The Return Of Aig-Imoukhuede

2 months ago
3 mins read

Although the appointment of Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede as the Board Chairman of Access Holdings last week was a highly anticipated event, the announcement still came with elements of surprise and psychology. With the tragic death of Dr. Herbert Wigwe in February, it was clear to well-informed analysts that his friend and partner, Aigboje, would have to step in to fill the void. “I am not surprised at the appointment. From the perspectives of the sudden and painful death of Herbert, it was clear that the institution would require a leader of immense status and credibility to step in and provide a strong leadership to the institution which has grown rapidly in the last two decades; and with all due respects to all the other professionals in the company, Aigboje has the requisite calibre, influence and institutional memory to play that role’’, says Dr. Henry Essien Nelson, a financial consultant, and former executive director of Eco Bank Plc.

He added, “Don’t forget, it is possible that some important shareholders and analysts might have been unnerved by Herbert’s death and were worried about the direction the bank might take; and so, by Aigboje coming out of retirement to take up the leadership of the institution, some frayed nerves have been calmed.’’

A statement from Access Holdings that announced the appointment described Aigboje as a visionary and accomplished leader who “is bringing an outstanding record of accomplishments, wealth of expertise and leadership to guide the group to a new era of success.’’ Foreign financial analysts, international partners and the regulatory authorities have also welcomed the selection, not the least because the bank is a systemically significant player in the industry.

The appointment also offers a psychological balm, some sort of solace to the 28,000 employees of the Access Nation (as they sometimes call themselves) who have been severely hurt by the tragedy. Aigboje had led the bank as chief executive from 2002 when he and Herbert acquired it, and together they built it into one of the five biggest banks by the time he retired in 2013. Herbert took over and continued in the same trajectory, taking it to the top spot in the country by assets and expanding to many African countries and other parts of the world.

When the tragedy struck, Aigboje rose to the challenge admirably well, managing every aspect admirably well. From the night of Friday, February 9 (Los Angeles time) when the chopper came down to Saturday March 9 (Nigerian time) when Herbert, his wife and son were buried in his village, Aigboje served as the chief mourner and key planner of the funeral events. “It is quite consoling and uplifting to see Aig come back. He’s been and will continue to be an important part of Access Family,’’ says a senior management official who declined to be mentioned in this article.

Many had however expected that Aigboje would return as the Group Chief Executive, the exact same position Herbert held. That was out of the question. As he told this writer in his office in Lagos last week, he would no longer be leading a management team of any of his businesses. “I am no longer interested in being owner-manager. I prefer to spend my time now in philanthropy, sit back and play advisory roles to guide the men and women I have mentored over the years,’’ he said. Those who expect that his new role will force him to shed his low-key lifestyle will also be disappointed. He will continue to stay away from the limelight and the headlines and operate from the background.

One of Aigboje’s role models is John Davison Rockefeller Sr; the late American business magnate and philanthropist. Just like the American, Aigboje has built substantial wealth in many areas, including financial services and oil exploration. Following his retirement from banking in December 2013, Aigboje was inspired by the Rockefeller Family Office to establish the Tengen Family Office as a platform to achieve his shared goal (along with Herbert Wigwe) of a multi-generational legacy of wealth transfer and business succession. The Family Office is responsible for managing the wealth of the Aig-Imoukhuede and Wigwe families.

In retirement, he focuses his attention and resources on philanthropy. Through the Aig-Imoukhuede Foundation, he and his wife, Ofovwe, a development specialist, oversee their $100 million philanthropic commitments in building Nigeria’s next generation of government leaders, transforming public sector effectiveness, and improving access to quality primary health care. Aigboje believes that the capacity of the public sector workforce is a key determinant of a nation’s success, therefore the Aig-Imoukhuede Foundation aims to build the capacity of junior, middle and senior level African public servants. The foundation provides scholarships for mid-career public servants to undergo postgraduate degrees at Oxford University in England. Annually, the Foundation also convenes the AIG Public Leaders Programme in partnership with University of Oxford’s Blavatnik School of Government. This much sought after two-month learning opportunity is funded by the Foundation, thus enabling thousands of Nigerian civil servants and their contemporaries from other African nations to obtain the skills required to meet the challenges of a complex and rapidly changing continent.

Aigboje’s return is coming just in time for the 35th Annual General Meeting of Access Holdings in late April. The shareholders will be pleased to note that their bank is indeed in safe hands despite the sad event that occurred in that chilly California night.

Etim Etim
Etim Etim

ETIM ETIM is a journalist, banker and author. He has been a member of the Editorial Board of The Guardian, a Regional Manager in Access Bank and is currently a Columnist in Prime Business Africa, The Cable and Businessday newspapers.

He is also the Chief Executive of Stein Meyer Communications, a major media consultancy and the author of the best-selling book, "Akwa Ibom Heroes: Inside Story of the Fight for Abrogation of Onshore-Offshore Oil Dichotomy" and co-author of another book, "Osinbajo Strides: Defining Moments of an Innovative Leader".

ETIM ETIM is a journalist, banker and author. He has been a member of the Editorial Board of The Guardian, a Regional Manager in Access Bank and is currently a Columnist in Prime Business Africa, The Cable and Businessday newspapers.

He is also the Chief Executive of Stein Meyer Communications, a major media consultancy and the author of the best-selling book, "Akwa Ibom Heroes: Inside Story of the Fight for Abrogation of Onshore-Offshore Oil Dichotomy" and co-author of another book, "Osinbajo Strides: Defining Moments of an Innovative Leader".

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