Business

March 5, 2024

We became GTB EDs same day, but Wigwe wanted his own bank –- Segun Agbaje

Encounter with Herbert Onyewunbu Wigwe (1966-2024)


Group Chief Executive Officer (GCEO) of Guaranty Trust Holding Company Plc, Segun Agbaje said he and Herbert Wigwe, the late businessman, became Executive Directors of the bank the same day, but Wigwe was determined to own his own bank.

Agbaje disclosed this while eulogising Wigwe during a tribute by professionals and colleagues in Lagos on Monday.

Read also: 10 remarkable things associates, business leaders said of Herbert Wigwe at his funeral

According to him, Wigwe had bigger dreams than the banking sector.

The GTHC group chief described the late businessman as a brother, a competitor, and a friend.

Agbaje recalled how they were both colleagues at Guaranty Trust Bank (GTB) while climbing the corporate ladder, noting that Wigwe distinguished himself from others with his drive and banking skills.

He said, “I met Herbert November 1991. We were both in the corporate bank. This gentleman walked in, didn’t take off his jacket because we all had our jackets on. Well, that was Herbert, he was going to do it his own way.

“He drove a red golf. Who drives a red golf? Only a man who’s that brazen drives around in a red golf.

“Very quickly, Herbert earned our respect. Herbert was one of the cleverest people at Guarantee Trust Bank. He was a credit analyst’s analyst.

“But that’s not what got him his respect because we were all good analysts. But Herbert had what we all didn’t have — he had the power to chase accounts, network and deliver things that we all couldn’t.”

Speaking about Wigwe’s courage, Agbaje said he had his first flat in Victoria Island, an upmarket area in Lagos, when most of his counterparts could not move out of their family homes.

He said, “Maybe it was coincidence but most people might not know Herbert’s first flat was next door to the old Access Bank head office next to Intercontinental. Maybe it was providence and he knew he would one day buy that bank.”

The banker also said he and his former colleague got promoted in GTB the same day, but noted that Wigwe left to pursue his dreams.

Agbaje said, “Herbert was always there for you as a friend, always had a listening ear and so he became my friend and we rose, him and I became executive directors on the same day.

“The thing about that position is, you were then sent to Harvard for three months. Mistake. You never came back from that course the same person. Aig and Herbert came back and they had bigger dreams than the bank and so they bought their own bank.

“Thankfully one of us stayed, maybe the cowardly one. And so I stayed behind and in the years when they built Access Bank, if you know us well, we’d compete and so we became very fierce competitors. We fought furiously but never poorly or never badly.”

Agbaje said the last conversation he had with Wigwe, two weeks before he died, was centred on the university he was building. Agbaje said the university was Wigwe’s obsession.

The CEO said, “I have but one little comfort by the way, when I think of Herbert. It is that Herbert packed into 57 years what most exceptional people will never pack into two lifetimes.”

Wigwe, alongside his wife, son, and Abimbola Ogunbanjo, the former group chairman of the Nigerian Exchange Group Plc (NGX Group), were involved in a helicopter crash in the United States on February 10, 2024.

All six passengers onboard the Eurocopter EC130 died.

Until his demise, Wigwe was the GCEO of Access Holdings Plc and founder of Wigwe University.

During the night of tributes, Aliko Dangote, Nigeria’s wealthiest man and founder of Dangote Group, announced that he named the road leading to his oil refinery after Herbert Wigwe, as a way to immortalise the late businessman.