By Naijatruth 

Herbert Onyewumbu Wigwe CFR

The nation of Nigeria mourned the tragic loss of four of its prominent citizens on Friday, February 9, 2024. It was a day of sorrow and grief that no one would ever want to relive. Among the deceased was Dr Herbert Onyewumbu Wigwe, the Group CEO of Access bank, who perished in a helicopter crash in the United States, along with his wife, son and Abimbola Ogunbanjo, the former group chairman of the Nigerian Exchange Group Plc. They were on their way to enjoy the Super Bowl when the fatal accident happened near a border city between Nevada and California.

Dr Wigwe was a respected and admired figure in the banking and business sector, as well as a generous and compassionate philanthropist. His organisation praised him as a “key driving force and larger-than-life personality, who brought his remarkable passion, energy, and experience to the transformation of the Access franchise since joining the Bank in 2002.”

On Monday, Ojy Okpe, the host of ‘What’s Trending with Ojy Okpe, dedicated her show to him and shared an interesting interview she had with him in 2019.

In that interview, Dr Wigwe revealed his values, personal style and his most treasured possessions. He came across as a well-balanced and perfect gentleman; a great father, CEO and philanthropist. He also had a passion and a collection for artworks.

Okpe was amazed by the number of beautiful artworks in his office and said, ‘God! I could be fooled that we are in a gallery’ and Dr Wigwe replied “Well, we enjoy collecting and these represent some of the pieces that we have.

“Each piece means something to me. I kind of like all of them for different reasons. There are several that inspire me. I like each and every one of them for a different reason.”
On his must have artwork he said “ I think I have a lot of Ben Enwonwu because he did great pieces.” And if he had to choose between Mona Lisa or Ben Enwonwu’s ‘Tutu’ he said, “..its Tutu. Tutu is truly beautiful. It’s a beautiful piece and has a lot of history behind it.” He was right. ‘Tutu’ was created in 1973 by Ben Enwonwu and in 2018, it became a record breaker; it was sold at £1,205,000. “Watching my people be the best that they can be” was what made him happy. He also mentioned that the last country he visited before that interview was Ghana because, “We do have a business there so I go quite often. We had meetings out there.”

On how much time he spent on social media he said, “It depends on what you mean. If it’s WhatsApp messages, I’ll say cumulatively in a day, maybe 3 to 4 hours.” He also preferred twitter over Instagram.

Dr Wigwe was asked to tell his followers in a tweet something they didn’t know about him. His answer was, “It’s difficult. I think I’m a transparent person. Most people know a lot about me.” When pressed to give an answer, he said, “Very emotional.” That explained his calm and simple demeanor.

On how he handled the press, he said, “I have my own defence mechanisms. It depends on what the negative press is about. If it has to do with business, we would basically set up as a team and see what the implications on our business are and then respond.”

Ojy complimented him on his success, and he was asked to define what success meant to him. He said “I don’t know about being successful. It’s a relative thing but I think my greatest success will be my people. You can only be as successful as your people and what you like but quite frankly, each time we have Access people doing great things, it means quite a lot to all of us and to me personally.”
He was asked what his proudest moment was and he said “it’s difficult to tell. There have been several. I think one of them obviously was on a personal basis. My first son’s graduation and for no other reason than seeing your first that you put in a lot of effort, doing well in school.” That showed how much he cared for his family and balanced his work and personal life.
He shared his biggest learning experience and said, “Several, how complex the human being is. While the human being is the most perfect machine, he represents a very, very complex construct in terms of expectations and emotions of all of that and it’s just coming through several things which we’ve had to do in terms of combinations. But it’s nothing and of course, the most important thing is that there’s no favour you can do to anybody or that can be repaid or any favour that’s been done to you that you can repay.”
He also said that love was the most overrated virtue and explained, “And the simple reason is that you can love several people, you can love your children, spouse, staff; they are all worthy of being loved. So sometimes people use the word in a manner that I think is overrated because you must be able to show it to several different stakeholders- people and family, staff etc.”
He was asked the one thing he could change about himself, and he simply answered, “I wouldn’t be able to do so, I don’t have much to do. So, I would like to keep myself the way I am.”

His most treasured possession was his wife, whom he described as “my strongest asset and my greatest cheerleader and my greatest strength.” God! And they left together. So sad!!
He said he would not be caught dancing to any song in 2019, because most lyrics today were not appealing to him.
He said he did not have lazy days, but if he did, he would “be in a SPA, in the Gym. I could be having a massage for several hours. That would be my lazy day.”
He said three things he couldn’t live without were “Very difficult question. I think my children, my wife, which is basically my family, will be the starting point. If I can’t find a sanctuary where I’ll be at peace with myself to pray, it will be very difficult. And obviously, I like my people around me; people that I work with.”
He said his fashion trend was “Just simple. Being simple, classic”. Ojy agreed and said, “I think you look quite simple but dapper as well.” “That’s to you”, Wigwe said, laughing. He was indeed a humble and honest man. Even the shoes he was wearing during the interview, Ojy asked if they were Louis Vuitton but he said he didn’t even know where they came from. He was not ostentatious or pretentious at all.
His idea of perfect happiness was, “Spending time with my children definitely.” And failure was his greatest fear!
He said he wished to be remembered for, “As one who contributed in creating one of the largest financial institutions in the continent. One that basically helped build an institution that will be remembered over time as an institution that will be able to compare favourably with all the other large and successful financial institutions in the world. That is one aspect that has to do with my career.”
But Dr Herbert Onyewumbu Wigwe, Group CEO of Access bank, will be remembered for much more than that.

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