Unlike his billionaire peers, Herbert never shied from lending a helping hand, especially when you make no such request of him.

…degree of lyricism could dull the insolent blows of Herbert Wigwe’s untimely death.

News of his passing resonates, like a deadly jolt to the psyche, splattering the subconscious with mortal residue. Even now, it filters through a mesh of memories, mauling the joys that I have known by his acquaintance.

Mourning Herbert disrupts the balance of everything. And that is quite understandable. Alive, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Access Holdings, lived to full measure, burnishing the fortunes and hopes of every acquaintance, like an iridescent star.

Since I was introduced to him by my big brother, Prince Dapo Abiodun, the executive Governor of Ogun state about 10 years ago, at the private home of the Chagourys in Victoria Island, Lagos, we have gone on to enjoy a treasurable bond with each other.


The night I met Herbert was indeed a great night, epochal for its inestimable gifts of prospects and camaraderie. Governor Abiodun, who had always taken me around to meet his associates and friends in high places, also introduced me to Ronald Chagoury over dinner that night.

Yet it was my encounter with Herbert that left an indelible mark on my psyche. Herbert went on to become a good friend and brother to me.

Unlike his billionaire peers, Herbert never shied from lending a helping hand, especially when you make no such request of him. He’d always say during his lifetime: “Lanre, ask, and it shall be given unto you.” Herbert always persistently urged me to seek his support through every personal or business initiative irrespective of the scope.

“This is why we became friends. This is why the universe cast us together in the same orbit. We must always help each other out. This life is not a race. We aren’t competing. We are brothers. Brothers must always have each other’s back. I got you bro,” he once told me, and those words stay permanently etched in my psyche.

They highlight the defining tenor of our friendship. Many have said a lot about him – extolling his magnanimous spirit and generosity – but as someone who was very close to him, I was privileged with a deeper knowledge of his extraordinary depth and humaneness.

I recall vividly, that, many years ago, he told me that, “If you want to play the game, it is important to know all the players. This knowledge prepares you ahead and helps you to navigate through and manage every conflict that may arise.” Such was his profound depth – which clearly distinguished him as a corporate titan and socioeconomic player of note.

Herbert and I shared many sobriquets by which we hailed ourselves. The sobriquets intersperse with some of the memorable moments we shared as friends. We had special names by which we addressed ourselves through good and trying times.

These names bore meaningful endearment and they were strictly shared between us. Such was the depth of our bond.

There is no gainsaying that I am one of the thousands who drew inspiration from his life. I paid attention to his words and actions, which sometimes served as life lessons despite the nature of our relationship.

There is a lot to learn from his approach to life. Herbert was persistently reflective and critical of the ceaseless pursuit of worldly desires and ambitions. His pursuits and relationship with diverse human segments underscored the vanity of the often-misguided nature of mortal aspirations and the inevitable disillusionment that follows.

Being an accomplished magnate, he understood too well, the pitfalls of unbridled ambition, and tirelessly emphasised the importance of inner virtues and wisdom.

Herbert’s humanity and exploits, while alive, burnish a contemplative examination of the human condition, urging all and sundry to seek contentment and meaning beyond the ephemeral trappings of success and wealth.

His life, fragrant with humility, evoke rousing prospects in retrospect. His tragic demise inspires the mournful tribute of lingering sighs. But I am very much assured that Herbert has transited to a better place, where virtuous souls recline in the radiant bliss of enduring recompense.

Just a few weeks ago, I reached out to him over the demise of his trusted staff who was my good friend, Abdul Imoyo, and was truly heartbroken. Nobody knew that it would be his turn soon.

It was heartbreaking to digest news of his ill-fated end while he travelled to attend the American Super Bowl with his beloved wife Chizoba and their son, Chizi

If it is indeed true that your life flashes before your eyes just before you die, Herbert probably saw a panorama of his life well-lived, but brutally cut short in the Nevada-California skies.

Indeed, nobody dreams of making a fine corpse. Not even Herbert. In his final moments, the billionaire banker and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Access Holdings Plc probably cut an anxious image of life at its ebb. Like the shriveled carnation amid a bouquet of flowers, Herbert expired in a helicopter crash en route Las Vegas, United States (US).

The news hit me like a hurricane, ripping through and devastating everything on its path. Nobody knows the final thoughts that hurtled through his mind. Was it horror or regret over his untimely death alongside his beloved family?

As friends, family and business associates mourn his untimely death, the American sports authorities were getting set to host the event to the delight of an international audience. So sad! Better truth! Yes!

This clearly establishes the sad fact that no matter how highly placed or well-heeled a person is, at his death, life goes on.

There is no gainsaying Herbert’s death triggers certain existential notions of life and death. More profound are the lessons and questions inherent in his passing: What is the true measure of a man? Is it the amount of money he has? The possessions he owns and the power he holds? Is it the professional success he’s achieved over the years?

What would he miss most on the other side? Could it be his surviving children, his Access Holdings fortune or swanky mansion on Queens Drive, Ikoyi or his much-talked about university, Wigwe University ?

What becomes of the stunning mansion recently completed by the late billionaire? Would Herbert rest easy knowing that his new home, estimated at billions of naira, may be pawned off to the next enthusiastic buyer? Just May be! Would he want his surviving children to take possession of it and his fortunes at Access Holdings?

There is no gainsaying his newly-completed mansion has everything that any luxury enthusiast could dream of. Its stunning views of the Lagoon, magical interiors and exteriors are luxuries forever inaccessible to my dear friend and brother.

But I’d insist that Herbert splurged on the swanky palace not to assert of his vanity but to provide a perfect royal retreat for his beloved family and friends of the family. Every architectural detail buttresses the argument that Herbert was thinking of subsequent generations of the Wigwe clan while he put up the edifice.

Sadly, he would not live in it. And this is yet another lesson in the vanity of life and mortal acquisitions. Even in death, Herbert teaches us never to place too much value on material wealth. His actual value surpasses his most prized possessions.

The true measure of a man, like Herbert, is discernible in how much love he gave while alive; how selflessly he shared and committed his endowments to helping others; how consistently he lifted up those around him with a kind word, a funny joke, a compliment, a humble ear or the very shoes off his feet.

By this measure, Herbert was immeasurable. He was the most sincerely altruistic person I have ever known with no attachment to material things even though he had unrestricted access to the world’s best luxuries.

There was no limit to how much Herbert gave of himself. All you had to do was mention your needs and he would instantly offer you the best assistance he could muster.

In death, it is incredible to see just how boundless his reach had been while he was alive. Herbert left an impact on every person he met, even strangers – who didn’t stay strangers very long because he was just so damn friendly. The love he spread on this Earth continues to grow and will live on, and that is the ultimate measure of any human being.

To the Wigwes, I extend my deepest sympathy and gratitude for sharing this extraordinary man with us.

So long, Herbert! Safe be the journey

Do Legends Die Before Their Time? A Tribute to Herbert Wigwe | By Dr. Lanre Alfred first published by The Capital

*Dr. Lanre Alfred is a revered Nigerian cerebral journalist/writer based in Lagos, Nigeria