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By Festus Ahon & Perez Brisibe
ASABA-THE patriarch of the Ibru family and chairman of the Ibru organization, Olorogun Michael Christopher Onajirhevbe Ibru, is dead.
He died,yesterday, 110 days to his 86th birthday after a protracted illness in Florida, United States of America, USA. Olorogun Michael Ibru, the first son Chief Epete Ibru family of Agbarha-Otor in Ughelli North Local Government Area of Delta State, had been having health challenges for over eight years.
The death of Olorogun Michael Ibru, who was one the richest Nigerians in the 80s is coming on the heels of the death of his immediate younger brother, Olorogun Felix Ibru, who died on March 12, 2016.
As of press time the family was yet to confirm his death. However a close family source told Vanguard that he died in the early hours of yesterday.
Confirming the death of the Otota of Agbarha Kingdom, yesterday, his only surviving brother, Mr. Goodie Ibru, in a statement, said: ‘’With heavy hearts, The Ibru Family announce the passing on to glory of our most Illustrious, most loved, well respected and our quintessential Patriarch, Olorogun Michael C. O. Ibru, OFR. He was a wonderful, loving, generous soul and at the same time one of the greatest entrepreneurs in the history of Nigeria and indeed Africa.
‘’The Otota of Agbarha Kingdom passed on at the ripe age of 85, three months shy of his 86th birthday. He would have been 86 on Christmas Day 2016. The Otota, Olorogun Michael C. O. Ibru lived a fulfilled life as a brother, husband, father and uncle. As the head of the Ibru Clan, he pulled all members into his gift of entrepreneurship believing there is a genius in everyone – a gift from God. His love for family knew no bounds. He passed on quietly in Maryland, USA in the early hours of 6th September 2016.’’
Olorogun Michael Ibru’s death drew tears from the eyes of prominent Deltans including Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, Senator Emmanuel Aguariavwodo, Speaker, Delta State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon Monday Igbuya, former governor of Delta State, Chief James Ibori, Chief Fred Majemite, Olorogun Taleb Tebite, Chief Denis Omovie, Chief Sheriff Oborevbori and Barrister Sam Mariere among others.
We’ve lost the pride of Delta – Okowa
Governor Ifeanyi Okowa said he received with sadness and an immense feeling of great national loss, the news of the death of the patriarch of Ibru dynasty, and Nigeria’s foremost entrepreneur, Olorogun Michael Ibru.
Okowa, in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Charles Aniagwu, said the late Ibru was an epitome of integrity in business who founded the famous Ibru Organization in 1956.
Recalling how the Ibru Organization has grown into a multi billion-dollar conglomerate with interests in shipping, agriculture, aviation, banking, brewery as well as oil and gas, Okowa said: “On behalf of my family, the Government and people of Delta State, I extend my sincere condolences to the entire Ibru dynasty of Agbarha-Otor, the Urhobo nation and Nigerians on the passage of the beloved, urbane, cerebral and quintessential businessman and industrialist whose contributions to the growth of commerce and industry in Nigeria remains indelible.
“Olorogun Michael Ibru was an accomplished businessman, entrepreneur, philanthropist and community leader who built the Ibru dynasty to command the respect, trust and love of the entire country. Because of the successes recorded by the Ibru Orgainzation in many areas, many Nigerians were encouraged to delve into several business interests, which no doubt has contributed immensely to the growth of commerce and industry in Nigeria.
“As a state, we also recall with immense gratitude the role played by the late Olorogun Michael Ibru in the creation of our beloved Delta State. The Urhobo Nation and indeed Deltans have lost a great man, who was indeed a pride to Deltans.”
Michael Ibru was Urhobo’s greatest man –UPU
President General of Urhobo Progress Union, UPU, Chief Joe Omene, said the late Michael Ibru was the greatest man in the entire Urhobo Nation.
Omene, while mourning the Patriarch of the Ibru family, said: “Michael Ibru is the foremost person that gave the Urhobo Nation its identity both nationally and internationally. His presence is felt and noticed in every Urhobo kingdom you go to today making him Urhobo’s greatest man ever. The Urhobo Nation would miss him dearly and the UPU would give him a befitting funeral.”
Michael Ibru was a pioneer of pioneers – Ibori
Chief James Onanefe Ibori described the death of Olorogun Michael Ibru as a great shock not because the man, who was born in 1930 died young but because he was one of the few that actually defined the veritable Nigerian entrepreneurial spirit.
In a press statement by Tony Eluemunor, his media assistant, the former governor said: “Olorogun Michael Ibru was a trail-blazer, who streaked through Nigeria like a meteor, lighting up the way for others to follow. In 1956, Ibru was just a 26 year old young man, yet he had the vision and the boldness to leave the U.A.C and started a partnership with an expatriate, Jimmy Large, which he called Laibru. Laibru successfully engaged in general trading, yet, a year later, Michael Ibru discovered some loopholes he could plug in the frozen fish market.
‘’Although this business was cornered by expatriate firms, Ibru plunged into it, establishing an importing company, rented and built cold storage facilities across the country, and by the mid-1960s fish business had become the traditional money maker for the Ibru organization. From, there, Ibru ventured into other profitable interests. He had such a Midas touch that he founded booming businesses in the fields of transportation, construction, etc”.
To Ibori, the greatest lesson that Michael Ibru has left for Nigerians is the fact that he saw it as a point of duty to help his siblings develop their business empires and they remained as one close knit family.
The second lesson is that a business should not necessarily be a one-man concern. Thus, Ibru went into several partnerships with different people. The result is that today, the Ibru Organisation is an important segment of the Nigerian economy. In fact, it is an empire that runs from fishing to air transportation, Guardian newspapers, the hospitality business.
Some of us will miss him more than his children – Aguariavwodo
On his part, Senator Emmanuel Aguariavwodo said: “it is shocking and very sad indeed. But we give all the glory to God for a life well spent in the service of God, humanity and family. Olorogun Michael Ibru was a Titan in the business world. Everybody worked with and for him when he was at the top of game. Japanese, Dutch, French, Englishmen, Germans, Italians, Americans, Lebanese, Russians, they worked for him and did business with him. “The Ibru Organisation, which he founded and modelled after the old UAC was home to all Midwestern and Western Nigerians. Easterners and Northerners were not left out. He is the father to the nation, and some of us his other children will miss him even more than his biological children.”
He was a lover of children – Igbuya
Chief Monday Igbuya said; “Olorogun Micheal Ibru was a shrewd businessman with a good heart. Olorogun Michael Ibru as an international businessman, philanthropist, educator, a lover of children, grassroots organiser and community leader gained the respect, trust and love of the entire country and he will be greatly missed”.
Oyovbaire, Omovie speak
Former Minister for Information and Culture, Prof Sam Oyovbaire tributed: “The patriot, nationalist and most gentleman, Olorogun Michael Ibru,has passed on! The Ibru clan has passed through tremendous pains in recent times.
“My profound sympathies and condolences to the great and notable family, especially to Mr. Goodie Ibru upon whose shoulders now rest the Ibru clan, to Chief (Dr) Mrs Cecilia Ibru, and to Olorogun Oscar Ibru. May the decent and peaceful soul of late Olorogun Michael Ibru rest in perfect peace and in the bosom of the Lord.”
Chief Denis Omovie said Olorogun Michael Ibru would be remembered for his great contributions to the development of Urhobo Nation, Delta State and Nigeria as a whole. “Olorogun Michael Ibru touched every aspect of the society. He single handedly built the Ibru collage, Agbarha-otor which today has produced many graduates.”
The man Olorogun Michael Ibru
Born on December 25, 1930, to the family of Peter Ibru, a missionary worker, who also worked at the Igbobi Orthapaedic Hospital, Lagos, Michael, the eldest child of his parents, showed signs of greatness early.
The ingenuity of Olorogun Michael Ibru manifested itself for the first time at Igbobi College in 1948 when he moved up meteorically to Secondary Class II straight from the Elementary School without the usual preamble of Secondary Class I. And then in 1951, his fourth year, on a course that normally lasted six years – he passed the Cambridge School Certificate Examination with resounding distinction in Division One. Following the same rare path that is meant only for exceptional people, Michael Ibru, after leaving Igbobi College, secured a job in the United African Company (now UACN), as a manager-in-training.
Here again Michael Ibru, set another pace for his peers, for he was one of the very few fresh school leavers to be so appointed to posts of responsibility by the UACN.
His success in the world of business is legendary even in the face of adversity often associated with the business world. He grew up to become a prominent Nigerian businessman from Agbarha-Otor, Delta State. He is the head of the Ibru Organization, one of the largest conglomerates in Nigeria.
To test his entrepreneurial skills, he resigned from the UACN group in 1956 and founded the Ibru Organisation with the establishment of a modest trading company then called Laibru Limited. La in the name stood for Jimmy Large, the former boss in UACN who assisted Michael Ibru during and after he resigned from UACN, while Ibru is Michael Ibru.
Within a very short time, these trading companies became some of the largest wholly indigenous business conglomerates on the whole length of the West Coast of Africa.
It soon crystallised in the distribution of frozen fish, with the humanitarian objective of eliminating malnutrition among all people living in Nigeria by providing them with low-priced, high-protein food. The name Ibru became synonymous with frozen fish.
To trade in seafood, he established an importing company; he also rented and built cold storage facilities across the country. By the mid-1960s trading fish had become the traditional money maker for the Ibru organisation. Though he had other profitable interests such as transportation and construction, fish trading helped him secure financing and other forms of capital to engage in large scale trading. He established a partnership with a Taiwanese company, Osadjere Fishing Company, which provided Trawlers and other accessories for trading.
By the end of the 1960s, he branched out fully into other areas of the economy. Like a lot of his contemporaries, he established a transportation company, called Rutam. He also invested in palm oil production. Over the years, the Ibru Organization has expanded into other areas such as tourism, brewery, timber, banking and poultry.
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