Wigwe: Monarch to use traditional means to unravel mystery of death

Gloom and despair defined the atmosphere in Isiokpo, a community in Ikwerre Local Government Area of Rivers State on Thursday as the indigenes continued to mourn the tragic death of their illustrious son, reputable banker and philanthropist, Dr. Herbert Wigwe.

Their faces welled up in tears as the reality of an event they had received with disbelief finally dawned on them. Wigwe, his wife and son had died horribly last Saturday after the chopper they boarded in the US crashed and what started like a rumour in Isiokpo became a painful reality.

Isiokpo chiefs wept. Their women cried. Their youths were lost in melancholy and their children felt some vacuum. Since the incident, Isiokpo has been quiet. In fact, the entire Ikwerre Local Government Area felt the far-reaching sound of the fall of an Iroko tree in the wild. The Nigerian flag at the Ikwerre Local Government Headquarters located in the community was flown at half mast.

Undoubtedly, Isiokpo lost a great soul. Their shinning light was extinguished abruptly, causing thick darkness to pervade the entire community. Wigwe, indeed, meant different things to all the stakeholders of his community. The women and widows called him husband. For the youths, he was their hope, source of inspiration and role model. The chiefs and the traditional ruling council saw him as the pillar of Isiokpo’s development and the bringer of peace.

Little wonder everybody is mourning his exit. The community suspended all activities to reflect on the lives and times of Wigwe. In fact, markets, stalls and all business premises were shut in the community to mourn philanthropist Wigwe. The farmers abandoned their farmlands. Wigwe meant a lot for them.

Isiokpo Kingdom immediately declared eight days of mourning in honour of their benefactor. To begin the mourning period, all the indigenes and non-indigenes wore black outfits. Many were completely dressed in black while others wore clothes with touches of black. Vehicular movement was skeletal. Most of the vehicles seen that day in Isiokpo belonged to persons who came from other parts of Ikwerre and the state to join the mourning.

No market opened and no store sold anything on that day. All the busy roads of Ikwerre were dominated by persons in black carrying out processions in honour of Wigwe. Different groups of youths and women took over the procession. They sang sorrowful songs and dirges for Wigwe.

At the palace of the Isiokpo Traditional Ruler, HRM King Blessing Wagor, were canopies erected for mourners. The entire place was congested.

Others who could not join the procession were seen at the entrances of their houses sitting in melancholy and gazing into empty spaces. Some held their chins in their palms as they wondered what would become of their community without Wigwe.

At the palace of the Isiokpo Traditional Ruler, HRM King Blessing Wagor, were canopies erected for mourners. The entire place was congested.

He said: “We must traditionally bury him. He cannot be buried outside Isiokpo. He must be buried here. Isiokpo must find a way to probe his death. We must get to the root of the whole thing. Isiokpo is an ancient city. We must go back to our traditional way and find out what really killed Herbert Wigwe. If his death is natural, we will know. If it is from a human we will know.”

His demands were echoed by Apostle Ezemoye Peter, the President of Isiokpo Youth Council and the Coordinating Chairman of all the Ikwerre community youth leaders, who said said Wigwe would be remembered for restoring the elusive peace in Isiokpo.

Like the traditional institution, Peter called for a thorough probe of the circumstances that led to the copter crash that killed Wigwe.

He said: “We are not too comfortable with the stories. We, the youths of Isiokpo are using this opportunity to call on the Federal Government, the state and the National Assembly to look into this and follow up investigations to know what actually happened.

“We are not buying into the stories. It is a great loss to us and we can’t just lose a brother and father like that. We want the INTERPOL and the Nigerian government to find out what actually happened.

“I am not a pilot and I am not an engineer. But in my layman’s understanding, when the weather is bad, you don’t take off. So the engineering crew and the helicopter company should be investigated. We need a thorough investigation to see what really happened.”

The President of Ikwerre Isiokpo Women Association, Christiana Ikpe, also said the women would not stop grieving over Wigwe’s death, insisting that Wigwe’s death was not natural.

She said: “Wherever this death comes from, let the land of Isiokpo locate it and find them out. None of them will go free. He was everything to us. He never loved us to cry. He was always backing us. He was taking care of the widow and many people were feeding under him.”

But why will the death of one man throw the entire community into maximum gloom? King Wagor said the personality of Wigwe was the reason behind the community-wide mourning.

King Wagor described Wigwe as a special man to the community, saying he was championing the development of Isiokpo before his shocking demise. He said Wigwe fulfilled many promises he made to the community. But his death has truncated many other life-changing projects he promised the community.

“Who will now complete the ongoing electricity project he initiated? Who will give us light?” the monarch lamented. He said Wigwe began an ambitious project of electrifying all the communities in Isiokpo before his death

The monarch said: “He is a special man to us. We are crying and mourning him. God knows everything. I won’t ask God why. We have handed over everything to Him. May God give us the mind to endure it.

“We relied on him. He came to develop Isiokpo. He was a wonderful person to us. He left many legacies in the community. He sited a university here. He made many promises. He promised us plenty things. We are in tears.

“The light project He promised us is still ongoing. Who will give us light again? He has gone and we are in pains. What happens to our Xmas bonus? He used to supply rice all over Isiokpo. We enjoyed him and his death is painful. He was humble, honest and respectful.”

The traditional ruler said Wigwe’s death had taught others to strive and make positive impact in their communities. He said if Wigwe had not left such legacies, the entire Isiokpo would not be mourning him.

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He said: “This death is an example to all of us. You must make impact in your community. If Herbert is not a good man, this crowd will not gather here today. We can’t be here crying. Let’s follow in Herbert Wigwe’s footsteps.”

For the youths, Wigwe stood for hope and peace. Isiokpo was a war-torn community before Wigwe’s intervention. The youths were known for kidnapping, cultism and armed robbery. The area was initially deserted as people fled the community because of insecurity.

Apostle Ezemoye Peter said Wigwe would be remembered for restoring the elusive peace in Isiokpo.

Peter said: “Wigwe was one of those who brought peace in the land. One of the task he gave to me as a youth leader is ‘if the town is quiet and cool, if the youths are changing into getting themselves educated and integrated into the society, I will support them’. It was a task and we ensured we carried it out. Everywhere has been transformed”.

He said Wigwe also promised to place the university on the world map. He, however, said the late banker fulfilled the promise through his vision of recreating the Harvard University in Isiokpo.

Peter said one of the ways he did that was through his decision to set up an ambitious university project, the Wigwe University, with a Harvard standard within the community.

Quoting what Wigwe told the youths, he said: “Our late father and boss Wigwe came back to us and said, ‘I am bringing down this university to our community and I am bringing down many of my friends to ensure that they put things in place that will put the community on the map’.”

Peter insisted that Wigwe fulfilled that promise, adding that through the Wigwe University, Isiokpo had been etched on the world map.

He said: “And I can tell you he did that. Isiokpo today is in the map of the world. Sometimes empowering the youth is not just about giving money. When they create an enabling environment for you to excel, it is empowerment. That is what has happened in Isiokpo.”

The youth leader lamented the death of Wigwe, describing it as shocking and saying that the entire community had been crying since the incident occurred.

Peter said: “The only way we can honour his death is to ensure that his legacies are sustained. That is the best way anyone can mourn him. We must protect all and ensure we actualise all his dreams and aspirations.

“His dreams and his name shouldn’t be allowed to go into extinction. He has done his own. The only thing left for the youth is to do their part.

“We must protect all and ensure we actualise all his dreams and aspirations. His dreams and his name shouldn’t be allowed to go into extinction.

“We are mourning him for eight days. But after today, activities will go on in the community on a low key. Wigwe did a lot for the community.”

Perhaps, the women are the worst hit. Wigwe took care of them all, including the widows. The President of Ikwerre Isiokpo Women Association, Christiana Ikpe, said the women would not stop grieving over Wigwe’s death.

Christiana said: “Herbert was a brave man and a great man. He didn’t eat alone and he loved his people. It is not everybody that made it that came home. But he made it and came back to give back to his community.

“He was my cousin, our brother and our husband. Our hearts are bleeding. The entire Ikwerre Isiokpo are in tears. Ikwerre as a whole we are in tears. Though you don’t ask God question, some things will happen and you will ask questions. Where did this thing come from? We want to know.

“This is a great shock in Isiokpo. We are crying for both his father and mother. It is only God that will console them. We can only tell them sorry the same way people are coming here to tell us sorry. Only God knows our hearts.”

Emphasising how Wigwe rescued the community from instability, he said: “He was feeding everybody. Ikwerre land was hot before; kidnapping and killing everywhere. But he came and collected all our children and gave them employment. More than 2000 of our children are there working. Since then, Isiokpo and all Ikwerre land became calm because of his good heart.”

At the massive site of Wigwe University located within the community, constructions are still ongoing. In fact, the general area is a construction site. An employee of the university, Godspower Brilliant Ezendu, who hails from Isiokpo described Wigwe as a father to all.

He said: “He was a father to everybody. The work I am doing today is as a result of his project, the Wigwe University. This his singular project employed over 10,000 youths. People should try to imitate him.”

The people of Isiokpo may take long to recover from the death of a man who floated different projects to rescue them from poverty, underdevelopment and unemployment. They are only praying that some of his projects such as the Wigwe University and the electricity project will not die with him.

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