Leaders, Friends, Family Bid Wigwes Farewell as Banking Icon, Wife, Son, Laid to Rest

*Akpabio describes Herbert Wigwe as global citizen, iconic figure

*Fubara promises to immortalise late banker, sustain university
*Wigwe left a lasting legacy, says Tambuwal

Blessing Ibunge in Port Harcourt

It was a sober moment yesterday as Nigerians from all walks of life and foreigners gathered at Isiokpo community in Ikwerre Local Government Area of Rivers State as the Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Access Bank Holdings, Mr. Herbert Wigwe; his wife, Chizoba, and their 29-year-old son, Chizzy, were laid to rest in a private cemetery located within the premises of the Wigwe University.
The trio of Herbert, Chizoba, and Chizzy Wigwe, alongside former Group Chairman of Nigerian Exchange Group Plc (NGX Group), Abimbola Ogunbanjo, as well as two pilots, died in the Airbus Helicopter EC 130B4 with registration number N130CZ, which crashed near Halloran Springs, California, United States, on February 8, 2024.

While the Senate President, Senator Godswill Akpabio described the late banking guru as a global citizen and iconic figure, Governor Siminalayi Fubara of Rivers State promised to immortalise him and also sustain his Wigwe University.
On his part, a former Governor of Sokoto State and member of the National Assembly representing Sokoto South, Senator Aminu Tambuwal noted that Wigwe left a lasting legacy.

By 9.30am yesterday, dignitaries were well seated at the Lion of Judah Parish of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), Isiokpo community, awaiting the arrival of the remains of the deceased.
Immediately the remains of Herbert, his wife, and son arrived at the church premises in three ambulances, followed by a convoy and musical band group, at about 11: 08am, everybody at the venue of the service wore a mournful look.

Some were sighted crying profusely, lamenting the great loss to the country.
Prominent dignitaries at the event include Senate President, Senator Akpabio; Governors Fubara (Rivers), Babajide Sanwo-Olu (Lagos), Alex Otti (Abia), Douye Diri (Bayelsa), Dapo Abiodun (Ogun), Eno Umo (Akwa Ibom); President of Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote; presidential candidate of Labour Party (LP) in the 2023 election, Mr. Peter Obi; Chairman of THISDAY/ARISE Media Group, Prince Nduka Obaigbena; Co-Founder of Access Bank, Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede; Founder of Stanbic IBTC Bank, Atedo Peterside; Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for Economy, Olawale Edun; former Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki; and former Governor of Sokoto State, Tambuwal.  

Others include: Group Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Zenith Bank, Ebenezer Onyeagwu; Group Chief Executive Officer of Guarantee Trust Holding Plc, Segun Agbaje; Chairman of Access Bank, Paul Usoro (SAN); former Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi; former Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Sanusi Lamido Sanusi; former Delta State governor, James Ibori; former Ekiti State governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi; former Rivers State governor, Celestine Omehia, among others.

In his remarks, the Senate President, Senator Akpabio, who spoke on behalf of the federal government and the National Assembly, described Herbert Wigwe as a global citizen and iconic figure who invested heavily in lives and fed many people across the globe.
Akpabio also described the late Wigwe as a great mentor, saying that he mentored a lot of younger people.
The Senate President added that the late banking icon was a serious role model to the future generation “that you can build from nothing and get greatness and with hard work you can achieve greatness.”
Akpabio said: “The university he has left behind was because of his passion for education. He helped and educated a lot of people. As I said, so many are enshrined in his heart because he sent so many to educational citadels across the world. Leaving this education for us, the university is not just for Nigerians but the entire global community.”

Speaking further, Akpabio described Wigwe as a global banker, who left a legacy in education that he will be remembered for in years to come.
He said: “Is not how long you lived but how well and the impact. Here was a young man who left so much impact that generations unborn; he gave food to so many people in Nigeria and globally. Many countries in Africa, in Dubai, other places, he was in China, he did a lot.
“He put food on the table of so many people in the world. So, I regarded him as a ‘Global Citizen,’ an icon of the world that we have lost. Unfortunately, he died together with his wife and first son,” Akpabio added.
Describing the incident that led to the death of the business guru as a tragedy, the Senate President said: “I pray Nigeria should never witness this again, and may it never happen to any family. If only you were close to him, you could understand the energy, the vivaciousness that Nigeria has lost. Herbert Wigwe was a great man; he was a friend to all – a man who smiles without question, who touches lives without asking.”
According to Akpabio, “Sometimes God gives signs that say those that God loves most, he takes them young. He was doing everything in a hurry. You see the fantastic structure for his retirement home for his family in Lagos, even the beautiful university – one of the best in the whole of West Africa, that he has concluded.”

He continued: “For all of us who are mortal, this death is very painful. We are not going to cry in one day alone; we will cry for so many days. When you remember the fact that his heir, Chizzy, was already an iconic figure, a talented young man, highly educated from the best university, prepared to take over the empire from his father, and yet he is no more, you will cry.
“When you think that the wife who could have been here to mourn with us joined him, then you will cry. Then you will ask yourself, just like Governor Fubara said, what is the struggle all about?” Akpabio queried.

Earlier in his speech, the governor of Rivers State,  Fubara, assured that the state government will immortalise the late Herbert, adding that the state will ensure the success of the Wigwe University, which he noted was the only investment attached to the name of the financial guru.
The governor expressed the need for people to impact society, especially in the lives of the needy, adding that life is a journey that will someday get to its destination.
Governor Fubara said: “I have this question always in my mind. What is life all about? Yesterday night, we sang a hymn saying ‘Fading away from the sun in the morning’, and I concluded that life is not the one million years that we lived, but even if we spend an hour, let the hour be impactful. He has made a great contribution to humanity.”
Fubara lamented: “Here lies our brother, his wife, son. Everyone has come to celebrate them; it means even in the short period that he lived; he lived an impactful life.

“The next question had to do with our political class: What is all this trouble all about? You want to kill, you want to bury, what is it all about? This is a man, not a politician; he made his money through us – our investment. He has the world in his hand; he controlled even the political class but today, with all the powers financially, couldn’t control life,” the governor said.
Speaking further, Fubara said Wigwe’s death had prompted him to question his fellow political class on why they are struggling for power more than making impacts on the lives of the people.

“This one has to do with the political class; what are all these struggles all about? You want to kill, you want to bury, what is it all about?” he queried.
Governor Fubara however thanked his counterpart in Lagos State, Babajide Sanwo-Olu.
 “I felt a bit unhappy because he (Sanwo-Olu) took a shine; he’s been very supportive of the programme right from the beginning, throughout the programme in Lagos and he is not even a Rivers man. It will not be complete if I do not mention Alhaji Aliko Dangote for his support,” Fubara added.
Fubara assured that: “We as a state, which by the special grace of God that I represent, I am the host, nobody can take that away from me. I want to say that our brother has finished his work, though shortly. We, as a government, will do everything with the Wigwe Foundation to immortalise one thing that has his name, which is Wigwe University.

“We will do everything within our power to make sure that the dream will continue to live just as he had planned it. It is a difficult situation for many of us. It is affecting me; I am an in-law here. We must do everything to keep the name of our brother,” the governor said.
“At this critical time, it is not the crowd here that will console you; the only person that will give you everlasting consolation is God and God will that gap for you,” he added.

Speaking to THISDAY at the event, Tambuwal, said Herbert left a lasting legacy.
“Herbert Wigwe was someone who was at his prime, doing his best and giving his best to the financial service of Nigeria. But we cannot question God. It was his time; the Almighty God had called upon him; he had answered the call.
“Our consolation is that he did very well and has left a very lasting legacy.”
At the end of the church service which ended at about 2.pm, the remains of the Wigwes were laid to rest at the premises of the Wigwe University.

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