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Wigwe: Did His Pastor Mourn Long Enough?

Wigwe: Did His Pastor Mourn Long Enough? %Post Title










I have never met Herbert Wigwe, the late Group Chief Executive Officer of Access HoldingsPlc. His name was not heard until now. As a writer, I pen scanty about happenings in the banking sector, a titanic terrain that was Herbert’s career kingdom in Nigeria. 

Shortly after I left Nigeria for the United States of America 36 years ago, I heard about Herbert’s dad, Papa Shyngle Wigwe, when he was a top brass at the NTA. 

I recall that Papa Wigwe and his wife once suffered a tragedy when Herbert’s older brother died in an automobile accident alongside a lady who was considered his wife. Both were killed in the crash.

Immediately I heard that the chopper in which Herbert was traveling went down in California on his way to Las Vegas, killing all onboard, including his wife and oldest son, a few weeks ago, it was heart wrenching for me. I commiserate with the Wigwes, especially for the octogenarian Wigwe and his wife in these trying times. May God comfort them.

Herbert was not just a faithful husband, a caring dad, a savvy banker, and an admirable community leader. He was also a loyal member of his church, and a diligent minister of the gospel in his local assembly. In the aftermath of the California air tragedy, I picked up a video where the pastor of the church effusively showered encomiums on the late CEO, enumerating his dedication to the cause and vision of the church. 

From the recorded account of the pastor, we were told that Herbert used his goodwill and resources towards the growth of the church and the advancement of God’s work. His humongous and vast wealth put him in a comfy position to be one of the biggest givers of gold. The church’s new worship edifice is one of the best in all of Africa. 

The 14-storey architectural masterpiece was built at a cost of over N12 billion with unique features such as a 4,500-capacity auditorium, a multi-storey car park holding 673 cars, rooftop terrace, and a helipad. As the Chairman of the Building Committee, Herbert went an extra mile and beyond the call of duty to ensure a fruition of the dream. He pulled his many strings as CEO of his Access Bank to facilitate a hefty loan to pull the project to completion.

“Herbert went as far as paying for two office spaces for Access Bank at the church building and he paid a 5-year rent for the two office spaces. This was done when the project was still a greenfield project, and that is remarkable”; a report from the church said. 

Just before he died, the church was stuck servicing the Access Bank loan. In his usual generous steps, Herbert stepped up again with a bail-out of N1 billion interest-free loan. The testaments expressed here are probably a drop-in-the-bucket regarding the stretch of largesse and generosity Herbert extended toward the pastor and the church. 

Does a man such as this not deserve to be properly honored after his death? A team led by the General Overseer of the mother-church visited the parents. Members of the local assembly in Lagos extensively offered succor and comfort to the grieving family. The church must have done its best. 

However, in hushed voices, many people are expressing that an event that took place in the church that Herbert served for years was disgusting and disparagingly dishonoring to the Wigwes, and to the nuclear family of Herbert. What was the event?

Last weekend in Lagos, just a few weeks after Herbert, his wife, and son were tragically killed, the pastor’s wife threw a loud and lavish party marking her 60th birthday. The party, we heard, was no holds-barred! The bash was attended by eminent dignitaries from across Nigeria. They all wined and dined feverishly with the pastor and his celebrating wife at the center of it all. What was wrong celebrating a landmark birthday? Not one thing. 

But what the people are saying is that those who should still be in a mourning mode; those who brand themselves friends of the dead, and those who were seen hobnobbing with the Herbert’s family when he was alive and in an influential position to extend financial favors; took to the dance floor throwing down without a hinder as if tragedy had not just struck a friend. 

That is the grouse of many including those who are close to the pastors, but who can’t tell them to their face that they erred. Was it appropriate for the church to throw a loud and lavish party celebrating its pastor’s wife just two weeks after the tragic death of a pillar member who almost single-handedly built the same church? 

I was told that the Pastor and his wife are good-hearted servants of God. But did they step out too early into a celebratory mode while the Wigwes mourn? Shouldn’t they have waited until the lifeless remains of a man they called a friend are interred? The work of a pastor requires a lot of wisdom. It is this endowment that helps anyone strike a balance with delicate decisions. 

Yes, the dead are gone, but what about the living who are watching how the dead who were once alive were treated after their passing? Will honoring the deserving dead not have been an encouragement to the serving living? Shouldn’t the pastor have waited at least thirty days as prescribed in the Bible to end mourning? How will those outside the church judge this move? 

Will they not think that members who help with God’s work are considered just mere discardable and ordinary numbers we throw away when their days on earth have been numbered?  Did the church bear “one another’s burdens” enough according to the admonishment of Apostle Paul in Galatians 6:2?  If honor will not be accorded whom honor is due like Apostle Paul admonished, where else must it happen if not in the CHURCH OF THE LIVING GOD? These are the questions going on in the hearts and minds of many at this time.

I don’t pray to be in the shoes of these pastors. But when, in life, you hit the fork of the road, you take it guided by wisdom.  I am certain that a lot of preparation would have been put into the pastor’s wife’s celebration. Non-refundable expenses would have been incurred. Guests from around the world must have made travel arrangements that weren’t easily changeable. 

But did the pastors mourn enough the death of their friends? It’s true that I was not in this pastor’s shoes, but it wouldn’t have taken me much haggling in my spirit to determine what to do. For me, true friendship isn’t about being there only when it’s convenient, it’s about being there when it’s not. Through what they are willing to sacrifice for you; It is during heavy trials that you know true friends.

What would I have done if I were in the pastor’s shoes? If HERBERT ONYEWUMBU WIGWE and his wife were my true friends and not just a tool used in retooling life and ministry, I would have rescheduled the event for another day; or run it completely low-key on schedule just to honor our friendship and honor the dead who went an extra mile for my life assignment.

Twitter: @FolaOjotweet

 . Dr. Fola Ojo is a US-based journalist and pastor.

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