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Wigwe Numbered His Days

The Holy Book in Psalm 90:12 teaches us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom. While some of the wise among us do so in realisation of the brevity of our life, others are carried away by the vanities of our earthly existence. One of the popular tweets by the late Chief Executive Officer of Access Holdings, Herbert Wigwe, was a reflection on that Biblical verse. Twenty-one days before his death, he had asked his followers on X, formerly Twitter, to always remember that life is a precious gift – a chance to breathe, feel, love, experience and connect. “Let’s honour this gift by living with purpose, kindness, and gratitude, making every moment count. Let us number our days.”

A man of humongous wealth and enormous intellect, Wigwe numbered his days and lived each one as if it was the last. Sit- ting atop one of Nigeria’s financial conglomerates, the man who was 58, had huge dreams and lived it. So, when the Airbus EC130 helicopter he was travelling in crashed close to the California-Nevada border that Friday, 9th February 2024, killing Wigwe, his wife Doreen, their son Chizi Wigwe, it brought again to the fore, the vanity of all things. It was a colossal loss to the family, friends and his business associates.

It was a tragedy to the nation and to the many groups he belonged to. It was one tragedy that many found difficult to come to terms with. Death brings finality to all things. It leaves the physical body lifeless, and only the dreams have a chance to continue. For the living, life must continue. We all find ways to put such tragedies, no matter how numbing, behind us. It is so in life, more so in business environments. Many people shuddered when in its first reaction to the tragedy, Access Holdings Plc talked about a replacement for the helms- man. Life abhors a vacuum; businesses detest them the more. And truly, less than three days later it officially named Ms. Bolaji Agbede as the Acting Group Chief Executive Officer.

The company’s Board of Directors conveyed the appointment in a statement dated February 12, 2024, highlighting that the appointment signifies a crucial step in maintaining stability and ensuring seam- less operations within Access Holdings Plc during this challenging period. Wigwe lived a life with a vision driven by the passion to give back to the society. In 2016 when he set up the Herbert Onyewumbu Wigwe (HOW) Foundation, a non-profit organisation, he envisioned it as a special purpose vehicle to execute his numerous philanthropic activities. With a focus on education, youth empowerment through leadership and mentorship; and health, the Foundation has impacted many across the country. Then the big one, Wigwe University.

Wigwe University, founded by the late mogul is among the 37 institutions approved and issued licenses by the National Universities Commission (NUC) in June 9, 2023. A long- term dream of the founder, it is the second private university in Rivers State but is expected to be the best in the country when fully completed. After years of conception and hard work, WU, as it is known, is expected to admit students and commence lectures in September this year. Located in Wigwe’s hometown, Isiokpo, in Ikwerre LGA of Rivers State, 10 minutes’ drive from Port Harcourt International Airport, the university occupies about a 300-hectare land space in the sub-urban community. It is founded on a solid dream of making it one of the best in Africa to rival the likes of Oxford, Cambridge and Harvard. Talk of being fearless, that was Herbert Wigwe.

He conceived WU as a university to offer courses in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Management (STEAM), it will raise leaders and entrepreneurs who will lead their various fields with emphasis on job creation and enterprise. The university which will attract leaders in Nigeria’s business, political and financial sectors to its faculties as guest lecturers, will lead the push for individual enterprise. Herbert Wigwe loved Nigeria so passionately because the country gave so much to him, and it was the desire to give back to the society that motivated him to establish the university. It is a dream that many have said should not die with him.

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