Herbert Wigwe – The Illustrious Warrior

by Opeyemi Ajala, FCA

“Away from our earth. Always in our hearts”

The altitude and high temperature of Mexico seemed inconsequential to Jairzinho and his Brazilian teammates as the team blazed the scorching Mexican heat as the pacy and athletic Jairzinho emerged the World Cup’s Hurricane (Furacao da Copa) not for being the top scorer as the honour belonged to the German bomber Gerd Müller but the Brazilian was renowned for his unequalled consistency of scoring in every match, a feat yet to be matched till date as Messi scored in every round and not every match. The Lagos born Herbert Onyewumbu Wigwe (HOW) was a Commander of the Order of the Federal Republic, and like Messi not a giant in physique but was a colossus that bestrode the financial circuit, his Germanic derived name already portrays him as the Illustrious Warrior in the mould of the German Bomber Müller and above all Hurricane Herbert connotes the sublime consistency that defined o Furacão (The Hurricane) Jairzinho. The emblematic picture of Jairzinho keeling down and pointing to the heavens in the Mexican heat after his 3rd goal is evergreen just as Hurricane Hebert is cheering us from heaven in the heat of moment.

Herbert is not the most popular of names as only 63 of the boys born in 2022 in the United States (US) were christened Herbert, an improvement on the 53 boys born in 2021, however the search for the name after the air mishap of February 9th, 2024 in San Bernardino County was enough to make it the most popular name in the US. Herbert Macaulay was undoubtedly Nigeria’s foremost nationalist, though he passed on two decades before Herbert Wigwe was born, but they shared a clergy parentage and ubiquitous in the nation’s financial landscape as the former Herbert face adorned the One Naira coin while the latter emerged the czar of the nation’s biggest financial institution – Access Bank and CEO of the Access Corporation.

Herbert like all mortals was a man of like passion who stood out as a leader one can follow to battle blindfoldedly with implicit confidence. Herbert evolved from an excellent professional to become a beacon of hope for the continent with his pan African initiatives which could have been inspired by Herbert Macaulay’s protégé in the nation’s first President – Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe or Zik’s mentee the Ghanaian first President Kwame Nkrumah, the duo who had the alma mater’s oldest building in Lincoln University jointly named after them.  It was the General Mohammed’s deliberate foreign policy that made Africa the mouthpiece with the political decolonization and vital aid for the political emancipation of the sub-units. It is a truism that political liberty without economic freedom is meaningless and Herbert was a visionary who though was not the biblical Joseph, but he was always full of dreams and it was his dream to have an economic prosperous continent by telling the African story from the viewpoint of Africans affirming the African adage that until the lions have their historians, tales of the hunt shall always glorify the hunter. Because leaders are readers, he would have been convinced by the position of America’s first female Literature Nobel laureate Pearl Buck that ‘Hunger makes a thief of any man’ and Proverbs 30:9 of not becoming poor and steal so as not to dishonour the name of the Lord. His commitment to national and international assignments is not only inspiring but equally laudable (remember CACOVID?), HIS conviction about Africa’s economic prosperity can only reminds one of the late MKO Abiola’s unrelentless drive for repatriation, again while MKO was the continent’s pillar of sport, HOW was a pillar for sport in the continent as the Lagos Access Bank Lagos City marathon has become a permanent feature in the calendar of the World Athletics, ditto for championing the cause of sports in the continent from Polo to Football. Rightly dubbed the African Hero, it is not surprising to read and hear tributes from multiple sources describing the gladiator as one describes various part of an elephant because he was as resourceful as the Palm Tree that every part benefits the mankind, unsurprisingly he codified the generosity he was synonymous with by setting up the HOW Foundation as a legacy to outlive him and surely this will continue to touch lives all over the continent after his heart, Africa his Africa in David Diop’s voice even as he transits from mortality to immortality as he was a firm believer in never underestimating the power of small acts of kindness to change the world.

Herbert was a fearless leader whose visions as a leader are unambiguous notwithstanding the unconvinced doubters because he stays true and focus to his dream, the legendary Spanish football trainer Pep Guardiola once remarked after four successive losses in 2016 that he would rather go home than change his football philosophy, to Herbert and his team, it is a Siamese relationship of conviction to their crafted visions. Pep’s teams are unique for their aesthetic that is enchanting to behold, Herbert’s was a connoisseur of art and the art was his heart, when the story of the flagship for arts and culture is re-written in Nigeria, his name can only be penned in glory. He was a firm believer in knowledge since he who does not read has no advantage over who cannot read and believed in the biblical injunction that above gold and a multitude of rubies, the lips of knowledge are a precious jewel and even if the sought for knowledge could be as far as China, which his ancestry home of Isiokpo was positioned to be as the latest town of the gown with his monumental Wigwe University that borne not only his nomenclature but his DNA as well, thankfully this dream cannot be aborted as Herbert the dreamer has raised enough illustrious warriors who can carry on the shared vision of impactful living.

POTUS Herbert Hoover’s period in office was marked by the great Depression, while Herbert’s exit is a greater depression, but the solace is in Matthew 5:4 Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. May the good Lord comfort our nation, families, and friends of Herbert, Chizoba, Chizi Wigwe, Abimbola Ogunbanjo and the two pilots Blake Hansen and Benjamin Pettingill. To Herbert’s soulmate and partner Aigboje Aig-imoukhede, and his successors – Roosevelt Ogbonna and Bolaji Agbede and the Access nation, it is well. The Illustrious Warrior is unbowed, unbent, and unbroken and now like Job, Herbert has written his chapters and duly earned his place in our and my history. Gracias Boss (sorry Herbert).

You may also like


Adebomi bukola March 9, 2024 - 3:59 pm

waooooooo this is great, The comparison, Respect always. God will give the family the fortitude to bear the irreparable lost.

Oba Idreghi Comfort March 9, 2024 - 12:45 pm

Nice piece Eki . Herbert really made a good impression on you and on so many. He sure lives on as one of you said ” even in death Herbert is still closing deals. ” . His works will continue to speak for him and be a constant reminder that once upon a time Herbert walked the surface of this earth.

Anonymous March 6, 2024 - 12:32 pm

Good write up sir, God will console all in Jesus name Amen

Femi Olaosebikan March 6, 2024 - 8:39 am

Wonderful. I heard you explained the process of banking and exhorting the E.T using the professional football as an example. You’re such a great writer sir and it’s a privilege to have crossed your professional path. May the souls of the deceased continue to rest in peace.

Shittu babatunde March 6, 2024 - 8:22 am

Powerful write up…God bless you sir

Stephen Olusegun Lajubutu March 6, 2024 - 7:46 am

This is a great write-up. I salute your dexterity!


Leave a Comment