By Mike Ebonugwo
LAGOS- Fifteen years ago, precisely on February 3, 1996, Olorogun Alexander Uruemu Ibru popularly known as Alex Ibru, escaped death by the whiskers as he was attacked by some gun men who shot and badly wounded him on the Falomo Bridge in Lagos as he was driving home from work.
His car was sprayed with machine gun fire from the unidentified men who had trailed him in a deep-blue Peugeot car. Both Ibru and the then Editor-in-Chief of The Guardian, Femi Kusa were flown to England for treatment of their injuries. That near death incident was to stir widespread outrage as most Nigerians demanded that the assassins be hunted down and brought to justice.
Justice long in coming
Incidentally justice has been long in coming for this publisher of front-line Nigerian national newspaper, The Guardian as those later accused and arrested of perpetrating the dastardly act on behalf of the late General Sani Abacha’s regime are either still marking their time in court or have received some form of reprieve. Unfortunately, after the long-drawn case against his attempted killers, he did not live to see justice done one way or the other. The man died at about 1.30pm on Sunday, November 20 as a result of illness. He was aged 66.
As expected, his death has thrown many, especially those who have known him for long and appreciate his values into shock. And amidst the tears of grief and regret, encomiums are already beginning to flow in torrents, with most recalling several landmark actions in his life that will remain unforgettable.
Alex Ibru, youngest brother of business mogul and foundation of the Ibru Organisation, Chief Michael Ibru, was born to Chief Janet Omotogor Ibru on March 1, 1945.
A native of Agbhar-Otor, in Delta State, Alex attended Yaba Methodist Primary School between1951-1957, Ibadan Grammar School (1958-1960), Igbobi College, Lagos (1960-1963) and the University of Trent (formerly Trent Polytechnic)(1967-1970) where he studied Business Economics. After working briefly in the family business under the tutelage of his older brother and patriarch, Michael C.O. Ibru, Alex launched out on his own and soon became one of the most successful young businessmen in the country.
Meeting with journalists/Guardian Newspaper
In 1983, he met with some front-line journalists – Stanley Mecebuh of the Daily Times of Nigeria, Dele Cole also formerly of that paper and Segun Osoba, formerly of the Nigerian Herald. With 55 per cent funding from the Ibrus, they flagged off the publication of The Guardian in 1983, with Alex Ibru as chairman.
The main goal of the paper was to provide an independent and balanced view of events in and around the country. Indeed, the success of The Guardian made it clear that there was an appetite for high quality journalism in Nigeria. The military regimes in Nigeria did not appreciate the paper’s independence and did everything to silence its editors.
Before The Guardian, Alex Ibru was a businessman with investments spanning the automobile, construction and hospitality sectors. Indeed he was said to have to set up the newspaper out of a desire to give back to society. Apart from that, he was also credited with providing funding to the Civil Liberties Organisation, CLO, established during the military regime of Buhari’s successor, General Ibrahim Babangida.
Minister of Internal Affairs
He was between 1993 and 1995, the Minister of Internal Affairs and a member of the highly revered Provisional Ruling Council in the Sani Abacha-led government.
Despite Ibru’s position in Abacha’s cabinet, The Guardian remained highly critical of that government. This resulted in the raiding of The Guardian offices on August 14, 1994. The paper was subsequently shut down by the government, although Alex Ibru retained his post in Abacha’s cabinet. The paper was only allowed to reopen in October 1994 following an apology by Ibru for any offensive comments that may have appeared.
As minister, he introduced far-reaching reforms in the management of Nigeria’s prisons and the Immigration Service. He resigned from the Sani Abacha-led government on principle in 1995.
Until his death yesterday, Ibru was the Chairman of Trinity Foundation, the vehicle through which he carried out his massive philanthropy, giving support to the poor and the needy. He was also the founder of the Ibru Centre which promotes ecumenism and religious harmony.
A Paul Harris Fellow of the Rotary Club International, the late business mogul was a recipient of D.Litt honoris causa of the University of Port Harcourt.
From the condolence register
May his path be blessed.
Capt. Dapo Olumide – May his soul rest in peace.
Yetunde Afolarin Olufunwa – Bye my brother, I will miss you but your soul has gone to rest.
Engnr. Wale Adekoya – may his soul rest in perfect peace.
Mrs Beatrice Duncan – Alex rest in perfect peace.
Marlies Alkin – Rest in peace Alex. Maiden and family, God bless you all!
J.W Kofi Duncan – May the angels lead you to paradise my dearest uncle alex – I shall never forget what you have done in this world and all the many lives you touched. You were a true builder. Thank you for walking this earth. May your sould rest in perfect peace.
Abiola Williams – You will be missed by all of us.
Y.O Awosanya – it is very sad that this premature sunset has happened to take away a lovable chairman of chairmen who will for long be remembered as a perfect model of discipline, fairness and compassion.
Senator Remi Tinubu – may the soul of dearly beloved rest in peace. A great loss to Nigeria.
Newton Jibunoh – Home call. Rest in perfect peace.
Barr Nick Idawe – He was a great man. Rest in peace amen
Juliana O Desi – may the angels herald you home because you know christ.
Audrey Abayomi – Rest in peace uncle.
Kemi Ibru – Rest in Peace Uncle
Lucy Tosan Lawrence – Rest in peace
Kehinde Youngharry – how sad! My in-law, we shall miss you. Rest in peace
The Most Rev. E.A Ademowo - he was a great man.
Engnr. Abiola Lawal – Oga rest in perfect peace.
Mrs. Fatima Wali-Abdurrahman - Great man! May God console you.
Dr (Prince) Bola Akin-Olugbade – uncle Alex was a generous and kind man and he has left a good legacy for his wife and children. May his soul rest in perfect peace.
Bashorun J.K Randle – He was outstanding in so many endeavours- journalism/Media, as well as business but he had a profound spiritual dimension. May his soul rest in peace.
Tokunbo Ogunbiyi – we will miss you uncle. RIP
Rose Rewane-Dafinone – Rest in peace.
Evelyn Oputu – rest in peace.
Wunmi Ogunbiyi – Rest in peace, we will miss you.
Peter C. Brown – Adieu Alex! RIP. Alex God knows best, He will take care.