Governor Alex Otti of Abia State has penned an emotional tribute to late friend and Access Holdings Plc Group CEO, Herbert Wigwe, who died alongside his wife Chizoba and son Chizzy in a helicopter crash in California, United States on Friday.
Others on the ill-fated aircraft were a former Group Chairman of the Nigerian Exchange Group Plc, Abimbola Ogunbanjo.
In his tribute, Governor Otti revealed that Wigwe rarely flew with his wife and son, making their deaths in the tragic accident more difficult for him to comprehend.
“Chizoba and Chizzy who hardly fly with you were in that chopper. I’m still trying to make sense of the whole situation,” Otti wrote.
According to Otti, Wigwe had told him he was travelling to London for a board meeting, before heading to the United States for a few days.
The Access Holdings CEO was expected to stop over in Abia to visit Otti upon his return.
Describing Wigwe as his “friend and brother”, Otti recounted how the late banker was a constant source of encouragement and advice.
The late Herbert Wigwe, wife and son.
The governor particularly recalled Wigwe’s insistence years ago that he should go into politics to serve the people of Abia.
“You must remain there! We must get some of us that have the courage to go into public office, and you must remain there!” Otti quoted Wigwe as telling him.
The Abia governor also recalled Wigwe’s vision to build Wigwe University to be modelled after Harvard University and pondered on who would bring the late banker’s dream to fruition following his sudden death.
Otti extended his condolences to Wigwe’s mother Stella, father Shyngle, and the children he left behind, describing the loss as a “big blow” both personally and to all who knew the late Access Holdings CEO.
His tribute reads, “SAYING GOODBYE
“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 comes this call minutes ago 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 all throughout yesterday. 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 you celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary two years ago? How about those of us who have come to see you as part of life? Your dream (of) Wigwe University which you told me was going to be the Harvard of Africa? Who will carry on with that dream? We had extensively talked about setting up a scholarship scheme to support brilliant but indigent students. Who will ensure that this dream is delivered?
“This death is too big a blow to me personally and all those that knew you closely. You were not only my friend but my brother. Your constant encouragement and sometimes insistence have been very helpful in a lot of decisions one took. Even in the most difficult moment, you were always there to share ideas. You always came from very unpopular perspectives, disagreeing with conventional wisdom. Your can-do spirit was infectious! You would prove book makers wrong, even with your “Mergers and Acquisition” mindset.
“I remember taking you up about 15 years ago quoting a research-based position that over 70% of mergers and acquisition destroy shareholder value. Your response was that Access Bank was in the 30% 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 have the courage 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. I’m still trying to make sense of the whole situation. I wish someone would wake me up and reassure me that this was a bad dream! But alas it is real.
“Good night my own brother Herbert!
“Good night, Chizoba!
“Good night, Chizzy!
“It is well with your souls.”
The U.S National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) had confirmed that the helicopter crash occurred on Friday night in a remote part of the Mojave desert along the California-Nevade border.
President Bola Tinubu described Wigwe’s as an “overwhelming tragedy”.
“I am shocked and deeply distressed by the news of the passing of Mr Herbert Wigwe, a distinguished banker, humanitarian, and entrepreneur, and Mr Abimbola Ogunbanjo, the former group chairman of the Nigerian Exchange Group … along with members of the Wigwe family – Herbert’s wife, [Doreen] Chizoba, and son, Chizi,” Tinubu said in a statement.
“Their passing is an overwhelming tragedy that is shocking beyond comprehension. I extend my condolences to the Wigwe and Ogunbanjo families, the business community, and all those impacted by this harrowing incident.”
Wigwe and others on the illfated helicopter were said to be on their way to the Super Bowls in Las Vegas, United States, when incident took place.
In its condolence message, America’s National Basketball Association (NBA) tweeted “The NBA family mourns the loss of NBA Africa investor Herbert Wigwe who tragically died in a helicopter crash on Friday. We send our heartfelt condolences to his friends and loved ones during this difficult time.”
Culled: The Whistler.com