thing that may be more mournful than the death of Herbert Wigwe, in my own opinion, is missing the significance of his life and death, especially among his so-called billionaire friends and billionaire business partners, colleagues, among others. That was what rummaged through my head as I sat at one of the funeral events at Eko Hotel, marking the final journey of Herbert, the man who inexplicably stood strong as a pillar of support to many structures- literally and figuratively.

The hall was drenched with eulogies and panegyrics as stentorian voices boomed across the room with a flood of dirges. As these went on, Herbert laid still on his back, somewhere.  Unable to utter a word to anyone in the same world he once controlled with his mere fingers.

World leaders namely Presidents Bola Tinubu, Emmanuel Macron of France, former United States Bill Clinton, South Africa’s Cyril Ramaphosa, Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote, serving and former governors, ministers, and practically all controllers of the nation’s economy paid shining tributes to a man who drove a relatively unknown Access Bank to become the largest bank in Nigeria by asset and the largest in Africa by customer base following a merger with Diamond Bank, less than five years ago in April 2019.

How Herbert was present in so many lives and situations on different continents of the world remains indecipherable.

Herbert was not an uncommon species; the type nature drops on you once in a century.

In all the tributes I heard that night and the tons of others I have read, no one has been able to explain who Herbert truly was or how he managed to do all that he did. Even Tochi, his eldest surviving child, could not hazard a clue to it. She admitted, in her tribute, that she did not fully realise the daughter of who she was until his death.

The only person who gave what I considered the most brilliant explanation was Aigboje Aig-Imokhuede, Herbert’s living doppelganger and closest professional and business partner.

He described Herbert as a man on a mission who probably knew there was not much time on his side. That goes to say that Herbert’s unprecedented achievements, his rocketing rise in banking, and his larger-than-life impacts on people’s lives were simply super terrestrial.

I looked around the large Eko Hotel hall where prominent members of our society’s upper crust gathered with tearful eyes and asked silently if any of them had given a thought to what the world would think or say about them when the final, inescapable bell tolls.

Millions of Nigerians knew little about who Herbert was and how huge his impacts were, not only in Nigeria until his tragic end, via a helicopter crash alongside his more-than-a-woman wife, Doreen Chizoba, and his young, promising son, Chizy.

Perhaps more confounding is the fact that his wife, Chizoba, was no less a successful human institution.  On her terms. She was not your regular wife of a successful man who made a career of shopping around major cities, pursuing vanities and inanities.

Though she wore the physiognomy of a woman, beautiful by every standard of definition, inside her was a masculine engine.

She founded Craneburg Construction Company, building highways, airports, bridges, and toll plazas across Nigeria. She was also into real estate and hospitality. Despite what you can call her privileged background, she worked so hard on returning to Nigeria after her overseas studies and became a mega success in every business she ventured into.

Notwithstanding her monumental success, Chizoba could be described as a model wife and mother. She provided all the support her husband needed to succeed and gave the love and care any child could ever require for a beautiful life. That is for all to see in Tochi, her well-educated daughter, David, and Hannah.

Also in that ill-fated flight was Chizzy Wigwe, another rising star who had started creating a sensation as an Investment Professional at Africa Finance Corporation. Only God knows what that young man would have been in another five to 10 years.

Beyond banking, Herbert was a humanist of an unusual category. Despite running the affairs of one of the biggest and most successful organisations in Africa, Herbert had time to attend to little matters and those you would classify as less successful.

Unfortunately, this cannot be said of several others, many of whom are far less rich in assets and accounts balance. Not even his subordinates and those acting big men who were privileged to have risen through his altruistic benevolence.

That brings to mind my encounter with Herbert a couple of years ago.

I was introduced to him by Dr. Alex Otti, another uncommon individual who was GMD/CEO of Diamond Bank.

Now the governor of Abia State, Otti’s governance and leadership style are putting him on a path that could make him the prayer point for residents of every state in the country in the foreseeable future.

Otti’s recently launched Geometric Integrated Power Project is unique as it is the only electricity project in Nigeria that is fully vertically integrated with embedded generation and distribution capabilities. It can supply power directly to its immediate community, prioritizing local needs and distributing surplus power to Nigeria’s national power grid. But, Otti’s is a story for another day as he is not the subject for today.

Back to my encounter with Herbert. Otti had asked me to brief Herbert on a certain lingering issue with the former Diamond Bank acquired by Access Bank. He confidently told me that Herbert would sort it out, adding that he had a listening ear.

From there on, we started talking and he gave me an appointment to see him in his Victoria Island office. At that meeting, he handed me over to one Abdul Imoyo, who headed the media relations of the bank.

Unfortunately, Imoyo could not pull through with the assignment before he died in January this year.

Herbert’s major quality was his readiness to be of service to different classes of humans. That is probably one of the reasons his death has sorely affected a very large spectrum of society, from different backgrounds and interests. It is on record that Herbert helped realize many dreams, raising young entrepreneurs across virtually all the regions of the country.

His death, therefore, could also mean an end to many of the dreams attached to his dynamic work style and humane disposition to all that came his way.

The only major consolation here is that Access Holdings, the parent company for Access Bank and other concerns cannot possibly suffer any setback by Herbert’s death.

The reason is that his Siamese brother, Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede born a month apart, the same year, from a different mother, has stepped back in. In any case, Aigboje, records show, laid the solid foundation for Access Bank when he was the Chief Executive between 2002 and 2013, after which Herbert took over. The bank, in the 11 years Herbert held sway, experienced a volcanic success.

Just a few days ago, Access Bank acquired the entire share capital of the National Bank of Kenya from KCB Bank Ltd, Kenya’s largest commercial bank.

Aigboje and Herbert over the years shared almost the same philosophies and thought processes that you would almost think they shared the same brains. Both have a way of looking far beyond what their contemporaries see.

For instance, the two extraordinary spirits had a preponderant belief that family assets and values should not die with their progenitors but endure in practical perpetuity.

For that purpose, Aigboje and Herbert founded an organization solely to build and protect wealth for its clients, to ensure that their legacies are protected and preserved from generation to generation.

One of the tools for achieving that generational wealth, according to them, is providing education and training for every generation of the family, to prepare them for making prudent leadership, financial, and lifestyle decisions.

Think of the several rich and famous names that now exist only in our memories.  So, for the Access Bank family, it’s only a change of hands, from a pilot to a co-pilot with the same navigational expertise, experience, goals, and aspirations.

I have no doubt the bank will even grow stronger for the simple reason that Aigboje, in trying to maintain his friend’s standard and speed may end up surpassing him. In all of this, I believe it would serve the memory of Herbert better if his friends and associates could emulate his life of service, realizing that death is a necessary end. No one, however highly placed, can determine how or where that end will come or when it will come.

For Herbert Onyewumbu Wigwe, it may be the end of an era but his legacy evidently will occupy a very large space in history beyond the next ten generations.

I only hope his death, for which “time stood still” as Aigboje succinctly, put it, will not lose its essence on us.