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Lessons from the freak death of Nigerian billionaire

Herbert Onyewumbu Wigwe speaks onstage at Global Citizen Live, Lagos on September 18, 2021 in Lagos, Nigeria.
Herbert Onyewumbu Wigwe speaks onstage at Global Citizen Live, Lagos on September 18, 2021 in Lagos, Nigeria. | Getty Images for Global Citizen/Andrew Esiebo

The death on Feb. 9 of Dr. Herbert Wigwe, a 57-year-old Nigerian Christian billionaire who was the group managing director and the CEO of Access Bank Nigeria, caused all of us in Nigeria to reflect soberly about our life on earth.  Wigwe, along with his wife, son, lawyer, and two pilots, died in a helicopter crash in California.  

Just a few months earlier in December, Wigwe completed building his opulent residence on Queen’s Drive, Ikoyi, Lagos. It was his dream home for retirement. The imposing building is a state-of-the-art marvel, fully embracing the digital age with high-tech automation control.  It was estimated to have cost him 10 billion Naira ($6.2 million). He also had the ambition of running the best university in Africa.

What no one, including Wigwe himself, could predict is that he would not be able to enjoy his enormous mansion for long.  On Jan. 19, Wigwe took to his social media account and shared a message urging his thousands of followers to “remember that life is a precious gift.”  He advised them to “honor this gift by living with purpose,” adding that we should “number our days.”

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The unfortunate thing with most of us is that we know that we will all die, but no one prepares for it. We all have tall dreams and pursue them proudly like the rich fool in the Bible who said “I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry’” (Luke 12:18-19).

“But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’ Jesus remarked: ‘So is he who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God’” (Luke 12:20-21).

I watched the richest man in Africa, Aliko Dangote, pay tribute in tears to Wigwe.  He said, “I stand here today with a sense of profound loss and feeling of utter helplessness. I feel helpless because I could not prevent the tragedy that befell my friend, brother and mentee.”

The governor of River state, Siminalayi Fubara, in his remarks during the funeral service, questioned the meaning of political struggles and rivalries: “This one has to do with our political class. What is all this struggle all about? You want to kill; you want to bury. What is it all about?”  I agree with him that the struggle in this world is not worth it.

The governor echoed the words of King Solomon, “vanity upon vanities all is vanity" (Ecclesiastes 1:2). Our focus should be to live impactful lives with eternal value.

We should always remember what the Scripture says: “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrew 9:27). Our major problem should not be death but judgment. Where we will spend our eternity should be of utmost concern to us. Numbering our days is a sure way of guiding ourselves to ensure we do not go astray. Whether we like it or not, every new day is a step closer to our grave.

We should not be ignorant of the fact that Heaven and Hell are very real.  Every man or woman must give an account of his or her stewardship here on earth. We should be aware that there is no repentance in the grave. Seek God while you still have breath because the time will come when it will be too late. And those of us who are Christians should learn how to number our days. It was Wigme, his wife, and his son last month, and it can be any of us tomorrow.

Oscar Amaechina is the president of Afri-Mission and Evangelism Network, Abuja, Nigeria. His calling is to take the gospel to where no one has neither preached nor heard about Jesus. He is the author of the book Mystery Of The Cross Revealed.  

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