Celebrating A Life Of Grace: Lady Maiden Ibru At 70
Lady Maiden Ibru walks in a few minutes later than scheduled apologizing profusely for “wasting our time” while insisting she “has to explain why she was late because we have been waiting.” “We are all humans and I can’t be keeping you waiting for long,” she says apologetically.
While a stranger might be taken by surprise at this gesture especially from a woman of her status, those who know her will readily admit that Maiden is just being Maiden.
Although she was ill only a day before, Lady Ibru has been up on her feet all day attending to meetings and has still made time for our photoshoot. Beaming with smiles on her face, she takes a pose….1, 2, an element of grace and action. Minutes later, her photoshoot is interrupted by a pleasant surprise: a bouquet from one of her sons, Tive, just to appreciate her.
Born and bred in Nigeria to a Greek father and a Nigerian mother, her mother took on the role as a super-parent after the death of her husband when Lady Ibru was only 8. “After the death of my father when I was just 8 and my brother, 10, Mum ensured we had the best and would take us to vacations. I had a happy childhood.”
Owing to her heritage, her skin tone easily gives her away. Yet Lady Ibru strongly identifies as Nigerian, particularly Yoruba. In fact, many a time, those who interact with her are left dazed because of how effortlessly the Yoruba language rolls off her tongue, sometimes, without a word in the English Language.
“This is because I schooled here [Nigeria] down to my university [the University of Ibadan].” Despite her parents’ plan to send her and her siblings to school in Jos, all it took was one trip to Ibadan, and an advice from an uncle, and her mother’s concern to have her children close-by to lead to her mother’s discovery of the first private boarding school in Nigeria, Children’s Home School where she learned the Yoruba language.
“You pick up a language very easily when you are younger and I even speak it, Mo ti e le pa owe pa pa [I speak proverbs.]” It is also in Ibadan that she developed friendships that would last a lifetime.
Described as “loyal” and “free-spirited” by friends, Lady Ibru reaffirms this when she says that she “cherishes her childhood friends,” friends she continues to relive memories with. “I don’t joke with my childhood friends, they are very much around and I thank God for that. We are just happy people and we just remember the things we did in school and that is the way life should be.”
Also called Ore gbogbo aye [friend of the world], she opines, “I’d rather be a friend of the world than an enemy of the world. It is up to you to choose if you want to be” because peace in its entirety is essential if you must live a happy and fulfilling life.
And living a fulfilling life includes watching her diet. Although she admits to being a rice-lover, she notes that there is a need to “cut down on all your carbs, increase your protein, and cut down on red meat. And I’ve tried in the last four years to actually eat those vital vegetables- carrots, lettuce, cabbage, green beans and three more- every evening.”
Taking care of oneself to Lady Ibru also means the extension of care to those around her. “My mother was very kind to the housekeepers and there was no abusive word…So you’d find that the domestic staff will also serve you wholeheartedly and you must reciprocate it by being a part of their lives in any way you can assist.”
This principle she also applies to the workforce. Since becoming the CEO of The Guardian Group 20 years ago, it has been nothing short of a success story. Her old and new staff are appreciative of the opportunities presented to them through her so that even after they leave, they still inform her of their next move, an act she is thankful of.
Her mother’s kindness is not the only thing she inherited. Her sense of style and elegance that would make her the cynosure of all eyes until her 70th year on earth were learned from her. Referring to her mother as Sisi, she says beaming that her mother is “possibly the first to wear an Indian Sari in Sapele.”