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In tears Sanusi reveals how late Access Bank CEO, Herbert Wigwe, helped him succeed as CBN gov



The funeral rites of the former Group Chief Executive Officer (GCEO) of Access Holdings Plc, Herbert Wigwe continued in Lagos on Wednesday with another night of tributes.

Several high-profile individuals including the President of France, Emmanuel Macron whose paths have crossed with the banking guru took turns to eulogize the man described as a banking whiz kid.

A former Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi II, broke down in tears on Wednesday while paying tribute to Wigwe

Addressing the crowd present at the event, the former Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor said he was thinking he would die before Wgwe.

“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 removed as Emir of Kano by former Governor Abdullahi Ganduje.

According to the former Emir, 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 9am, 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.

“Later, he got them accommodation. For months, when I came, they stayed there. Your Highness, if you want to travel, just call Shola.”

The former CBN boss said the late Access Bank CEO and his partner Aig Imoukhuede, were crucial to his success during his five-year stint at the apex bank.

He also narrated how they helped resolve a serious challenge in the banking sector at the time.

READ ALSO:Sanusi exonerates Tinubu, blames past administrations for Nigeria’s economic hardship

“The objective then was to link the banking sector assets to the real economy and Aig and Herbert in Access Bank were chosen as the chairpersons on the subcommittee on economic development. Most of what I achieved in the Central Bank would not have been possible without them.”

“About two years ago, I put all my savings in a trust for the education of my children because I have many. My priority as a father is to make sure that when I pass away, they will have a good education.

“Paul was a solicitor put in that trust, Herbert was the lead protector. Paul will remember when we had the first formal meeting, I said, ‘Herbert I am placing you in charge of this trust for the education of my children because I know that even if I died and did not leave any money, you will educate our children,” he said.

On his part, Vice President, Kashim Shettima on Wednesday lamented that Wigwe left before the season of bloom.

Shettima in his eulogy of Wigwe described the late businessman as a beacon of hope that left at an odd time.

“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,” Shettima said.

Addressing the crowd present for the night of tribute to the 57-year-old, the Vice President also noted the late Wigwe was an early bloomer who transformed the Nigerian banking industry, recalling his visionary leadership and unwavering dedication to his community.

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

“This spring, for us, isn’t the season of festive flowers; it’s the season of wreaths. This spring, for us, isn’t a season of tears; it’s a celebration of Herbert’s flight to a height that only a few of God’s chosen ones have attained.”

Delivering his speech titled, “Herbert Wigwe: The Flower That Bloomed Before Spring,” the VP highlighted Wigwe’s early successes, his dream of building the “Harvard of Africa,” and his commitment to leaving a lasting legacy.

“Herbert, though an early bloomer in the garden of life, didn’t share the fate of those who faded away prematurely. His narrative was one of triumph. He conquered all there was to conquer,” he said.

VP Shettima also regretted 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.”

He however urged Nigerians to celebrate “the divine miracle that was the lives the deceased lived,” adding that, “the spread of this grief that binds us is so because they cultivated a garden of success.”

“Their achievements were not just individual triumphs but testaments to the collective strength of those they touched, those they built, and those they inspired.

“The journey of our departed brothers and sisters may have ended in a distant land, but their spirits linger in the hearts of everyone here and beyond,” the Vice President added. “May Herbert’s legacy continue to bloom in the hearts and minds of those who strive for greatness.”

A representative for Macron, Frank Riester, conveyed France’s deep sorrow over Herbert’s demise. Riester praised Herbert’s career successes, philanthropy, and commitment to social change.

He acknowledged the loss for both Nigeria and the African continent, emphasising Wigwe’s dream of nurturing responsible leaders through projects like the Wigwe University.

He said: “It was with great sorrow and emotion that we heard the terrible news of his sudden demise in a tragic accident three weeks ago. I would like to extend my sincere condolences to his family partners, teams and friends. I share their pain and grief for the loss of this truly exceptional man. My thoughts are with his loved ones.

“His demise is a huge loss for all of us here in Nigeria, his beloved country for which he had so many dreams and also throughout the African continent that he loved so much and for which he had so much ambition.

“He was truly an inspiration to all of us. Late Herbert Wigwe was not only an outstanding entrepreneur whose career successes were admired in Nigeria, Africa and beyond.

“He was also a philanthropist known for his strong dedication towards the most vulnerable. He was a visionary committed to social change and sensitive to youth empowering, women entrepreneurs, education, healthcare, and environmental issues.

By: Babajide Okeowo

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