Herbert Wigwe, Wife, Son Go Home in a Blaze of Glory

Herbert Wigwe, Wife, Son Go Home in a Blaze of Glory

Yesterday marked a sombre yet poignant day as former CEO of Access Holdings Plc, Herbert Wigwe, his cherished wife, Chizoba and beloved son, Chizi were laid to rest. Their departure leaves behind a void that echoes with memories of love, laughter, and cherished moments, writes Festus Akanbi

The air hung heavy with grief as friends, family, the high and the mighty in the Nigerian political scenes, captains of the industry and loved ones gathered yesterday at the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), Lion of Judah Parish, Isiokpo, Rivers State, at the sombre funeral service for Herbert Wigwe, his wife Chizoba, and their son Chizi.

Tears flowed freely, mingling with the rain that gently fell from the overcast sky, as mourners struggled to come to terms with the tragic loss of such beloved souls.

The church echoed with soft sobs and whispers of sorrow as memories of happier times filled the hearts of those present. The pews were filled with a sense of emptiness, a void left behind by the untimely departure of three precious lives.

Faces etched with sadness and disbelief sought solace in each other’s presence, clinging to the memories of Herbert’s infectious laughter, Chizoba’s warm embrace, and Chizi’s playful spirit. Their absence loomed large, casting a shadow over the hearts of all who knew them.

As the service progressed, the weight of reality settled in, each word spoken a reminder of the irreplaceable loss felt by the community. Yet, amidst the sorrow, there was also a sense of unity, a shared understanding that in their memories, Herbert, Chizoba, and Chizi would forever live on.

In the quiet moments of reflection, as the final farewells were spoken, the collective grief enveloped the congregation, binding them together in a bond forged by love and loss. And though the pain of their absence would linger long after the service ended, the legacy of their lives would continue to shine brightly in the hearts of all who were touched by their presence.

Their lives were tragically cut short on Friday, February 9, 2024, in a devastating helicopter crash in California, USA that has left the nation and wider African continent in shock and mourning.

Days of Mourning, Outpouring of Tributes

For the Nigerian business community, where Herbert shone like a star, it was a month of mourning. The degree of the loss manifested in the outpouring of emotions and condolences by business leaders and members of the political class that had dealings with the former Access Holdings helmsman.

Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote described Herbert Wigwe as a devoted friend, mentee, and supporter. “He is a pillar of support and strength for me and my family. He supported me as the company grew, and he is part of the success story. Herbert’s wise counsel was central to the growth of the Dangote Group. I will forever cherish his friendship, and I owe him a debt of gratitude. Herbert’s courage was second to none, and he was never short of anything. We share a common principle of perseverance, which is a secret to success,” Dangote said.

On his part, Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, who was Herbert Wigwe’s closest friend and business partner emotionally spoke of his philanthropy and dedication to Africa’s progress: “People who did not know him before now learnt about his philanthropy and learnt that Africa is still capable of producing outstanding individuals. Herbert was committed to building an African continent. Herbert was very concerned about the nation’s state, and he knew time was not on the side of Nigeria and Africa. We have now realised that tomorrow is today.”

A Visionary Leader

Vice-president Kashim Shettima, in a lyrical eulogy, described the late Wigwe as an early bloomer who transformed the Nigerian banking industry, recalling his visionary leadership and unwavering dedication to his community.

The vice president in a statement by his spokesman, Stanley Nkwocha said, “Herbert left us in winter before the season of bloom. Spring was just about to arrive at his last location, the United States when the Lord called for him.

“Spring is not the symbol of Herbert’s bloom; his journey was defined by peculiar seasons. He bloomed long before his co-travellers.

Shettima also lamented the tragic loss of Wigwe’s wife, son, and others, describing the loss as collective grief felt by many and a “fading fragrance of a garden that touched lives far beyond its borders.”

The Fearless One

For the former Managing Director, Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Mr. Timi Alaibe, Herbert Wigwe came as a flame of fire and has left behind unquenchable sparks.

“One might wonder why Herbert is described as fearless. He was more than just a CEO. He was a visionary whose foresight propelled Access Bank Holdings to unprecedented heights.

“His strategic acumen and relentless pursuit of excellence transformed challenges into opportunities and inspired those around him not only to dream but to reach for greatness.
In celebrating him as the fearless one, we honour a man whose courage knew no bounds.

“Herbert fearlessly charted new paths embraced change, and championed progress, leaving indelible marks on the sands of time. Even those who did not like his guts cherished his glittering accomplishments. Beyond his professional endeavours, Herbert’s integrity, humility, and compassion touched the lives of countless individuals and groups,” Alaibe said.

An Extra-ordinary Father

In her tributes, one of the daughters of the deceased, Tochi Wigwe recalled how her father nurtured her in the act of public speaking, she said, “I used to tell my father that I hated public speaking and he tried to convince me that he hated it as well. But it’s just something he had to do so I’m going to try my best to be fearless,” Tochi said on stage, flanked by several of her friends.

“In this moment, for the first time, your words resonate deeply within me. I no longer want to tilt my head and squint my eyes in confusion. You were simply extraordinary,” she added.

Reliable Friend

To demonstrate Herbert’s larger heart, a former Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi II, in a tribute said Herbert was a friend to turn to in times of trouble.

“I was thinking I would die and leave Herbert. We have all heard about him, about his loyalty,” he said in an emotionally laden voice.

He recalled how the late banker stood by his side all through his travails after being deposed as Emir of Kano by former Governor Abdullahi Ganduje.

According to Sanusi, Herbert assured him of his unflinching support and loyalty.

To match words with action, Lamido said Herbert provided a plane for him at the tarmac in Kano to convey him to Lagos.

“When I had problems in Kano, I called him about six months before I was told to leave Kano. I said to him, ‘Herbert I know you are doing all your best to solve all these problems, but I am convinced that this is what is going to happen.

“He said to me, ‘Your Highness, don’t worry. Whatever happens, don’t worry. We are here for you.’ On the day I heard on the radio that I was dethroned, I called him and said I wanted to come to Lagos.

“The announcement was made about 9 am, by noon Herbert had a plane at the tarmac in Kano. The plan then was to take me into exile for many years. I put my family on that plane and sent them to Lagos, with no phone calls. Herbert received them and put them in a hotel.

A Beacon of Excellence, Resilience

In his tributes Chairman Platform Petroleum Ltd, Dumo Lulu-Briggs wrote:, Herbert stood as a beacon of excellence and resilience, his life a symphony of boldness and unyielding spirit that inspired us to embrace our fears and transcend them. His dedication to crafting a legacy of distinction shines brightly through the institutions he nurtured- Access Holdings Plc, Wigwe University, and a constellation of others, each a testament to his visionary pursuit of greatness.

There is no doubt, that Nigeria and Africa will indeed miss Herbert, his wife and his son.

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