Celebrations are all about making memories
What better way to celebrate a Visionary Leader
Than to capture memories in words and make them evergreen.
Years ago, I witnessed a moment that changed me,
And engraved a valuable lesson in my heart.
It was on a trip with the celebrant:
We came upon a fatal accident scene.
The typical human reaction would be to sympathise with the victims.
Some people would have put on a stoic act,
But my Mentor and Leader cried.
Beyond the silent tears he shed for a dead stranger,
I saw compassion in its regalia,
Something we often overlook in a leader.
We believe leaders should be strong, firm, and ruthless,
Showing little to zero emotions.
In Dalai Lama’s words,
“Compassion and tolerance are not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength.”
And no truer words can be said about the man of the moment,
Dr. Herbert Onyewumbu Wigwe:
A strong leader dedicated to excellence with a compassionate heart,
The perfect blend of leadership traits.
From his humble beginnings at Coopers and Lybrand,
To his current position as the CEO of Access Corporation,
Herbert Wigwe is the blueprint for CEOs.
And I say this without an iota of doubt,
Because working as his Chief of Staff exposed me to his unique leadership,
And a whole new world.
Where the 1% of 1% interacted.
An intimidating world,
But Herbert was there, guiding me through it.
He never for once, belittled or made me feel incompetent.
He taught me to raise the bar and stretch myself beyond limits,
Such that if I don’t reach the goal, my fingers would at least graze it.
According to John C. Maxwell,
“While a good leader sustains momentum, a great leader increases it.”
Herbert, together with his long-time dear friend and partner,
Aigboje Aig-Imoukhede built the momentum
That has grown to become The Access Corporation.
Together, they sustained it,
And now, our tenacious leader, loyal to the vision,
Continues to increase the momentum.
After succeeding his partner as the MD and CEO of Access Bank,
He turned the bank’s fortune around by acquiring the now-defunct Diamond Bank,
In what was regarded as one of the biggest takeovers in the Nigerian banking industry,
Now, the bank has expanded to even more regions in Africa
From Cameroon to Zambia, Kenya, South Africa and beyond,
Even as far as China,
Further strengthening the foothold of Access Bank,
And reinforcing its status as the world’s most respected African bank.
And like the astute leader he is,
He is making even greater moves with Access Holdings.
His latest move has got the industry talking,
With the acquisition of Standard Chartered’s shareholding in its subsidiaries,
In Angola, Cameroon, The Gambia, and Sierra Leone,
As well as its consumer, private, and business banking business in Tanzania,
Access Holdings is taking over the African market.
And Herbert’s moves are still unfolding.
The Access Corporation,
In just one year under his firm, yet compassionate leadership,
Has acquired two pension companies, Sigma Pension and First Guarantee Pension.
This acquisition has boosted Access Pensions’ ranking
As the third-largest pension company in terms of asset value.
That’s not all!
Herbert has further shut those who doubted his competence as
Earlier this year, The Access Corporation also signed,
A $300 million intra-African trade facility with African Export-Import Bank in Cairo, Egypt.
The conquest is just beginning…
Two decades ago, no one would have imagined
A struggling Access Bank expanding to a global city like Paris.
Today, Herbert Wigwe has led the humans of Access in creating a dynasty
And has proven that he is no pushover.
In the African and global finance industries,
Reaffirming the most valuable lesson he instilled in us- ‘Impossibility is a Farce’.
To call him a miracle-working banker wouldn’t be an understatement,
But an apt description of the highly cerebral Herbert Wigwe.
Classroom teachings would pale in comparison,
If he were to compile his knowledge on policy making, finance, risk management, and economics.
He has seen it all,
From swimming against the tides of the most turbulent storms to standing on his feet, unwavering
From transforming Access Bank into Access Holdings,
Herbert has transcended the level of proving naysayers wrong,
And achieved more than enough to have his name written in gold.
In his words, “If you want to fly, you have to give up the negativity that weighs you down!
Give wings to the greatness within you.”
Herbert’s impeccable work ethics and goal-getter mindset has sprung the wings of greatness,
Not only for Access Corporation,
But in everyone who is blessed to work with or cross paths with him.
He might not remember this, but in 2012,
I was selected as one of the candidates for the role of Country Head of Risk Management, Access Bank Ghana.
The meticulous final selection process included an interview.
During this time, Herbert was very assuring and supportive,
He told me that I was more than capable to take on such a crucial role.
In the face of the challenges that accompanied my then new role, Herbert remained a constant and unwavering presence. His unwavering support served as a testament to his dedication to standing by individuals who uphold integrity. As you navigate your own career path, I wish you a ‘Herbert’ – someone who will always be there for you when you are fighting for a just cause.
Herbert makes better men out of men.
I know these words may make it seem like he is a super-human,
But he is only human, like you and I,
A human who knows how to hold on to God and draw strength from Him.
Since I knew Herbert,
He has never faltered in the face of challenges.
His unwavering belief in God’s sovereign ability
To see him through the murkiest of waters is reflected in his distinctive multitasking ability.
Few great men have been able to maintain the perfect work-life balance,
But I have seen Herbert do this effortlessly.
When he is in a work mode, you would almost imagine he is married to work.
And in family mode, he is just as dedicated.
I learnt that love is truly a verb and not just a word from Herbert.
In his relations with his wife,
In how he nurtures his children,
In how he asks after my family,
Family and relationships are dearest to him.
Loyalty and hard work, he recognises and rewards.
Frivolities and indolence, he detests.
Herbert Wigwe is a true paragon of leadership –
In the workspace,
In the family,
In the society and,
In loving God.
Of course, the accounting graduate from the University of Nigeria plays as hard as he works.
His love for arts reflects in his enthralling and beautiful art collection.
His elegant sense of style is enviable.
His achievements have commanded attention from every nook of the world.
It’s no easy feat to receive the award for Banker of the Decade
After winning Banker of the Year for two consecutive years.
And the latest feather in his hat,
The award of the Commander of the Order of the Federal Republic- CFR,
Is a testament of his impactful contributions to Nigeria, and the continent at large.
From his role as President of the private sector COVID intervention
To the ongoing partnership of the Herbert Onyewumbu Wigwe (HOW) Foundation with UNICEF,
And the recent approval of the license for Wigwe University,
Herbert has found value-packed ways to give back to the society
Not only with his foundation but through Access Holdings.
At its recent Polo Day celebration, held at the prestigious Guards Polo Club in Windsor, UK, oh
The group announced its plans to construct 100 classroom blocks across Nigeria.
An initiative that will give underprivileged students access to quality education.
Through Access Bank Plc, Access Holding has made impact,
On over 12,000 students in Kaduna through school renovations,
And their surrounding communities.
All under the leadership of one man.
If anyone deserves to be celebrated, it is Herbert Wigwe.
On this special occasion of his 57th birthday,
I join the world in celebrating him.
I wish you a most memorable new year and,
I pray that you witness many more in the best state–
Mentally, physically, and emotionally
In giant strides of greatness
In the company of loyal allies and men who are just as committed as you.
In pure happiness and fulfilment
In ease and tranquillity
In successes and milestones
Never before seen or achieved.
May your days on earth be more impactful.
May you receive the love and support you give out in manifold.
May you always find solace and succour in your family and loved ones.
May you only experience gains.
May the Lord continue to guide over your home and affairs.
May your name remain imprinted in the sands of time and archive of history,
Never to be forgotten,
An enduring reference of greatness.
Cheers to 57 years of Uncommon Leadership and Inspiration
Happy Birthday, Sir!