Two weeks ago, I published a piece in Saturday Breakfast in which I asked, “WILL ACCESS BANK CONTINUE LIKE THIS?” In the 14 years that I have served Saturday Breakfast, no one has accused me of publishing libel or distorting facts. I do not write out of malice or publish falsehood to impugn anybody’s character or to destroy anybody’s reputation.

I have very rarely responded to any comment or any reaction to any piece I have published. My attitude is that any article I write is a keynote address and any of my readers has the right to dissect the piece anyway he or she chooses, agree or disagree with me or do a rejoinder, if he or she so wishes. I am a staunch believer in the freedom of speech and I am comfortable with my words being impeached with facts.

I however react when it is clear to me that someone has assumed that freedom of speech is freedom to spew nonsense. I have gone to court over and over again to protect my integrity, the greatest asset that I have. That is why I may be the one Nigerian, living or dead, with the highest number of victorious judgments in defamation cases from our courts.

I have decided to react to a widely circulated and lengthy article titled “Herbert Wigwe, Access Bank and the danger of a single story” credited to one Etim Etim who claims that the late Wigwe was his “boss, brother and friend”. The article has been brought to my attention by several people. I am not impressed by the attempt of Etim to suggest that his shallow piece drew inspiration from the talented author, Chimamanda Adichie. I would not have credited Etim’s propaganda article with a response except that in his article, he placed me in a group of people whose “cruelty and depravity” in spawning “falsehoods against an innocent man even in moments of immense tragedies and pain is unfathomable”. Etim Etim went ahead to put me among the people he says “are out to inflict pain by fabricating lies and malicious propaganda against the dead. Their intention is to destroy the memory of the dead banker, inflict pain on his aged parents, business partners and damage the reputation of the businesses he left behind”.

I do not know if the all-knowing Etim Etim read two of the opening paragraphs of my article, “WILL ACCESS BANK CONTINUE LIKE THIS?”. In the paragraphs, I wrote the following: “Today, it is with a heavy heart, a very heavy heart that I write this special edition of Saturday Breakfast. I do not celebrate the misfortune of anyone because in our life’s journey, each of us will meet our ups and downs. I cannot celebrate the death of anyone because some day, each of us will die. I have no idea when it will be my turn and how it will happen.

“In Igbo land where I come from, to bury a child is considered about the worst thing that can happen to anyone. In my part of the country, a parent is not even allowed to see the corpse of his or her child. I can therefore imagine the excruciating pain that must come from an aged mother and father burying their cherished son, a daughter-in-law and a grandson, all at the same time. I therefore join the many who have extended their condolences to the Wigwe family of Isiokpo on the recent helicopter crash in California which resulted in the deaths of their son, Herbert, his wife and son. I pray that the good Lord will give them the fortitude to bear the loss”.

Yes, I wrote in the article that I am not a hypocrite or a sycophant who will pretend that there are no lessons to be learned from what has happened or that no big mistakes have been made. I don’t know if Etim Etim, the poor propagandist at Access Bank, is seeking to buy favour from the new managers of Access Bank by whitewashing the crystal-clear errors that even a blind man can see. It is possible that Etim is seeking promotion in his career with the carcass of my reputation as part of his CV. What is certain is that he has set out to distort my credibility with blatant falsehood. Etim Etim may have heard of me but he clearly does not know me. If his gambit is to shut me up, somebody should tell him that it will not work!

In response to my question about the propriety of naming the emerging university at Isiokpo, “Wigwe University”, Etim Etim, the public relations ‘guru’, wrote, “Why did Herbert name the university after his family? This is as silly a question as it can get. Organisations and institutions are named after their founders as a mark of honour or memorabilia to the memory of the founder or the family. Herbert is proud of the Wigwe family he hailed from, and the university was appropriately named to give honour to the family, just as Harvard (the oldest institution of higher learning in the US is named after John Harvard); Yale (named after Elihu Yale); Obafemi Awolowo University; Ahmadu Bello University, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, etc are named after great personalities”.

What Etim Etim refused to see with his tasteless propaganda is that in NONE of the cases he referred to was a university named by the founder after himself or his family while he was alive. If he had spent a little time to do simple research before rushing to publish what he must have thought was a PR masterpiece, he would have found out that the great Harvard University in Cambridge Massachusetts was neither established nor named by Rev John Harvard. It was indeed the Great and General Court of the Governor and Company of the Massachusetts Bay that approved the money for the establishment of the school. In 1639, the institution was named Harvard University, in memory of John Harvard who had provided in his will that upon his death, the school be given half of his estate and his entire library. It was the noteworthy bequest that led the school to honor him by taking his name.

In similar manner, the other ivy league university in the US, Yale University, in New Haven Connecticut, was not established by Elihu Yale. It was in 1701 that the Connecticut legislature adopted a charter “to erect a Collegiate School.” The school became known as Yale College, seventeen years after, in 1718. It was renamed in honor of the Welsh merchant, Elihu Yale, who had donated to the school the proceeds from the sale of nine bales of goods together with 417 books and a portrait of King George.

Coming home, Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) and Nnamdi Azikiwe University (UNIZIK) are all Federal Government owned institutions named after national heroes following their deaths. Obafemi Awolowo University used to be known as University of Ife. In 1962 when Ahmadu Bello University was established, it was called the University of Northern Nigeria. UNIZIK was established after the death of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe.

A university is not a trading company. No serious university anywhere in the world is likely to be named Etim Etim & Sons University. Bishop David Oyedepo did not name Covenant University after himself. Pastor Enoch Adeboye did not name Redeemers University after himself. Pastor Kumuyi did not name the Anchor University after himself. The one exception is Igbinedion University in Okada. If Etim Etim considers that a great example, it says a lot about his values.

To further drag my name into the mud, Etim Etim has deployed blatant falsehood and half-truths from the pit of hell to mislead his patrons. He has turned facts upside down and stated in his mischievous article full of tautology that “Tony Okoroji’s claim that Access Bank has deliberately withheld COSON’s funds is a deliberate fabrication and obfuscation of information just to hoodwink the public and impugn the characters of those involved. The fact is that some members of COSON – Premier Music, Ivory Music and Pretty Okafor – have sued COSON and the bank seeking to restrict the accounts of COSON. The case is still in court, and as a senior lawyer in Access Bank’s Legal Department told me, ‘’in keeping with the legal doctrine of Lis Pendis, the bank as a responsible corporate citizen cannot take any steps that will tie the hands or foist a fait accompli on the court’’.

No!!! The case was struck out by the Court on February 6, 2019, more than five years ago! (To be continued).


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