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Naira: Comedy inside a tragedy

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By Dakuku Peterside

On Sunday, August 15, 1971, the United States economy was literally facing a firing squad. The Dollar was in a mess. Price gougers were everywhere and foreign exchange was cruel to the Dollar.

The newspaper headlines were of scorn and ridicule but President Richard Nixon did one thing. He faced the issue squarely. “The strength of a nation’s currency is based on the strength of that nation’s economy,” he said. Nixon nipped the problem in the bud. Everything changed. He rescued his country from financial and social crises. Today, Nigeria is in a similar situation, albeit slightly dissimilar, given that the American economy is by far the strongest in the world. Thus, President Bola Tinubu needs to act in a manner that moves the nation from “Renewed Hope” to “Renewed Confidence.”

The loss of hope was what triggered the Arab Spring and other springs. In December 2010 in the town of Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia, Tarek El-Tayeb Bouazizi, a street vendor who had lost hope in the economy of his country set himself on fire. That act became a catalyst for countrywide protests. The protests included several men who emulated Bouazizi’s act of self-sacrifice. Hope is good. However, hope is not edible.

In Nigeria, there are reported and unreported suicide cases due to economic hardship in the country. A few weeks back, a woman who works at a Bank locked herself in the convenience of her company and swallowed poison, leaving behind a suicide note which points at her giving up on Nigeria.

With the free fall in the value of our currency, we are beginning to see more public expression of frustration. In the coming months, the unrelenting fall of the Naira could lead to an increased risk of suicide and even social unrest. In Kano State, where social unrest forms quickly, a group of local bakers warned the government about things to come. They protested the high cost of flour with a bag that sold N10,000 a few years ago now selling at N41,000. The Kano bakers cannot afford the price spiral and social unrest arising therefrom could pose additional risks to economic recovery and create setbacks with lasting impact on general economic performance.

For a government looking for an economic spark plug through Foreign Direct Investment (FDI)and business startups, the fall of the Naira and global jokes about it are downright depressing. The fall of Naira indeed poses grave dangers to the viability of businesses in Nigeria.

Last August, Iyinoluwa Aboyeji, a young Nigerian celebrated all over the world for creating two unicorns and a general partner at early-stage venture capital firm, Future Africa, told Rest of World, an America-based publication, that his firm is advising its portfolio companies to explore business abroad to avoid Naira-related challenges. “Generally speaking, we want to move as many of our companies as possible to start to export software and labour because we think that’s the only way to stay on the better side of this crisis — when revenues are in US dollars,” he said.

Over the past two weeks, social media have been awash with hilarious jokes about the Naira. This is not restricted to Nigerians. First, a Toronto-based Television station announced that Nigeria’s currency was now worth 0.0011 American Dollars. This was followed closely by a South African Prokerala showing that one Zimbabwean Dollar equals 2.77 Naira. In its 2nd February 2024 edition, Bloomberg described the Naira as the worst-performing currency in the world. In their cartoon section, two US newspapers taunted Nigeria over the Naira. This is infinitesimal compared to the number of local jokes about the Naira in our media. Besides, social media has amplified the crash of the Naira to such an extent that Nigeria has literarily and metaphorically become a laughing stock. Nigerians are either losing faith in the country or have lost a sense of patriotism.

These hilarious jokes and caricatures are a metaphor for a bigger problem. There are genuine concerns that Nigeria may follow a similar trajectory to Zimbabwe and Venezuela. This concern is well-founded. The echoes of Zimbabwe ring eerily and loudly in Nigeria today. There are many reasons why history students could look back on the crash of the Naira and its impact on our reputation, global stature and the living standard of our people. This concern is heightened for many reasons. However, I will highlight only a few.

The first is poor policy articulation and implementation. Recall that the policy origin of the current Naira tumble can be traced to the simultaneous removal of subsidies and years’ long currency pegs last year by the current administration. This was done without considering other factors that need to be in place to make the economy function optimally. Nigerians are worried that our economy handlers are not doing enough to stem the decline.

The second is the damaged reputation of the country occasioned by the Naira crash and the ongoing economic and security instability. Local and foreign investors are losing confidence in the Nigerian economy because of high-level financial, economic and policy instability.

The next is that the cost-of-living crisis escalates and inflation ravages the country. Prices of essential goods and services are going off the roof and people are perplexed at the rate of degeneration.

The fourth is that microeconomic indices are unfavourable given the reduction in demand for goods and services due to high prices and reduced supply. The latter itself is due to lack of production or high cost of importation.

Also, there are unfavourable macroeconomic indices such as escalation of unemployment. This correlates with a high crime rate, high inflation occasioned by a fall in the value of the Naira, banks’ inability to grant medium to long-term loans and general perception of impending economic catastrophe hovering over Nigeria like an ominous overcast.

The fifth is that wealthy Nigerians and other average citizens worried about the erosion of the value of their money and assets are converting them into Dollars or are moving their assets to dollar-denominated investments abroad to hedge for further loss.

Finally, the volatility of the Naira implies that fresh capital investments in infrastructure and power, mainly dependent on imported plants and machinery, shall be negatively impacted, leading to projects being put on hold. How did we tumble in such a short time from a respectable nation to a butt of jokes? Not only amongst us but within the global community?

A brief historical odyssey on Naira volatility suffices. The tragic history dates back to 1983 when the Naira began her nosedive and successive governments have failed to ameliorate the plunge. In 1983, $1 was exchanged for about 72 Kobo. But the Naira fell to trade at about N9 to $1 by 1990. In 2000, $1 was exchanged for about N85 at the official window. In 2010, $1 was officially exchanged for about N150, but more at the notorious black market. By 2020, $1 was exchanged for about N360 at the official window. In recent years, the Naira has faced challenges related to external factors. These include fluctuations in oil prices, the global economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and serial mismanagement.

A cursory look at this Administration’s response to the Naira crisis shows an attitude of calm amidst the panic at the early stages of the free-floating of the Naira, as policymakers expected the fall in Naira. However, there were more panic reactions to this problem as the President and his economic team worked to stem the tidal wave blowing the Naira. Recently, we have seen monetary policy adjustments and currency interventions to boost the Naira. They have implemented fiscal policies to promote economic growth and stability while adjusting tax policies to encourage investment and economic activity. Structural reforms by taking steps to diversify the economy to reduce dependency on a single sector and improving the business environment to attract foreign investment is ongoing. Unfortunately, these policies and actions have not stabilized the Naira in the short run. More needs to be done and quickly too. There is no one-size-fits-all solution, and a combination of strategies may be necessary.

Additionally, the success of these measures depends on practical implementation and the cooperation of various stakeholders. Investor confidence remains our greatest challenge. It is advisable for this Administration to carefully analyse the specific economic conditions and consult with experts to tailor appropriate solutions for the country. Every good head, home and abroad must be brought into the room to stop us from remaining a butt of jokes. Saving the Naira is most important now and all stakeholders must work together to end this comedy show.

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Air Peace, Capitalism, and National Interest

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By Dakuku Peterside

Nigerian corporate influence and that of the West continue to collide. The rationale is straightforward: whereas corporate activity in Europe and America is part of their larger local and foreign policy engagement, privately owned enterprises in Nigeria  or commercial interests are not part of Nigeria’s foreign policy ecosystem, nor is there a strong culture of government support for privately owned enterprises’ expansion locally and internationally. Nigerian firms’ competitiveness on a global scale can only be enhanced by the support of the Nigerian government.  It is evident that the relationship between Nigerian businesses  and foreign policy is important to the national interest. When backing domestic Nigerian companies to compete on a worldwide scale, the government should see it as a lever to drive foreign policy, national strategic interest, promote trade, enhance national security considerations, minimize distortion in the domestic market as the foreign airlines were doing, boost GDP, create employment opportunities, and optimize corporate returns for the firms. For example, the South Korean mega conglomerates within the chaebols corporate structure, such as Samsung, Daewoo, SK Group, LG, and others, have become globally recognizable brands thanks to the backing of the South Korean government. For Chaebol to succeed, strong collaboration with the government has been essential. Also, in telecommunications, Huawei would only be such a well-known brand worldwide with the backing of the Chinese government. The opposite is the case with Nigeria.

Admitted nations do not always interfere directly in their companies’ business and commercial dealings, and there are always exceptions. I can cite two areas of exception: military sales by companies because of their strategic implications and are, therefore, part of foreign and diplomatic policy and processes. The second is where the products or routes of a company have implications for foreign policy. Air Peace falls into the second category in the Lagos – London route.

Two events demonstrate an emerging trend that, if not checked, will disincentivize Nigerian firms from competing in the global marketplace. There are other notable examples, but I am using these two examples because they are very recent and ongoing, and they are typological representations of the need for Nigerian government backing and support for local companies that are playing  in a very competitive international  market dominated by big foreign companies whose governments are using all forms of foreign policies and diplomacy to support and sustain.

The first is Airpeace. It is the only Nigerian-owned aviation company playing globally and checkmating the dominance of foreign airlines. The most recent advance is the commencement of flights on the Lagos – London route. In Nigeria, foreign airlines are well-established and accustomed to a lack of rivalry, yet a free-market economy depends on the existence of competition. Nigeria has significantly larger airline profits per passenger than other comparable African nations. Insufficient competition has resulted in high ticket costs and poor service quality. It is precisely this jinx that Airpeace is attempting to break. On March 30, 2024, Air Peace reciprocated the lopsided Bilateral Air Service Agreement (BASA) between Nigeria and the United Kingdom when the local airline began direct flight operations from Lagos to Gatwick Airport in London. This elicited several reactions from foreign airlines backed by their various sovereigns because of their strategic interest. A critical response is the commencement of a price war. Before the Airpeace entry, the price of international flight tickets on the Lagos-London route had soared to as much as N3.5 million for economy ticket. However, after Airpeace introduced a return economy class ticket priced at N1.2 million, foreign carriers like British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, and Qatar Airways reduced their fares significantly to remain competitive.

In a price war, there is little the government can do. In an open-market competitive situation such as this, our government must not act in a manner that suggests it is antagonistic to foreign players and competitors. There must be an appearance of a level playing field. However, the government owes Airpeace protection against foreign competitors backed by their home governments. This is in the overall interest of the Nigerian consumer of goods and services. Competition history in the airspace works where the Consumer Protection Authority in the host country is active. This is almost absent in Nigeria and it is a reason why foreign airlines have been arbitrary in pricing their tickets. Nigerian consumers are often at the mercy of these foreign firms who lack any vista of patriotism and are more inclined to protect the national interest of their governments and countries.

It would not be too much to expect Nigerian companies playing globally to benefit from the protection of the Nigerian government to limit influence peddling by foreign-owned companies. The success of Air Peace should enable a more competitive and sustainable market, allowing domestic players to grow their network and propel Nigeria to the forefront of international aviation.

The second is Proforce, a Nigerian-owned military hardware manufacturing firm active in Rwanda, Chad, Mali, Ghana, Niger, Burkina Faso, and South Sudan. Despite the growing capacity of Proforce in military hardware manufacturing, Nigeria entered two lopsided arrangements with two UAE firms to supply military equipment worth billions of dollars , respectively. Both deals are backed by the UAE government but executed by UAE firms. These deals on a more extensive web are not unconnected with UAE’s national strategic interest. In pursuit of its strategic national interest, India is pushing Indian firms to supply military equipment to Nigeria. The Nigerian defence equipment market has seen weaker indigenous competitors driven out due to the combination of local manufacturers’ lack of competitive capacity and government patronage of Asian, European, and US firms in the defence equipment manufacturing sector. This is a misnomer and needs to be corrected. Not only should our government be the primary customer of this firm if its products meet international standards, but it should also support and protect it from the harsh competitive realities of a challenging but strategic market directly linked to our national military procurement ecosystem. The ability to produce military hardware locally is significant to our defence strategy. This firm and similar companies playing in this strategic defence area must be considered strategic and have a considerable place in Nigeria’s foreign policy calculations. Protecting Nigeria’s interests is the primary reason for our engagement in global diplomacy. The government must deliberately balance national interest with capacity and competence in military hardware purchases. It will not be too much to ask these foreign firms to partner with local companies so we can embed the technology transfer advantages.

Increasingly, other companies, especially in the banking and fintech sectors, are making giant strides in global competitiveness. Our government must create an environment that enables our local companies to compete globally and ply their trades in various countries. It should be part of the government’s overall economic, strategic growth agenda to identify areas or sectors in which Nigerian companies have a competitive advantage, especially in the sub-region and across Africa and support the companies in these sectors to advance and grow to dominate in  the African region with a view to competing globally. Government support in the form of incentives such as competitive grants ,tax credit for consumers ,low-interest capital, patronage, G2G business, operational support, and diplomatic lobbying, amongst others, will alter the competitive landscape. Governments  and key government agencies in the west retain the services of lobbying firms in pursuit of its strategic interest.

Nigerian firms’ competitiveness on a global scale can only be enhanced by the support of the Nigerian government. Foreign policy interests should be a key driver of Nigerian trade agreements. How does the Nigerian government support private companies to grow and compete globally? Is it intentionally mapping out growth areas and creating opportunities for Nigerian firms to maximize their potential? Is the government at the domestic level removing bottlenecks and impediments to private company growth, allowing a level playing field for these companies to compete with international companies? Why is the government patronising foreign firms against local firms if their products are of similar value? What was the rationale for flight tickets from Lagos to London costing N3.5M for economy class just a few weeks ago only to come down to N1.3M with the entrance of Air Peace to the market? Why are Nigerian consumers left to the hands of international  companies in some sectors without the government actively supporting the growth of local firms to compete in those sectors? These questions merit honest answers. Nigerian national interest must be the driving factor for our foreign policies, which must cover the private sector, just as is the case with most developed countries. The new global capitalism is not a product of accident or chance; the government has choreographed and shaped it by using foreign policies to support and protect local firms competing globally. Nigeria must learn to do the same to build a strong economy with more jobs.

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Food security: The Bago challenge

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By Dakuku Peterside

Against the run of play, Governor Mohammed Umaru Bago of Niger State ruffled feathers with his speech at the 2023 annual Leadership Newspaper Conference and Awards held in Abuja last week. This speech was an instant hit online and trended at different times on both Instagram and X (Twitter). Governor Bago’s arguments in his speech can be summarised in three ways: First, as a nation, Nigeria cannot achieve economic freedom and eradicate poverty without being productive, especially in agriculture, where we have a comparative advantage. Second, it is indefensible for a nation with an estimated arable land of 40 million hectares and a reasonable youth population to accept grain donation in whatever guise from war-torn Ukraine; and third, because of natural and human endowment, Nigeria can feed the people and export the excess to other countries. There is nothing Governor Bago said that we do not already know, but as a nation, we have egotistically refused to accept these truths nor act on them. These arguments are significant because they were made by a serving Nigerian governor, a member of the powerful club that has enjoyed the monthly sharing arrangement called Federation Account Allocation Committee( FAAC).

Governor Bago ended his speech by throwing a challenge against the Federal Government’s promise to deploy and distribute 42,000 MT of grains from the strategic reserve, that the Niger State Government will deliver and distribute 100,000 MT of grain by June 2025. Make no mistake about it, Governor Bago was not just exercising his bragging rights; he was marketing his strategic plan to rescue Niger State from the sharing mentality, economic doldrums, poverty, unemployment,and criminality. A quick review of what the Niger State Government is doing to accomplish the vision of food sufficiency might give us a better perspective. Niger State, over the next year, plans to cultivate one million hectares of farmland, inclusive of a 50,000 hectares fully irrigated food production hub. Over 500 large-capacity tractors, 1000 pieces of irrigation and agricultural equipment, 2000 power tillers for smallholder farmers, 2000 petrol water pumps, 3000 solar pumps, and 5000 tube wells to support dry season farming have been delivered. Besides, the government has acquired about 100,000 bags of fertilisers, plus herbicides, pesticides, and fungicides have also been obtained. Governor Bago’s commitment to this agricultural revolution in Niger State is self-evident and realistic.

Governor Bago’s challenge in his speech and what he is doing in Niger State is founded on solid historical precedence and economic reasoning. Before we discovered crude oil in commercial quantity and started depending on it as a mono-product, which made us lazy in thinking, diminished the value of hard work, and elevated monthly sharing of FAAC to a religion of sorts, sub-national governments (regional governments) relied solely on agriculture to develop the regions. Some of the iconic infrastructure projects were executed with groundnut, cocoa and palm oil money. The choice of agriculture as an engine of economic growth was because of its multiplier effect. It has an excellent capacity to create employment and wealth. Those reasons are still valid today. The neglect of agriculture and the food production supply chain led Nigeria into many of the economic malaise we are suffering today – from food insecurity, unemployment, criminality and poverty to a dearth of foreign exchange. Some countries that were our contemporaries developed their food production and supply, which became the mainstay of their economy.

Governor Bago’s speech represents a significant shift in thinking in recent times, giving some hope. Some state governments have started making efforts towards creating a clear vision of increased productivity, providing an enabling environment for such productivity, and building on this productivity to improve their internal revenue generation. These governors are using food security in Nigeria as fuel to engage in food production in a way that has not been done in Nigeria for a long time. They understand that the question of food security in Nigeria starts with food production, then food processing, food distribution and food commercialisation, both locally and abroad. But first and foremost, ramping up food production is the first step in tackling the food insecurity conundrum. It is a matter of how much food Nigeria produces. It is determined by what individual states bring to the table. In that regard, the message of self-reliance from the Niger governor is on point. Production of food for local consumption and export is vital for Nigeria’s economy because it solves two significant problems that have recently thrown Nigeria’s economy into a wild spine – food inflation and scarcity of foreign exchange.

Increasing our productive capacity and, by extension, enhancing our internally generated revenue is imperative. States waiting to go to Abuja to pick up peanuts monthly is not sustainable. States, by the design of the 1999 Constitution, ought to be growth centres – actively participating in production and creating the institutional framework, structures, and environment to make this possible. However, only a few states have taken advantage of this vantage position to lift their people out of poverty. Most states function as salary payment centres. This must change if any meaningful development strides will take place in Nigeria. The era of states becoming a leech on the centre, milking the Nigerian state dry, is over. Every state must look inward and decide the best path to economic progress. Each state must have the mentality that if the tap of crude is switched off today, how will it become sustainable? This calls for chief executive officers of the states (governors) to wear their thinking caps now, holistically review their productive comparative advantages, develop an audacious strategic plan, and execute such to achieve a clear vision for the state. Anything less than this is not acceptable to Nigerians.

The idea that consistent productivity at the sub-national level is one critical ingredient among many ingredients that will get us out of the economic mess we found ourselves in is more germane today than ever. The significance of this statement is that state governments are responsible for figuring out the best strategy to make their states viable and contribute to wealth creation and employment generation. Each state must tap into their  comparative and competitive advantage to contribute to the national food basket.

A strategy for economic viability will require dealing with internal security issues coupled with medium- and long-term planning. The most crucial short-term action critical to agricultural production presently is to provide security and a safe environment for such economic activities to occur. The states must make farming safe and allow farmers to return to their farms without fear of attacks from bandits or terrorists. Insecurity is a great headwind against agricultural productivity.

Agro-industrialisation is crucial in massive food production and increases local revenue and foreign exchange generation. We are embracing new agro-technology and jettisoning old agricultural practices that have provided suboptimal productivity over the years. This is also a time to bring real entrepreneurs into the food production and processing value chain. State governments should leverage various public-private partnership investments available to bring in seasoned investors and ‘agropreneurs’ to work together to put in place modern mechanised agricultural facilities for the mass production and processing of food. Recently, I had a long discussion with the Governments  of Edo, Jigawa , Nasarawa  and Akwa Ibom State who are leading in this new PPP arrangement and are collaborating heavily with the private sector (both local and foreign) to produce food for all and revenue to the state and our economy. I could feel a new mindset away from the “sharing mentality.”

Still on Agro-Industrialisation,Agricultural exports accounted for about 90% of Nigeria’s foreign exchange earnings in 1960. In quarter one of 2023, three products alone, Cocoa seed, sesame, and cashew seed, even without maximising our potential, gave the country N297billion. In 2022, Malaysia’s gross domestic product from palm oil export was estimated to be 36 billion Malaysian ringgit (approximately USD 8 billion).

Governor Bago has thrown an open challenge to the Federal Government and his fellow state governors. There is a need for constructive engagement and healthy competition around subnational food productivity. Most importantly, the food imperative allows some states to improve their domestic revenue situation. Agricultural productivity has become an economic lifeline for the states, especially in the north. Kofi Annan argued that “Food security is not only a moral issue but also a strategic one: without food, people have only three options – they riot, they emigrate, or they die. None of these are acceptable options.”

The fight against poverty, unemployment , hunger and malnutrition is one of the most significant challenges of our time, and it’s a challenge that can be won in Nigeria. Nigeria can work towards achieving food security applying the essential spirit of Bago’s challenge. Quality and affordable food is fundamental to Nigeria’s development. We must take care of the basics before travelling to the moon. Nigeria’s development hinges on this!

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Herbert Wigwe: The things yet unsaid

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By Dakuku Peterside

Clean-shaven, suave, upwardly mobile, and incurably optimistic, Herbert Onyewumbu Wigwe (HOW) was one of the most recognisable figures in the banking space and corporate Nigeria. His official biography could only be written by him. But I hope his example can inspire and influence us. Accurately describing Herbert in one word can be compared to explaining the mystery of centuries in a few words or a wild goose chase. It is a nuanced and complex process.

He was an extraordinary businessman who died alongside his wife and son in the United States of America under exceptional circumstances. His tragic and sudden departure reverberated beyond our shores. But who was Herbert Wigwe? I can only answer this question from the narrow prism of my friendship and many encounters with him.

Herbert and I were members of the same local church assembly, and I witnessed his dedication to spirituality, good works, and commitment to church growth. It is easy to explain because of his solid Christian foundation. Herbert’s father, Elder Shyngle Wigwe, is a pastor in the Redeemed Christian Church of God. Herbert was a man of prayer, which he complemented with a ruthless work ethic. He attributed all his successes to God’s blessings.

Both of us are from Rivers State, and we had many sessions on how best to fix the politics of Rivers and, by extension, improve the State’s development trajectory. Herbert was utterly detached from politics but had deep insight into political manoeuvrings. We debated the affairs of Rivers State and the country, and he baffled me with the precision with which he predicted the outcome of political contests. He would quickly tell you that his political party is Nigeria and no other.

His passion for Nigeria was simply unwavering. Only a few persons can match his faith in Nigeria. He firmly believed that he would impart society by using businesses to provide solutions to society’s needs and create wealth that would touch the lives of many. He was unapologetically capitalist, in the proper sense of it, and he lived his life using capital to solve many societies’ needs, such as creating employment, paying taxes, providing lots of charity, and investing heavily in world-class university education. He used capital as an instrument for socio-cultural upliftment across Africa.

Herbert was a man of bold dreams and obsessed with excellence while making room for unavoidable mistakes. Herbert never gave up on any bold dream, no matter the odds. He rode the waves of challenges and was filled with the spirit of hard work, dedication, and strokes of ingenuity. He had bold dreams in all ramifications, and this was self-evident.

First, as a young banker, he teamed up with his friend and partner to acquire “a distressed bank,” rated number 89 then, and turn it around in two decades to become one of the top five banks, with an assets base of over N20.9 trillion, is phenomenal. Herbert, as CEO, set out to build an Access Bank with the vision of becoming the gateway to Africa and the world’s most respected African bank. With a presence in more than 13 African countries plus a footprint in other continents, Access Bank was working towards realising this vision.

Second, Wigwe University, which Herbert personally referred to as the “Future Harvard University of Africa,” was another extraordinary, bold dream. He set out to build the best University in Africa, investing $500 million in the initial set-up. You do not need further testament that he was a man of bold dreams.

An entrepreneur extraordinaire, his mystique was his ability to sniff out opportunities where others see none, multiplied by the fact that he was one of the most persistent persons I know when going after opportunities. He mentored many budding entrepreneurs, top managers, and top academics in entrepreneurship.

Apart from his well-known flagship, Access Bank, he was active in other financial services, construction, oil and gas, aviation, film, and music, and, most recently, the education sector. He made a star success of all his multiple business pursuits.

Herbert’s hidden strength was his ability to connect with people of all classes and cadres, accompanied by a related instinct to simplify complex things in the most basic way. His mastery of Rivers’ version of Pidgin English could only equal his fluency in Queens English. He was among the few successful people referred to as the “original old Port Harcourt boy.”

Another strength of his was his courageous, daring, patient, and persistent nature, which added to his relentless ambition to accomplish exceptional things. This attracted to him friends and foes in equal measure.

His philanthropic work in the Herbert Wigwe Foundation, which he founded in 2016, focused on youth empowerment, health, arts, and education. This focus on youth development was central to his mentoring, given his strong belief in the importance of the youth in the development of Nigeria and Africa. He was an art enthusiast and contributed to art development in the country. As the art connoisseur he was, his collection reflected his passion for excellence, diversity, and social purpose. The HOW foundation extensively supported many healthcare projects for the downtrodden among us. His charity works were unique because he loathed publicity about it.

Herbert’s enduring legacy is the power of vision, bold dreams, courage, and determination to pursue it and rally people to accomplish the objective. This is what we need to improve in our public space. History has shown that bold dreams have the power to transform societies. He was exceptionally enterprising and entrepreneurial.

Listening to Herbert talk about his vision was to find yourself in the oasis of inspiration. He genuinely believed that there was nothing you fixed your mind on that you could not accomplish. He had bold dreams for the banking sector, tertiary education, the oil and gas industry and most importantly society.

 What lessons can we learn from him? Herbert epitomised a life of passion, dedication, resilience, and boldness in achieving grand personal and societal visions. He was bold in setting out great goals and pursuing them relentlessly until he reached them. He proves that an unexamined life is not worth living. To achieve greatness and impact on society maximally, one must be purposeful, bold, and patient. Herbert’s hidden strengths prepared him for an eventful life – a life he lived on his terms. His ability to connect with people, courage, daring attitude, ambition, and excellent work ethic are the ingredients of his success and must be emulated. Peter Drucker posits, “The best way to predict the future is to create it.” Herbert created his future and lived it to the full of those he loved.

For our budding entrepreneurs, Herbert left a legacy. He proved the axiomatic expression true: “Entrepreneurship is living a few years of your life like most people won’t so that you can spend the rest of your life like most people can’t.” He made the needed sacrifices at the start of his entrepreneurship and built capital enough to be reckoned among his contemporaries. Steve Jobs posits that “your work will fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work.” Herbert did outstanding work; the only way to do great work is to love what you do. Success is not just a product of luck. Hard work, knowledge, skills, and integrity underpin it. Thomas Jefferson argued, “The harder I work, the more luck I seem to have.” Herbert worked hard enough to be lucky. He had an eye for greatness. It is little wonder he set great goals for himself.

John Rockefeller advised that one should not be “afraid to give up the good to go for the great.” Both in banking and establishing a University, Herbert went for greatness and achieved it. We should do the same.

As a business and community leader, Herbert understood that the function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers. He created leaders of industries and global advocates of responsible capitalism in the 21st century.

My friend and brother Herbert lived like a candle in the wind. His star burned so brightly but ended so shortly. Greatness in life is not measured in how long one lives but in the impact of one’s life on society. Herbert lived, and he conquered. Adieu, my great visioner!

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