Asue Ighodalo as Breath of Fresh Air for Edo State

Asue Ighodalo as Breath of Fresh Air for Edo State

Donatus Eleko

As delegates for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) primary election file out this Thursday, to elect the party’s candidate for the 2024 gubernatorial election in Edo State, one thing that should be paramount to them should be the need to take a decision that would start the process of bringing in someone who has been widely described as a breath of fresh air to assume the leadership of the state.

That person is Asue Ighodalo, who is unarguably, the best man to succeed Governor Godwin Obaseki, having worked in the background for several years. Ighodalo who worked with Adams Oshiomhole when he was governor of the state for eight years, as he led the economic management team under the administration. Ighodalo has also contributed tremendously to the success of the current administration of Governor Obaseki.

Ighodalo is known for his expertise in corporate law, finance, and investment banking, and he is a boardroom titan. His work and boardroom experience clearly shows that when given the opportunity to govern the state, he won’t be a liability to the South-south state, but would be focused on how to bring his global and national connections to help boost activities in the state and add value to the common wealth of Edo State.

Ighodalo is the co-founder of Banwo & Ighodalo, one of the foremost corporate and commercial law firms in Nigeria, with 15 partners and over 100 lawyers. He obtained his first degree in Economics from the University of Ibadan, a law degree from the London School of Economics and Political Science, and was admitted into the Nigerian Bar in July 1985. His core areas of practice are corporate and project finance, securities and capital markets, energy & natural resources, and mergers & acquisitions.

Ighodalo is a member of the Nigerian Bar Association (past Chairman of the Section on Business Law 2014-2016), International Bar Association (Energy, Environment, Natural Resources and Infrastructure Law Section (SEERIL)), Association of International Petroleum Negotiators, Institute of Directors Nigeria, Commercial Law and Taxation Committee of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and the Chartered Institute of Taxation of Nigeria. Until he until ventured into politics, Ighodalo was the Chairman, Board of Directors of Sterling Bank Plc, Nigerian Breweries Plc, Levene Energy Group Limited, Edo State Investment Summit, DO II Designs Limited and Global Mix Limited.

He also sat on the boards of Mainstreet Technologies Limited (ownership company of MainOne Cable Limited), Cardinal Stone Partners, Okomu Oil Palm Plc, Christopher Kolade Foundation, Boff&Co. Insurance Brokers, Healthcare Federation of Nigeria (NGO focused on the development of healthcare practitioners) and Kashim Ibrahim Foundation, Kaduna (NGO focused on the leadership development of Nigerian youths).

He is the immediate-past Chairman of the Nigeria Economic Summit Group (NESG) and he also served on the board of the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) May 2017-May 2021, and was Chairman of Dangote Flour Mills Plc.

Ighodalo has been consistently ranked as a “Tier 1” or “Leading lawyer” in all of his areas of practice by the leading international legal directories.

He has authored many articles in leading law publications and also delivered presentations on diverse subjects including a biannual seminar on ‘Contemporary Political History of Nigeria’ at the Nigerian Leadership Initiative Future Leaders class and the Kashim Ibrahim Fellowship (KIF) class.

 He lectured on the roles and duties of directors and corporate governance at the Lagos Business School and at the Institute of Directors. He was conferred with an Honorary Doctorate Degree of Economics (D.Litt) (Honoris Causa) by the Edo University, Uzairue, Edo State in November 2021.

Ighodalo is ever learning and seeking continuous growth through trainings and certifications. They include, International Institute for Management Development (IMD)- (2023), Stanford Directors’ College – (2019), INSEAD International Directors Programme (2016), Harvard Business School – Making Corporate Boards More Effective (2015), Aspen Institute -Nigeria Leadership Seminar (2006), Harvard Business School – Governing for Non-Profit Excellence (2004) and Georgetown University – Georgetown Leadership Seminar (2003).

Asue Ighodalo hails from Okaigben, Ewohimi, in Esan South East Local Government Area of the Edo State, which is under Edo Central Senatorial District, and is a proper ‘homeboy’ as over the past 20 years, he has instituted various initiatives that have seen him support grassroots development in the state, despite attempt by some of his challengers to blackmail him as an ‘outsider.’

Another issue that they have tried to use to blackmail him is that he was selected by the current governor, an allegation which is not true, considering that Ighodalo has always been known for his straightforwardness.

As he went round the state campaigning in the past few weeks, he was spreading the message of hope and assuring the citizens of Edo State that if given the opportunity to serve, he would change the face of the state.

“I can say I am the best man for the job. I hear people saying I am someone’s candidate, but I can tell you that I am nobody’s candidate. All I will do is to bring my experience to bear, having been chairman of several top companies.

“It was a tough decision resigning from those positions. I’m coming from a comfort zone, and you put all of that down to say you want to do things for your people. I have the ability to do things for many more people having done for fewer people in the corporate world”, Ighodalo stated during one of the rallies.

He added, “All of the experience and connection I have had all over the years would be brought to bear. I am committed and convinced that I can do it. It looks uncertain, but even so, it will be certain in God’s name.

“I pledge to give youths the opportunity to serve in my government because the youths have talents to build the state. Be assured that I am fully committed to the upliftment of our state and I will give my life to ensure that.”

Ighodalo has stressed that if elected the governor of the state, he would be focused on building a government that eliminates deprivation in all its forms, and makes Edo the best place to live and work in Nigeria, uplift the poor, support hard-working men and women of the state and encourage entrepreneurship and innovation.

“No part of Edo will be left behind. From the high plains of Kukuruku to the lush vegetation of Ilushi; from the rich, red sands of Sakponba, to Esanland’s incredible biodiversity, we have all that is needed to make our state a mesmerising destination for progress and wealth. Across each administrative zone, in Edo North, Edo Central and Edo South, we will create practical and focused economic development teams that will harness each area’s unique potential to create wealth for all our people,” he said.

To ensure continuity in development process, he noted that he would build on the success of past governments in the state while ensuring that other policies would be fine-tuned to meet current needs.

He has also made it clear that if elected, he would prioritise the educational sector, infrastructure- inclusive of roads in the state, and creating a technology driven government in order to generate more revenue.

“I believe strongly that education is the gateway to opportunity, so we will continue to invest in education as a priority from primary schools to secondary and tertiary institutions — throughout the state.

“We will ensure that our educational system becomes a beacon of hope, and ladder to opportunity. We will make Edo state’s educational system our key to ending generational poverty, for good, in our great state,” he added.

According to him, if given the opportunity to serve, he intends to be the Chief Welfare Officer of the state, providing good and affordable healthcare, decent living conditions and basic food security for the people of the state, just as he promised to tackle insecurity in all of its forms, noting that an improved economy will reduce some types of insecurity.

He added, “Ending insecurity will not only mean that we can protect our people, it will allow us to maximise the potential economic advantages of our rich cultural heritage. Under the guidance, and with the blessings of our traditional fathers, we will be able to leverage our history and talent to create the cultural environment that will drive a robust tourism economy-proudly and respectfully rooted in the very essence of who we are as a people.”

From the foregoing, to ensure that the state continues on the path of sustainable development, it would be nice for PDP members to bury the hatchet and work towards selecting the best candidate for the job, which is Asue Ighodalo. Already, the outcome of the primary election of the main opposition party in the state, the All Progressives Congress (APC), shows that they would be going into the election as a fractured body, which PDP members must guide against and remain united.


Good Deeds Speak for Herbert Wigwe

Olusegun Philips

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 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 labeled “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.

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 N1Billion 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 – Wiwge 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.

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 labeled “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 appropriate and direct response.

Adieu “The Fearless One”, Adieu Herbert Wigwe.

•Olusegun Philips is a social and public affairs analyst and commentator.

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