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How Wigwe’s death rattled his Rivers hometown

The mood at the Omueke community in Ikwerre LGA of Rivers State where the late CEO of Access Holding, and founder of Wigwe University, Dr…

The mood at the Omueke community in Ikwerre LGA of Rivers State where the late CEO of Access Holding, and founder of Wigwe University, Dr Herbert Wigwe, came from was pensive, full of apprehension, grief and agony. Omueke, one of the 10 communities that make up Isiokpo, has maintained a silence of the graveyard since the news of the prominent entrepreneur’s death broke out.

It was Saturday, last week that the rumour of his death started trickling and by late Sunday when it dawned on them that their most cherished son was no more, the entire community was rattled.

On Tuesday, February 13,  residents of the community wore gloomy faces as many were yet to come to terms with the circumstances surrounding the death of their son.

At the Wigwe University, located at Isiokpo, where the business mogul had invested billions of naira, work was still ongoing but not at the normal pace, as the workers at the site were still rattled by what would have led to the death of the founder of the university.

At the palace of the paramount ruler of Isiokpo community, King Blessing A. N. Wagor, the Nye-Nwe-Ali of Isiokpo, the mood was that of pain and agony.

The traditional ruler told our reporter that he was yet to come to terms with the death of their son.

He described Dr Herbert Wigwe as an illustrious son of the community who always put smiles on the faces of his people.

He said the late founder of Wigwe University was a philanthropist who always put smiles on the faces of people who came across him.

“As you can see, I’m still in shock. We are in mourning mood; we have lost an illustrious son who would always put smiles on the faces of our people. Every December he comes to the community with trailer loads of rice, rams, goats and cows which he distributes to every member of the community.

“During the last Christmas nobody in this community bought rice because Herbert came with trailer loads of rice which he distributed to every member of the community.

“Our mourning period starts tomorrow (Wednesday) and it will last for eight days. On Wednesday, every member of this community will gather here on a procession to mourn our son,” the sober-looking traditional ruler told our reporter at his palace on Tuesday.

A press statement signed by King Blessing A. N. Wagor, the Wagidi XL, Nye Nwe Ali, Isiokpo Ancient Kingdom “Directed eight days of mourning for our illustrious son whose tragic death occurred along with his wife and son in the United States of America on Friday night.

“The 8-day mourning period, according to the statement, begins on Wednesday 14 to Wednesday 21 February 2024. All shops in the area are to be closed from 8am – 4pm during the period of mourning,” the statement added.

Pastor Nduka Nsirim, a nephew to Dr Herbert Wigwe, said the death was a devastating shock to them.

“The death of Herbert, who happens to be my nephew, came to us with a rude shock. Dr Herbert was a very big asset to our community. Most of us heard about his death on social media.”

He said the late Wigwe was a generous person who loved his community.

“During the Christmas period, nobody in this community buys rice because he will bring in trailer loads and everybody in the community will have a fair share of it. He did not discriminate in the distribution of the rice and other food items.

“There are about 10 communities that make up Isiokpo. The Omueke have a population of about 15,000 people.

“There were several other things he had done for us. He employed many of our youths, gave scholarships to many, and gave business contacts to countless number of us. In fact, he recently procured some parcels of land where he wanted to build a specialist hospital for the elderly.

“The hospital project was about to start before death came calling. His death is a very big blow to us and it will be very difficult to find his replacement in this community,” he said.

The Chairman of Ikwerre Local Government Area, Dr Samuel Nwanosike, said the death of Herbert was heart-rending.

He said the deceased was an illustrious son of Isiokpo whose legacies would be very difficult to replicate.

“He has already planted the seed that will live forever in our minds and in the society,” Nwanosike stated in his verified tweeter account.

Ijenwa Awaji, a Time Keeper with Lubrik, a construction company handling Wigwe University, said, the deceased was a good man who always visited the site to monitor the progress of work.

“We really feel bad about his death. When we heard it on social media we thought it was one of those rumours on social media until it was confirmed. The man was very nice he was at the site last two weeks to inspect the project. He was beaming with smiles waving to the site workers who came out to see him.

“He encouraged us to work hard and ensure that the work was delivered in record time. I did not know that would be the last time I would set my eyes on him. He was a nice man and we will surely miss him. When the news of his death was confirmed on Sunday the site manager directed everybody to go home,” she said.

Mr Innocent Chikwem, a native of Isiokpo, said Dr Wigwe opened many branches of Access Bank in many Ikwerre-speaking communities of Rivers State.

“He opened up economic activities in Isiokpo and other Ikwerre-speaking areas of Rivers State. If you go round, you will find so many branches of Access Bank in the rural communities of Ikwerre and other local government areas of Rivers State.

“All the bank branches opened up business and economic activities in Ikwerre-speaking communities in the state.

“Dr Wigwe was a very simple man and did not discriminate despite his social status. He treats everybody that comes his way with dignity no matter your social status,” he said.

Rivers State Governor Siminalayi Fubara also expressed shock and sadness over the news of the death of Dr Herbert Wigwe, his wife, Chizoba, son and others in a helicopter crash.

The governor said there are no words to convey how terrible the losses were and that the state, indeed Nigeria, will miss “an unassuming, iconic and accomplished illustrious son of Isiokpo in Ikwerre Local Government Area of Rivers State.”

The governor also said the prestigious Wigwe University which he pioneered must not be allowed to die.

Dr Herbert Wigwe rose to become one of the most outstanding African financial sector leaders and global figures who superintended over the impressive growth of the Access Bank Group and also established the Wigwe University in Isiokpo, the headquarters of Ikwerre Local Government Area.


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