Governor Dapo Abiodun of Ogun state, Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Minister, Nyesom Wike and Dangote Group President, Aliko Dangote yesterday paid a condolence visit to the parents of Herbert Wigwe, Access Holdings Plc group chief executive officer.
The Access Holdings GCEO died in a helicopter crash in the United States on Friday alongside his wife, Doreen Chizoba; son, Chizzy and Chairman of the Nigerian Exchange Group Abimbola Ogunbanjo.
Abiodun, in a post on his official X (formerly Twitter) handle, said Wike, Dangote and himself were accompanied on the visit to Pastor Shyngle and Mrs Stella Wigwe in Lagos by the late Access Holdings boss’ close friends and associates.
The governor wrote: “In the company of Dr. Aliko Dangote and a group of close friends and associates, we gathered to express our heartfelt condolences to Pastor Shyngle Wigwe and his wife, Mrs. Stella Wigwe.
“These sorrowful parents have suffered the loss of their beloved sons, Mr. Herbert Wigwe, Mrs Chizoba, and his son Chizzy in a tragic helicopter accident.
“During this solemn visit, we fervently beseech God to grant eternal peace to the departed souls and bring solace to the grieving families they have left behind.”.
Dangote had earlier yesterday joined more eminent Nigerians and groups in mourning Wigwe.
Describing the Rivers State-born banker as a “beloved friend and brother,” he recalled his(Wigwe) contributions to the growth of the banking sector and his role in the fight against COVID-19, especially in Nigeria.
Dangote, who is Africa’s richest man, extended his “deepest sympathies” to the entire Wigwe family and the staff of Access Holdings Plc.”
He said that Wigwe’s first-rate mind, brilliance, tenacity, unforced charm, and clarity of purpose stood him out among his peers.
The billionaire and industrialist wrote: “His(Wigwe) remarkable organisational skills and penchant for excellence came to the fore during our days of collaboration in the CA-COVID initiative where we complemented the official efforts to curb the unprecedented impact of the global Coronavirus pandemic.
“Like some of us, he stood up to be counted and deployed huge personal resources to fight a common scourge. How noble, how patriotic.
“As I mourn the shocking demise of a loyal friend, my heart goes out to Tochi, David, and Hannah, the rest of the extended Wigwe family, the staff of Access Holdings, and the good people of our beloved country Nigeria.”
Diri, Otti, Abiru recall association with Wigwe
The other prominent Nigerians who recalled the life and time of Wigwe were Governors Diri Duoye (Bayelsa), Alex Otti(Abia); and Senate Committee on Banking, Insurance and Other Financial Institutions, Adetokunbo Abiru.
Groups that also mourned the banker and Ogunbanjo include Lagos State House Assembly, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Rivers State caucus in the House of Representatives and Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI).
Governor Diri said he was deeply saddened by “the loss of a dear friend and brother, who understood what friendship and brotherhood meant.”
Wigwe, according to the governor, was a consummate banker and businessman who touched lives and brought dreams to reality. He recalled how Wigwe, through Access Bank, positively impacted youths in Bayelsa State by partnering with the government to organise the maiden edition of a sports festival in 2023.
While commiserating with the Wigwe family, the family of his wife as well as the management and staff of Access Bank Plc, he said Nigeria has lost an illustrious son.
In an emotion-laden statement, Governor Otti, who once headed Diamond Bank, a deposit money bank acquired by Access Bank, revealed that Wigwe was to pay him a visit on his return from the U.S. where the chopper crash took his life.
In the statement titled, “Saying Goodbye,” Otti said the death of the Access Holdings boss, was a personal blow to him.
The governor wrote: “Herbert why? Why? Why? You told me you were going for a board meeting in London from where you will head out to the US and return after a few days and immediately come to Abia to see me. So, what happened?
“Since this news filtered out, I’ve not been able to put my head down. I spoke to Peggy who was broken but strong.
“I refused to believe. Many others confirmed but they were also reporting other people. Then came a call minutes from Sola Faleye, my younger friend whom you “acquired” as you took over Diamond Bank.
“You had severally shared how one of the best things about the acquisition of Diamond Bank was Sola.
“He was with you everywhere you went but alas, Sola was unreachable.
“For some reason, he had to step down from that ill-fated Chopper to accompany the luggage by road. His name remains on the manifest! It is now clear that you are no more!
“What do we tell Tochi and the little ones? Who will tell Mummy Stella and Daddy Shyngle, who celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary two years ago?
“How about those of us who have come to see you as part of our lives?
“This death is too big a blow to me personally and all those who knew you closely. You were not only my friend but my brother.
“I remember taking you up about 15 years ago quoting a research-based position that over 70 percent of mergers and acquisitions destroy shareholder value. You responded that Access Bank was in the 30 percent category.
“A few years ago, when a group of friends and I were working on a banking license, you drove to my house unannounced and insisted: ‘Alex, I’m glad you are working on a new bank, but I came to tell you that you should not run the bank. You have finished with banking; we need you in Abia and Abia needs you. “We must get some of us that dare to go into public office, and you must remain there.’
“Since then, you have been consistent in your support.
“This is one of the saddest moments in my life. To worsen the situation, Chizoba and Chizzy who hardly fly with you were in that chopper.”
Senate Committee on Banking, Insurance and Other Financial Institutions Charman Abiru said that Wigwe’s visionary leadership and commitment to excellence left an indelible mark in the business world.
Abiru described him as a passionate, dedicated, fearless and accomplished businessman.
The committee chairman said: “I witnessed his extraordinary goal-driven professionalism. He reached the pinnacle of his career in the banking industry and business, leaving an indelible mark on the generation of accomplished bankers who cut their teeth at Guaranty Trust Bank.
“His death is a national tragedy of monumental proportion.”
*Lagos Assembly observes minute silence*
The Frontier reports that Lagos House of Assembly observed a minute silence for the late Access Holding chief and called on his colleagues to sustain his legacies.
Speaking under ‘Matter of Urgent Public Importance’, Speaker Mudashiru Obasa described Wigwe’s demise as “shocking, painful, disturbing and unexpected.”
Obasa recalled his last encounter with Wigwe on their way back to Lagos from Abuja, describing him as one who was passionate about Nigeria’s development.
He said: “My last encounter with him was from Abuja to Lagos in his aircraft. Within the one-hour flight, we had a lot of discussions.
“All we can do now is mourn and accept what happened as what fate has brought upon us. He did not die alone. His wife, son and friend were with him.
“The lesson from this is that even though none of us wants to die, we must put the best of us in our relationships with others and contribute our best to our society and nation as these are what people will remember after us.
“I want to urge his colleagues to sustain his legacies, his philanthropic activities part of which is the Lagos City Marathon which has been expanded beyond the shores of Nigeria as well as the Wigwe University which, I am sure, was for the benefit of Nigerians.”
*_Rivers Reps caucus urges thorough probe*_
The state caucus in the House of Representatives also lamented the passing of three members of the Wigwe family and called on the U.S. to ensure a thorough probe of the crash.
It advised the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and relevant agencies to also initiate a similar probe.
In a statement, the Leader of the caucus, Dunamenne Dekor, said the accident threw Rivers State into mourning,
He said: “Our hearts are heavy with sorrow as we extend our deepest condolences to the Wigwe family and loved ones during this distressing time.
“Dr. Herbert Wigwe played a prominent role in the financial banking community, Education and Welfare.
“His leadership at Access Holdings Plc has left an indelible mark on the industry.
“As we mourn the loss of our son; a nationalist, lover of Rivers State, and visionary and compassionate leader, we take solace in the very remarkable impact he made in the financial sector, education, and particularly his philanthropic lifestyle and belief that the well-being of a people is the only thing that has intrinsic value.
“We fervently hope that authorities will successfully locate and provide the necessary support to the families of the victims of this devastating incident.”
Ohanaeze: Wigwe’s death tragic
Ohanaeze Ndigbo said Wigwe in his lifetime “proved to the entire world that the audacity of intellectual prowess, social skill, humility and honesty is far more impactful than the audacity of the aristocracy.”
The apex-Igbo socio-cultural group, added in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Alex Ogbonnia, that the death of the Access Holding topshot was tragic.
It said Wigwe was one of the “most brilliant creative thinkers, audacious achievers, trailblazers, innovative edifice, charismatic visionary and top bankers.”
The statement partly reads: “Wigwe proved to the entire world that the audacity of intellectual prowess, social skill, humility and honesty is far more impactful than that of aristocracy.
“The President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, is in deep sorrow over the death of Herbert Wigwe.
“Iwuanyanwu sends his condolences to the Wigwe family, the Abimbola Ogunbanjo family, the Access Bank Plc, the good people of Omueke village, Isiokpo, community, the entire Ikwerre and the good people of Rivers State.
“He prays that the Almighty will grant the souls of Wigwe; his wife, Mrs Chizoba Nwigwe and the son, Chizi Wigwe an eternal rest in his bosom.”
Also, the ACCI has expressed sorrow and shock over the death of Wigwe.
ACCI President and Leader of the Organised Private Sector in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Emeka Obegolu, said Wigwe’s death is not only a great loss to his family but also to the Nigerian banking sector and the business community.