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Role Of Media In Promoting Peace, Unity

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Less than 10 months before the expiration of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, Nigeria’s political atmosphere is vexly charged and energetic. The country indeed, has witnessed an array of political activities, particularly in the emergence of presidential candidates of various political parties, and other political positions not setting aside the intrigues that greeted the choice of running mates for the presidential candidates. As political permutations, schemings and interests by political gladiators, party chieftains and stakeholders intensify, analysts believe that the role of the media in ensuring the unity and peace of the country during and after 2023 general election is paramount and should not be undermined.
They also believe that inflammatory statements, inter-party/ intra-party conflicts, and propaganda by party spokespersons and loyalists, if not properly handled by the media, could hamper  the peace and stability of the country. In the past, some elections in Nigeria have recorded violence and crises leading to cancellation of election results attributable to accusations of ballot paper snatching and election rigging with the resultant destruction of lives and properties. Elections in Nigeria are high-stakes; a case of parties or winner takes it all contests. As such, politicians exploit simmering ethnic, religious and regional spaces to gain political advantage, thereby heating up the polity.
Also, in view of all the underlining threats to democracy such as terrorism, banditry and kidnapping, experts suggest an interplay between the media in Nigeria and relevant stakeholders to fashion out communication models that would assist the media, to effectively report elections in a manner that would not stoke violence. Understandably, the critical role of the media as a watchdog of the society in reporting political processes and elections as well as offering their platforms to candidates and voters to discuss electioneering issues and agenda cannot be over emphasised.
Since elections and aftermath of elections in Nigeria are fraught with or prone to serious challenges and misgivings, the role of the media, be it electronic  or print, especially the social media, in handling inciting national issues, comments, news opinions and other prejudices calls for serious concern and consideration. Therefore, to ensure that the nation remains in peace and as a united entity during and after the 2023 election, the media is  expected to abide by its role as the watchdog of the society by reporting nothing but facts guided by ethics of journalism. It is expected to be fair to all political parties and party candidates and their supporters. Avoiding overheating the polity through unguarded comments, opinions, news and commentaries should be its guiding principle.
Realising this all-important role of the media, the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, harped on the need to step up the regulation of broadcast stations as the country approaches the 2023 elections. “Please note that as we move closer to the 2023 general elections, the Nigeria Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) will come under increasing pressure to step up its regulatory role,” he said. The minister was of the view that the clampdown on inciting messages and news would prevent a repeat of what he said transpired during and after the 2019 general elections. According to him, some television and radio stations threw caution to the wind and engaged in inciting, incendiary and unprofessional broadcasts during the said elections.
The minister noted that it was important for the NBC to ensure that broadcast stations adhered strictly to the tenets of the broadcasting code. The NBC then, under the supervision of the minister, handed out fines to some radio and television stations for contravening the country’s broadcasting code. Broadcast stations sanctioned by the NBC included Arise TV, Channels TV, AIT, and Nigeria Info. He noted that the media is often regarded as one of the pillars of democracy in any given society and that their operations cannot go without regulation or be allowed to undermine professional ethics.
Speaking on the importance of the media in the peaceful coexistence of a country, the Interim Dean of Faculty of Communication and Media Studies, University of Port Harcourt, Rev. Fr. Walter Ihejirika, said the mass media is indispensable for the social political integration and unity of Nigeria. The Professor of developmental communication and media studies said, “the media sets the agenda for social discourse. Without the media, it will be impossible for the different regions and groups that make up the nation to have a meaningful relationship. Social media especially can help to build bridges and also create social tensions.”
In the views of a political analyst, Maxwell Omereji, “the media must professionally occupy its position as a platform for protecting the fundamental human rights of citizens through the freedom of expression and dissemination of information. “The role of the media cannot be over emphasised as they are often in the forefront of agitations for electoral reforms, reporting irregularities and malpractices that characterise elections: but they must do that in an acceptable manner.”
Omereji expressed disappointment at some media houses whom he said instead of positively fulfilling their agenda setting roles, engage in hate campaigns, hate speeches and hate comments creating much animosity among people and politicians as well as inciting the people most times against the government. He however, cautioned that over censorship or any attempt by the government to gag the media either before, during and after the election, as has been seen in recent time, might not bring about the much needed peace, unity and tranquility in the country. He advised that  media institutions  should be allowed to carry on with their reportage unhindered as long as they do so responsibly and professionally.
Ironically, most of the hate campaigns as witnessed in the 2015 general elections ran contrary to Section 95 of the Electoral Act 2010 which stipulates that a political campaign or slogan shall not be tainted with abusive language directly or indirectly or likely injure religious, ethnic, tribal or sectional feelings. The Act also stipulates that abusive, intemperate, slanderous or base language, insinuations or innuendoes designed or likely to provoke violent reaction or emotions shall not be employed or used in political campaigns; and as such should not be transmitted by the media.
In conclusion, issues given priority on the front pages of national dailies as well as topical issues discussed in both public and privately -owned television and radio stations during and after elections could influence election results to the advantage or disadvantage of any candidate and political party. Undoubtedly, the mass media in Nigeria have come of age while the use of internet (technology) in electioneering campaigns has further widened political participation among millions of Nigerians especially the youths.
It is, therefore, imperative that both the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), the Nigerian Press Council (NPC) and Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON) should be more proactive in the censorship of political campaigns by politicians and their supporters.  These agencies should, as a matter of necessity, engage aspiring candidates, the political parties and the media through training and re-orientation on democratic values. Likewise, the leadership of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, the Nigerian Guild of Editors and other sister bodies should ensure that their members play by the rule, avoiding acts that will tarnish the image of the profession or heighten the tension in the country.
Additionally, the leadership of political parties should ensure that there is internal party discipline that will curb their excesses and that of their party members that sponsor hate campaigns in the media.

By: Calista Ezeaku

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Worsening Food Crisis In Nigeria

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Hunger is widespread and chronic in Nigeria, and its prevalence is one phenomenon that statistics cannot fully capture, not even the Global Hunger Index (GHI), does justice to it. Statistics deals with numbers, but hunger deals with humans. Relying on quantitative data alone to assess the state of hunger in Nigeria is the worst mistake anybody could make. Quantitative data and analysis only show patterns and spread of hunger without delving into the experiences of those affected and its influences on their existence in all ramifications. Therefore, as bad as the statistics are, they are still child’s play compared to the rich information from qualitative data chronicling the dehumanising  experience of many poor and hungry Nigerians. Combining quantitative and qualitative data paints a horrifying picture of Nigeria’s food crisis and hunger.Twenty five (25) million Nigerians were said by UNICEF to be at high risk of food insecurity in 2023, this was a projected increase from the estimated 17 million people who were at risk of food in 2022. Humanitarian organisations fear that more people may be affected.
Hunger is the major problem affecting the Nigerian masses now. According to the Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Nigeria,  Mr Matthias Schmale, “the food security and nutrition situation across Nigeria is deeply concerning. “Those who visited the Nutrition Stabilisation Centres (NSC) filled with children, said “those Children fight to stay alive”. Children are the most vulnerable to food insecurity. There is a serious risk of mortality among children attributed to acute malnutrition. The number of children suffering from acute malnutrition was estimated to increase from 1.74 million in 2022 and 2 million in 2023.Worse still, it is estimated that 35 million people are currently critically facing food insecurity.The present predicament of Nigerians never seems to be real until people realised  that a “Congo” of Garri now costs between N1,900 to N2,500 naira, depending on the place you are buying from and the type you have to buy.
There is a systematic downfall in the economy, and those at the receiving end of its manifestation are the masses. Well, some may say that it is too early to judge the government of President Tinubu, but when starvation becomes a point of reference, they might just make an exception for that rule.”A government is a failure if it has not been able to fulfil its primary duties and its published agenda, it  is useless if its people suffer endlessly from starvation. Recently, the video of a man who was caught in agony and lamentation attracted people’s attention. He was in the market to buy a “Congo” of rice but was told that it now costs N3,500.The man started crying, lamenting the harsh condition and confused as to what he and his family would eat. He had just N1,800 with him, and only God knows how much effort he had to put together to get that amount. Some people tried to locate the man to give him some money.
Bodija market in Ibadan, Oyo State, has a reputation for cheap consumable commodities, and the cost of food products there, is considered slightly reasonable. However, this reputation is no longer possible as basic commodities now cost even more than they could be imagined. A lady lamented having bought her usual loaf of bread for 500 naira three weeks ago, and within that period, it had skyrocketed from N800 to N1, 200 and now at N1, 500 for a loaf that is as light as foam. Beans and other cheap foods that have been saving people experiencing poverty are no longer affordable. The cost of a “congo” of beans has risen to between N2,500 and N3,500 depending on the location and type. It is not only the price of the common foods that has risen, it is the same case for other staple foods. Today, a sachet of water costs around N50, and one barely see a bag of it at anything less than N300. This leaves the people to drink unclean well water or find their drinking water through other sources.
The price increase was expected, but it seems that the progression of price increase  for food items is at a higher rate than the supposed inflation. The economy is imploding and affecting the livelihood of the Nigerian citizens.First, the excessive price of petrol within the range of N700 to N1000 across the nation has an impact on the final prices. In addition, the roads have become outrageously insecure, with different stories of kidnapping, highway attacks, terrorism, and other vices.These have jointly jacked up the calculative cost of production, and the masses are paying heavily for it. The above reasons affect business, and most importantly, the irregular supply of power has become another foundational cause of the hike in prices and yet the government is still threatening to hike electricity tariff. Today, many small and medium-scale businesses do not have access to a stable power supply, and in some cases, the tariffs are  so outrageous to the detriment of the business. They, therefore, resort to generating their power, which causes another extra cost.The result is that the products keep increasing in price as the costs skyrocket.
Another factor is the decline in  the value of naira to dollars. The dollar is the major currency for international trade, and many of the household items in the country are imported. This means that the prices of those commodities in Nigeria are expected to increase the more with the value of dollars, causing difficulties for the citizens. So, when a market woman insults people in the market for negotiating lower prices for her wares, it is not because she is merely disrespectful but because she believes you are ignorant of the costs of putting her products on the market. What would N30,000  minimum wage do in the current economy? There is almost no average-class individual in the country as the condition affects every social stratum. Nigeria produces about 8.4 million tons of rice, but it is still not sufficient for consumption in the country. During the past administration of President Mohamadu Buhari, policies that discouraged the importation of rice and some other products in Nigeria in a bid to encourage local production were made, and that was one of the starting points of suffering and starvation in Nigeria, because the development made the price of local rice increase by 200 percent.
It is worthy of note, that such policies were a product of hypocrisy, foreign rice is not good for the poor Nigerians but foreign medical care is good for the Nigerian political elites. Currently, the prices of local and foreign rice are not too far from each other. This is because the price gap that would have been made necessary has been reduced by other local and internal issues fighting against local productions. It means that the government must make efforts to first increase the production of local items as well as ensure that there is an unhindered channel of distribution of the same across the country. Poverty cannot be eradicated without collaborative efforts between the Federal Government and the State Governments. Agricultural schemes and strategies are not the sole work of the Federal Government, as eradication of poverty should be the watchword of every reasonable government.
State-wide agricultural strategies and blueprints that would reduce the propensity of hunger and starvation in each state are important. It is a known fact that the food insecurity in Nigeria can be traceable to the relentless wave of attacks against farmers in Nigeria by armed groups in the last decade which has hindered critical food supplies and has pushed the country deeper into a devastating hunger crisis.Increased attacks against farmers across parts of the country have led to displacement of people, market disruptions and loss of livelihoods. Armed groups killed more than 128 farmers and kidnapped 37 others across Nigeria between January and June 2023 …
To be continued.

Kiikpoye Inabo
Inabo is our regular contributor from Radio Rivers, Port Harcourt.

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Candidacy  Imposition Syndrome In Nigerian Politics …Bane  Of  Democratic Process

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Democracy is commonly defined as “the government of the people, by the people and for the people”. It is instructive to observe that the emphasis in the definition of democracy is “the people”. In this regard, having any electoral process without true participation of the people being sincerely involved, makes democracy authoritarian and authoritarianism is an attribute of bad governance. It is pertinent to underscore the significance of political parties in a democratic process. Political parties are no doubt, the only vehicles of social mobilisation wherein an electoral process passes through, to have people elected into political offices. The idea of godfathers deciding who become leaders of the people is not only undemocratic but ungodly. Democratic system is a social system of government where majority carry the votes and not the reverse, where godfathers impose their stooges on the people for personal gain. It has been argued that candidate nomination at party primaries has been characterised by  infractions of sorts, such as the  abuse of internal party democracy. For instance, there is the privatised party structure where a candidate’s nomination is guided by a mixture of personal or factional interests, while on the other hand, candidate’s  nomination is considered an addition of elected executive authorities, defined as “leader”.
Party caucuses and “leaders” most often exercise power at their discretion and are unencumbered by rules, usually subverting party rules through personal directives. The imposition of candidates does not only weaken the legitimacy of candidates but also encourages the use of violence as the prevailing alternative for elections. This is because democracy ought to begin from the parties and how they choose their candidates for the election proper. If the candidates are not chosen in line with tenets of democracy, then the political space would be corrupt and no true democracy can thrive. Internal democracy is strategic to the avoidance of imposition of candidates on the party. Ideally, every candidate interested in an elective office should be given the opportunity to test his popularity within his party by a democratically  conducted primary, which will produce the most popular candidate for the election proper. Any infraction to this democratic practice is injurious to democratic norms and principles.
In Nigeria, imposition of candidates on the party by some influential leaders usually called cabals and godfathers has become the rule rather than the exception. This practice has spelt doom for many political parties and even their candidates whose political ambitions had been truncated un-democratically in preference for some sacred cows. Political godfathers and party tin gods go practically low wire as they pick  and chose favoured candidates and god-son at will without any concern for the good and progress of the party. Observation shows that such godfathers prefer their sorogates and criminals to popular candidates. It is worthy of note that imposition of candidates cuts across all strata of the political parties. Recent experience has shown the tendency of this evil practice to cause the disintegration of political parties and to breed bad blood and discontentment in the rank and file of the parties.
This practice is a threat to democracy as it does not give room for party members to  aspire  for the main election. Another dimension to the imposition syndrome is the practice whereby certain candidates who feel shortchanged in one party crossover to another party only to be given the opportunity to vie for elective posts or offered attractive jobs over and above hardworking and loyal old party members. This also breeds frustration and acrimony in the system. This development is a breach of the fundamental human rights of party members and  in turn deny them the right to elect candidate of their choice. The bane of Nigeria’s party politics since 1999 is the infraction of imposition of surrogates by party godfathers which has not allowed democracy to flourish in the political parties.
The spate of imposition across Nigerian political parties destroys democratic governance. It is a practice that is capable of shaking the belief of members in their party and in its internal mechanisms. It is a direct affront to democracy which reduces the game of polities to a process of sheer selection, godfatherism, favouritism and particularism. The present development where certain politicians abandon their original political parties only to join other parties and seek governorship or  other positions almost immediately is indecent. It should be completely discouraged. It is well known that the hallmark of internal democracy is that candidates should emerge from the process approved by the constitution of the party and the electoral law of our country. Whenever there is imposition, it brings about a questionable candidate and it is  averse to the electoral law of Nigeria.
When imposition prevails, it would continue to scare credible people from coming into politics. This being the challenge, there would be lack of credible participants in the political space. This imposition is responsible for the sorry state of the Nigerian nation, when one looks at some of those in the parliament most times, such that those imposed are unproductive; this is why they cannot contribute meaningfully to uplift internal democracy. It is the reason many may ask; how do we expect to grow with this type of lawmakers as a nation? Such incompetent people are even found in the executive. It is possible that this class  of politicians is not prepared for the task, but they love the glamour of the offices they hold and because they know how to play the dirty game, their political parties would impose them on the good ones.
Imposition should be eradicated to allow  internal democracy  thrive. Instead of just fostering candidates on the people, Nigerians must ensure that candidates are nominated through primaries except for cases where aspirants unanimously agree that a certain person should be their candidate. Nigerians without questionable track records should be allowed to come into leadership positions, and that is the only time the nation can see growth and development in governance. If you allow the plurality of opinions to reign, eventually someone would come out who would represent electorate better. If Nigerians, as a nation, want to enjoy the benefits of free thinking, free space, true representations and true democratic devident, then there must be room for the people’s wishes to thrive. It is proper  for the umpire to provide favourable atmosphere to contest while there should be automatic ticket.
It has been observed that any time candidates are imposed, they end up being self destructive because the people you either rigged out or rigged in to do your bidding may not live up to the mark you set for them. For those who impose candidates with the aim of using them to collect money or for other less noble purposes, when they break out, you have to part ways. It is pertinent to place on record that those who have the privilege of occupying leadership positions today will one day give account of their stewardship to man and God, one cannot be man and God at the same time. Democracy thrives only when people choose their leaders by themselves. That is why Section 87 of the Electoral Act makes provisions for direct or indirect primaries; that is with a view to entrenching internal democracy and restoring power to the people.
Section 87 of the Electoral Act from sub section 1 to sub section 11 states thus; “(1) A political party seeking to nominate candidates for elections under this Act shall hold primaries for aspirants to all elective positions.(2) The procedure for the nomination of candidates by political parties for the various elective positions shall be by direct or indirect primaries. (3) A political party that adopts the direct primaries procedure shall ensure that all aspirants are given equal opportunity of being voted for by members of the party.(4) A political party that adopts the system of indirect primaries for the choice of its candidate shall adopt the procedure outlined below: (a) In the case of nominations to the position of President,  a political party shall, (i) hold special conventions in each of the 36 States of the Federation and FCT, where delegates shall vote for each of the aspirants at designated centres in each state capital on specified dates.
(ii) a National Convention shall be held for the ratification of the candidate with the highest number of votes. (iii) the aspirant with the highest number of votes at the end of voting  in the 36 states of the federation and FCT, shall be declared the winner of the presidential primaries of the political party and the aspirant’s name shall be forwarded to the Independent National Electoral Commission as the candidate of the party after ratification by the national convention. (b) In the case of nominations to the position of governor,   a political party shall, where they intend to sponsor candidates: (i) hold special congress in each of the local government areas of the states with delegates voting for each of the aspirants at the congress to be held in designated centres on specified dates.
(ii) The aspirant with the highest number of votes at the end of voting shall be declared the winner of the primaries of the party and aspirant’s name shall be forwarded to the Independent National Electoral Commission as the candidate of the party, for the particular state. (c) In the case of nominations to the position of a senator, House of Representatives and State House of Assembly,  a political party shall, where they intend to sponsor candidates: (i) hold special congresses in the senatorial district, federal constituency and the state assembly constituency respectively, with delegates voting for each of the aspirants in designated centres on specified dates. (ii) The aspirant with the highest number of votes at the end of voting shall be declared the winner of the primaries of the party and the aspirant’s name shall be forwarded to the Independent National Electoral Commission as the candidate of the party.
(d) In the case of the position of a chairman of an area council, a political party shall, where they intend to sponsor candidates: (i) hold special congresses in the area council with delegates voting for each of the aspirants at designated centres on a specified date. (ii) The aspirant with the highest number of votes at the end of voting shall be declared the winner of the primaries of the party and the aspirant’s name shall be forwarded to the Independent National Electoral Commission as the candidate of the party. (5) In the case of a councillorship candidate, the procedure for the nomination of the candidate shall be by direct primaries in the ward and the name of the candidate with the highest number of votes shall be submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission as the candidate of the party.
(6) Where there is only one aspirant in a political party for any of the elective positions mentioned in sub section (4)(a), (b), (c) and (d), the party shall convene a special convention or congress at a designated centre on a specified date for the confirmation of such aspirant and the name of the aspirant shall be forwarded to the Independent National Electoral Commission as the candidate of the party. (7) A political party that adopts the system of indirect primaries for the choice of its candidate shall clearly outline in its constitution and rules the procedure for the democratic election of delegates to vote at the convention, congress or meeting.(8) No political appointee at any level shall be a voting delegate at the Convention or Congress of any political party for the purpose of nomination of candidates for any election.
(9) Where a political party fails to comply with the provisions of this Act in the conduct of its primaries, its candidate for election shall not be included in the election for the particular position in issue. (10) Notwithstanding the provisions of the Act or rules of a political party, an aspirant who complains that any of the provisions of this Act and the guidelines of a political party has not been complied with in the selection or nomination of a candidate of a political party for election, may apply to the Federal High Court or  the High Court of a State, for redress. (11) Nothing in this section shall empower the courts to stop the holding of primaries or general election under this Act pending the determination of the suit.” Under direct primary, people vote for aspirants of their choice from ward, local government areas and state levels to determine the candidate of the party.
Under the indirect mode, party members are supposed to elect delegates to represent them from the ward level up. A political party does not belong to any individual or clique of individuals. That is why imposition robs the people of the right to freely choose. That is why bad governance is common in the polity. Political godfathers continue to thrive in their business of determining who rules and worse still, who does not rule.  In Rivers State, for instance, it is now a known fact  that it is one godfather that determines what happens. The question therefore is; why must most powerful politicians in the party want to hijack the structure? The reason for hijacking the party structures is because they know that the election will not be free and fair and if the primaries are not free and fair, one could be rest assured that the main election cannot be free and fair because people are desperate to grab power and loot the treasury.
In Rivers State for instance, there is a faction which belongs to certain power brokers who have  produced all the candidates for different elective positions and still want to remain  perpetual oracles that must be consulted before anything can happen; but this is undemocratic. Politic is meant to be the social engineering for development but has rather turned out to be conduit pipe for embezzlement of public fund at the expense of the electorate without any form of accountability. The reason there are unpatriotic politicians who do not care about development of their people and locality is traceable to the single fact that they are not the choice of the people but were imposed by their god fathers for personal gain. Imposition of candidates on the electoral process must stop, if democracy must grow. The time to act is now.

Kiikpoye Inabo

Inabo is a regular contributor from Radio Rivers.

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Wigwe: One Death Too Many For Rivers

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Death is inevitable. The Bible’s King David described it as “the way of all humans”. It is the way everyone will go through. It is gateway to eternal life either in heaven or hell. Death, in the words of the erudite and literary scholar, Williams Shakespeare, “is a necessary end that will come when it will come”. It is non discriminating, favours no person and works at its pace. So the occurrence of death is no more news. It is only news when it happens in an unfortunate and dastardly circumstances and least expectancy which more often causes devastation and trauma to the bereaved. Such as the transition of  Dr. Herbert Onyewumbu Wigwe. Dr. Herbert Wigwe reportedly died on the night of Friday, February 9, 2024 when the helicopter he boarded crashed near the border city between Neveda and California en route to Las Vegas.
The Late Wigwe who hails from Isiokpo in Ikwerre Local Government Area of oil-rich Rivers State, Nigeria, was born on August 15, 1966. Until his uneventful demise on that Black Friday, Dr. Wigwe was Chief Executive Officer, CEO, of Access Holdings Plc. Facts gleaned from his biography revealed  that the  Rivers’ successful business mogul had a degree in Accountancy from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Enugu State. He also bagged a Master of Arts in Banking and Finance from the University College of North Wales (now Bangor), and a Master of Science (MSc) in Financial Economics from the University of London. The late Wigwe was a philanthropist and exceptionally diligent in his career. He started his career at Coopers & Lybrand, Lagos, as a management consultant,  and later  qualified as a Chartered Accountant. After a stint at Capital Bank, he joined Guaranty Trust Bank where he spent over a decade working in corporate and institutional banking, rising to become the Executive Director in charge of Institutional Banking.
He also served as the Chairman of Access Bank Ghana Limited, Access Investment & Securities Limited, Central Securities and Clearing System (CSCS). He was the Chairman of Access Bank (UK) Limited until his demise. In 2016, in recognition of “his exemplary role in the society and contributions to youth development”, the Boys’ Brigade (BB) inaugurated Herbert Wigwe as State Patron for Lagos State Council. The diligence and sterling entrepreneurship qualities of the late Wigwe earned him several meritorious awards. In same  2016, he was named  Banker of The Year, separately, by The Sun and Vanguard newspapers.
That same year, he founded The HOW Foundation, a non-profit organisation. In October 2022, in recognition of his enormous contributions to the socio-economic development of Nigeria, Former President Muhammadu Buhari conferred on him, a  national honour of Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON).
His avowed commitment and determination to replicate his entrepreneurship prowess in the younger generation and drive sustainable development of the Nigeria’s economy within the sphere of his influence informed his decision to add value to the Nigeria’s rducational system. The deceased is the mastermind of the establishment of the Wigwe University located at Isiokpo, Rivers State. The university is expected to kick off in September 2024. Following the demise of Wigwe  which is adjudged a colossal loss to Ikwerre Ethnic nationality, Rivers State, Nigeria and the business community in the United States, the Isiokpo Ancient Kingdom has announced eight days mourning period for the death of the  Late Bank Chief,  Herbert Wigwe. A statement by by his Royal Majesty, King Blessing A.N Wagor , the Wagidi XL,Nye Nwe Ali  Isiokpo Ancient Kingdom, “ has directed  eight days of mourning period” for their illustrious son whose tragic death occurred along with his wife and son in the United States of America on Friday night.
According to the statement, the eight days mourning period 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.
For his part, Rivers State Governor, Sir Siminalayi Fubara expressed shock and sadness at the news of the demise of Dr. Herbert Wigwe, his wife Chizoba, son and others,  describing the incident as a monumental disaster. Governor Fubara, on behalf of his family, the State Government and people of Rivers State commiserated with the Wigwe’s  family over this unfortunate incident, urging them to be comforted by God’s assurances of His love and outpouring of global sympathy on this deep pain and loss.In a statement by Boniface  Onyedi,  the Senior Special Assistant to the Governor of Rivers State on Media, the Governor said “there are no words to convey how terrible these losses are, and the state and indeed Nigeria will miss an unassuming, iconic and accomplished illustrious son of Isiokpo in Ikwerre Local Government Area of Rivers State.
“Rivers State and the Nation are in tears because it would be extremely difficult to understand this sweeping loss of a family involving a strong pillar, accomplished banker and philanthropist with tentacles in the education sector”, the Governor said, noting that 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 figure 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 with a 60 per cent local and 40 per cent expatriate faculty population” the statement said. Miffed by the sudden death of one of its illustrious sons, the President General of Ogbakor Ikwerre Cultural Organization Worldwide, Eze (Barr.) Godspower Onuekwa,  has urged the United States Government to unravel and explain to Ikwerre people in particular and Nigerians, the actual cause of the death of Mr. Herbert Onyewumbu Wigwe.
Speaking at the palace of HRM Blessing Wagor, the paramount ruler and Nye Nwe Ali Isiokpo, the President-General assured Isiokpo people that Ogbakor Ikwerre was behind them. He said there must be an autopsy to verify the actual cause of his death and that Ikwerre people will not sleep until the cause of his death is made known. Eze Onuekwa was quoted as saying that a day will be fixed for all Ikwerre sons and daughters to march the streets of Ikwerre land with black clothes, with all shops and offices closed. He stated that after that, Ikwerre people will visit the governor of Rivers State and ask him the next line of action before writing to President Ahmed Bola Tinubu. The President-General  of the Ogbakor Ikwerre delegation to Isiokpo include, members of the National Executive Committee of Ogbakor Ikwerre, among others.
Recalling his meeting with Wigwe, Nigerian billionaire businessman, Femi Otedola, expressed shock over the death of  Wigwe, and said “Wigwe hosted me and Aliko Dangote”.
Otedola, in a post on his verified X handle on Sunday, February 11, 2024, recalled how the Rivers-born prominent banker hosted him and Aliko Dangote in his new house in Lagos. He said : “I am shocked and saddened to hear of the loss of a banking genius, Herbert Wigwe, his dear wife Chizoba and first son Chizi. Exactly two weeks ago Herbie and his wife hosted myself and Aliko to dinner at his newly built home in Lagos. I will cherish and fondly remember my memories of time spent together with him over the years. Herbie, we will all miss you. Your legacy will live on forever.”
My heartfelt condolences go out to his children Tochi, Hannah and David. I pray God comforts them during this tragic time. No doubt the vacuum the death of Wigwe has created in the banking industry, economic and education sectors cannot be easily filled up. But God is All- Knowing yet offers no explanation for his actions.  We will understand it better when we see him.

Igbiki Benibo

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