Emotions Pour as Dignitaries Eulogise Late Herbert Wigwe

March 5, 2024
Profile of Herbert Wigwe

By Adedapo Adesanya 

It was an emotional rollercoaster at the tribute event held on Monday night to celebrate the late group chief executive of Access Holdings Plc, Mr Herbert Wigwe.

Dignitaries from government, corporate organisations, and royalty paid tribute to the late titan who died alongside his wife, son, and a former group chairman of the Nigerian Exchange (NGX) Group Plc, Mr Abimbola Ogunbajo, on February 9 in the United States.

The event which was monitored by Business Post was divided into six segments – Young Hebert, the banker, the entrepreneur, the CEO, the builder and the ambassador.

These personalities relished adventurous and courageous stories from Wigwe’s early childhood and later his successful sojourn and success stories from GTBank and later the acquisition of Access Bank.

A friend of the deceased, Mr Aliko Dangote, was in tears as well as Mr Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, his long-term business partner and co-founder of Access Bank and Mr Femi Otedola, in an emotion-laden voice, also expressed the qualities of Mr Wigwe.

Governor Dapo Abiodun of Ogun, who first spoke for the governors reiterated his encounter with the late banker.

“It is a tough season for all of us,” Mr Abiodun said, noting that “words were not enough to describe how larger than life Wigwe was as he achieved so much within a short lifetime.”

“Herbert was loyal to his friends, way ahead of his time ever forward-looking,” he stated.

He said Mr Wigwe believed in the country Nigeria, and he was patriotic, adding that he met him about 30 years ago and thanked Wigwe for believing in him and being supportive of his programmes and projects.

He also said the projects included Gateway International Airport and the Epe/Ijebu-Ode Road projects, among others.

He described Mr Wigwe as a bridge builder, selfless, bold and courageous. He said it still felt like a bad dream that Herbert was gone, saying he was happy he honoured the invitation to see Mr Wigwe’s new home.

He disclosed that Mr Wigwe had a street named after him in Beirut, the capital of Lebanon saying, “he lived more than a life in one lifetime.

In an unprepared speech, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos narrated his last conversation with Wigwe on Thursday, February 8, where lofty ideas were discussed.

“This was the last conversation that I will keep on my phone for a long time,” he said.

He promised to immortalise the late founder of Access Bank, Dr Herbert Wigwe, who was born at the Island Maternity Hospital in the state.

He said that Wigwe was a man who always had good stories and supported several projects of his administration driving him to take up new challenges.

“Herbert was one of the very first people that supported my ambition generously,” he added.

He said it was unbelievable how a man could give so much, including his words of encouragement. Sanwo-Olu revealed how Wigwe collaborated with other partners to cushion the effects of COVID-19 during the dreaded global pandemic.

“Herbert led from the front, encouraged and stood with the state government. I have indeed lost a big friend,” he added.

He said Mr Wigwe and Mr Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, the former group managing director of Access Bank, took a trip with him to Cairo to pursue visions of Lagos.

He also said Mr Wigwe had a special history of Isale Eko, and Lagos would immortalise him, haven being born in Island Maternity Hospital.

He said if places of birth mattered, Mr Wigwe should be of Isale Eko origin, noting, “Herbert has transcended beyond borders.

“Lagos will not forget Herbert Wigwe. We will support the family,” he said.

The Minister of Finance, Mr Wale Edun, narrated Mr Wigwe’s contributions to sports and various sectors, including supporting his personal and family visions.

“Herbert gave me his time and thinking, what I valued most; the man is never short of ideas,” he noted.

Mr Olayemi Cardoso, the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria(CBN), lauded Mr Wigwe’s hard work, broad knowledge base and role in shaping banking reforms further.

He said that Mr Wigwe’s commitment to reform and his genuine concern for the well-being of Nigerians garnered significant recognition.

The CBN Governor said he and the deceased recently discussed the way out of the country’s economic impasse, adding that the banker’s demise had left a vacuum in the banking sector and the economy.

On his part, the former CBN Governor, Mr Lamido Sanusi, emphasised the immense value of Wigwe’s contributions and the challenges that could arise in finding a suitable replacement.

Mr Sanusi recognised Mr Wigwe’s influence and the long-lasting imprint of his work, saying that further solidified the remarkable nature of his contributions.

For Mr Ibrahim Dankwambo, the former Senator for Gombe North and former governor of Gombe State, eulogised saying “from Him we come, to Him we shall return” and reeled out good times with the late founder, saying he was handed over to him as a brother by his father.

Mr Dankwambo, a former Accountant-General of the Federation, shared hilarious moments and described Mr Wigwe as a detribalised Nigerian.

Tributes of President Bola Tinubu, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, President Emmanuel Macron of France, and former US President Bill Clinton were read at the event.

Also, friends, associations, professional colleagues, Access Bank management from Nigeria, Ghana, and the UK as well as staff took turns to eulogise the patriotism, friendship, and mentorship qualities of Wigwe.

Adedapo Adesanya

Adedapo Adesanya is a journalist, polymath, and connoisseur of everything art. When he is not writing, he has his nose buried in one of the many books or articles he has bookmarked or simply listening to good music with a bottle of beer or wine. He supports the greatest club in the world, Manchester United F.C.

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