What Olorogun Michael Ibru meant to me, by Cecilia
• Marriage to him made me stronger
• He made the family renowned for business
Wife of the late Olorogun Michael Ibru, Mrs. Cecilia Ibru, spoke to Leo Sobechi and Bertram Nwannekanma the evening of Tuesday, the day he died.
She hopes his demise would usher peace into the Ibru family
How did you receive the news?
He had been sick for some time, but was recovering.We were shocked to hear of his passing on this morning in the USA. What else can I say at this moment?
When last did you see him physically?
We had not seen for some time, but we saw often on Skype, taking photographs and he was looking much better. I was looking forward to his full recovery and return only to hear that he passed on this morning.It was a shocker as all the doctors’ reports were good.He was a great man. I suppose as his immediate younger brother died not long ago, we believe it’s Gods will for him to pass on this morning.
What does the name ‘Michael Ibru’ mean to you?
He was a genius of our time , was a pioneer in so many fields. He was known as the ‘Fisherman of Nigeria’ who ensured that much-needed protein was available for low-income families to feed their children. He had great satisfaction in pioneering that, until probably about 20 years ago when the fishing business got a little bit crowded by unscrupulous people.Because he believed in the commonwealth, he gave people around him, including his wives, opportunity to actualize themselves. I was the number one lady of banking and would not have got there if he had not given us the opportunity.All his brothers and children have their own businesses, so we are a family known for business and the anointing for good quality business came from him down to all of us.
What was his driving philosophy?
His driving philosophy was based on Christianity because the scriptures say that the righteous would shine brighter and brighter; he believed there is no end to it, until God says stop.We are still guided by that same philosophy which is driving the Michael and Cecilia University today. He also believed that you have no business going into the market to look for employment, you create it yourself; that is you create the business as well as empower other people under you to create more business.
Though the Ibru family is known for business , one of us, the late Olorogun Felix Ibru, went into politics and he did well too. So we all feel we have lost somebody who was our mentor, our father, our patriarch; a person who looks at you and sees possibilities in you. He always said: ‘Don’t look at the weaknesses of a person, look at the strengths and build on the strengths.’Mediocrity never appeared in his dictionary as he believed everyone had a genius in him. An epitome of good taste, he was impeccable in his dressing, paying attention to the minutest detail in the manner he comported himself in public and even at home, a perfectionist!
But though a genius, he was a very meek and humble man who would not raise his voice. He would look at you coolly if you were behaving in an unusual way, trying to find out where your genius lay, take that genius from the man and develop it. I can go and on , even write books on him, because we were married for over 50 years and he had been very wonderful.
Having been married to him that long, what specific nuggets can society and young people today pick from him?
We will remember him for so many things.In marital terms, I think a man such as he needs a special woman that could understand him so that when he is doing certain things you don’t think that he is up to no good. Give him the benefit of doubt, be patient with him. He taught us how to do business as is taught at Havard .He was a very gifted man , first to the Ibru family then to Nigeria at large.Many people can testify to his kind heartedness, a blessing to people he came across.He didn’t believe in amassing wealth, going out sometimes without money and if you asked him how he would pay his bills, would reply: ‘Don’t worry about that’ and somehow the bills would be paid.
I came from a strong background but being married to him made me even stronger than ever before. He made all the difference in my life, in the sense that I married him at a young age and he gave me the opportunity to set up in life. Not many men would do it, because they would be afraid that she is getting too educated, getting too high up there. But it never fazed him because he was a man that was comfortable with himself. My prayer is that there should be many more like him in the country.
What do you remember about him that makes his demise so painful?
His humility, his meekness in attending to grave issues without being ruffled and that he would always find something positive in the underdog .His generosity was unsurpassable. I’ve come across so many people who told me that he bought their first cars for them and if he could, give it there and then; he did not wait for you to come tomorrow. A very special person, he was always very loving, very gentle. As a father he would ensure discipline but not to the point where you would begin to disrespect him. As a husband, he never laid a finger on me because he was gentle in everything he did. He was a man of peace and wanted his whole family to be at peace. So, all of us will have to live at peace with each other.
What do you think Nigerian leaders, particularly those who see him as their role model should take to heart as a demonstration of love for his memory?
He was the epitome of agape love and Nigerians today have a lot to learn from him; not to be vindictive, not to be jealous, not to be covetous.He always told us Nigeria is big enough for everybody to find a space in it to develop and become a great person.We have it all , so why are we killing each other to become somebody in Nigeria?But he also believed you must work hard, persevere.If it is fishing, persevere in it, if it is education, persevere with it until you become a force to be reckoned with in your choice of business.
Later after he had widened his interests, he would nurse them to a point , then hand over to his brother, sister or wife to handle. He did not want all of it for himself. He had this idea of ‘live and let live’ in the family and also, if we can adopt that as a national ethos, it would help us.Nobody is perfect and nobody will be perfect no matter how you try. So we should also know that we all have weaknesses but be on the lookout for strengths to cover our weaknesses. If they study him, the youth will find traits that they could take away .A very charismatic man, you would want to be near him, to sit with him and learn at his feet.
He was a source of light to the dynasty on account of the love he radiated; all that could turn to darkness at his exit. What do you think could dispel the darkness?
On the contrary, I think his demise is going to bring all of us together. Now he is gone, we would have to take the issues at hand and say ‘let peace reign.’
At my brother-in-law’s burial in Ughelli, the Primate made it very clear: the Ibru family, you had better come together and let peace reign. And that peace will have to reign among us. We are already making up our minds after that talk to us; it was like a voice from heaven speaking to us. And that may be the reason he decided to go at this time. Now we have all made up our minds that peace must reign in the family and it shall be so in Jesus’ name.
How long do you think it would take the family to produce another Olorogun Michael Ibru?
We have to pray and let God answer it. I believe there are many Olorogun Michael Ibru’s right now in the Ibru family, we just have to encourage them to make sure they become as we expect.
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