an extraordinary growth period” until he left the position in 2022 and moved up to the position of Chief Executive Officer of Access Holdings Plc in March 2022, which he held till his demise.

Headquartered in Lagos, Access Holdings Plc is a multinational financial services organisation that offers commercial banking, lending, payment, pension, insurance, and asset management services and operates through a network of more than 700 branches and service outlets, spanning three continents, 20 countries, and 60+ million customers managed by about 30,000 employees.

Access Bank, the Corporation’s banking business subsidiary, has become one of Africa’s largest retail banks by customer base and total assets according to information available.

However, Wigwe who is branded “a pioneer and titan of our time as well as an entrepreneur of global repute and reach” by the Governor of Enugu state, Peter Mbah, was not just about banking.

He was a fervent campaigner for the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. a Board member of Nigeria’s Business Coalition Against AIDS, ceaselessly collaborated to support vulnerable children, orphans, and internationally displaced persons, and relentlessly showed a firm commitment to the development of Nigeria and Africa,

One of his most pivotal moves in recent times was founding Wigwe University.

And Osinbajo provided a searing insight into the intentions of Wigwe regarding the massive project with this disclosure about the last moment shared with him by the man Tony Elumelu labelled “exceptional talent” whose demise is “terribly sad and distressing”.

His words, “Herbert and I spent the afternoon together in our home on Thursday, February 1st. He shared the Wigwe University Vision, collaborations with Ivy League universities, immediate research objectives, the scholarship scheme for bright students unable to pay fees, and how the infrastructure around the University—especially the roads and power plant – would benefit the entire community. He also discussed various initiatives for giving young people across the country opportunities to excel, particularly in sustainability and climate action ideas.”

To naysayers, who rather than join the world in mourning and celebrating the life and obvious legacies and impact of a rare and illustrious Nigerian, I urge you to respect life, nature and our African tradition of allowing family, friends and well-wishers mourn the loss of their loved one. Why wake up to make accusations when you know the accused is not available to provide an appropriate and direct response.

Adieu “The Fearless One”, Adieu Herbert Wigwe.

Philips is a social and public affairs analyst and commentator

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