THEY wept… their eyes out. In their multitudes, they wailed uncontrollably, when the final hour, the final minute, the final second came.
When the pallbearers arrived at the graveside. When the silver casket was lowered. When the dust-to-dust rites commenced. And when the grave was eventually filled, bearing with it the remains of Alexander Uruemu Ibru, 66.
The shouting of “iiu, euh, evwho, Oghene me o, Ose ni me o, my God and Ijeesu” from the crowd was sobering, penetrating, suffusing and nerve-racking.
It was a spectacle of unimaginable anguish from family members, relatives, friends, workers, well-wishers, colleagues, associates, natives and strangers alike.
Time was 2.13pm yesterday, December 17. The venue was the St. Peter’s Chapel on the grounds of the secluded but serene and sprawling Ibru Centre, Agbara-Otor, Ughelli — a centre established and made famous by Alex Ibru for religious ecumenism.
Thus ended the earthly journey that started in 1944.
The remains of the departed were conveyed on Thursday from Lagos to Agbara-Otor, Ughelli North Council of Delta State.
However, before the interment, a crowded funeral service, presided over by the Most Revd Nicholas Okoh, Archbishop and Primate of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), was held at the All Saints’ Anglican Cathedral Church, Ughelli.
Accompanied by family members, friends and well-wishers, who congregated to bid him goodbye, the casket was wheeled into the Church at 11.15am amidst solemn music by the choir.
The mourners came from different walks of life. Friends came from the business world, politicians, fellow media gurus, the military, clergy, traditional institutions and business associates.
The well-attended requiem service witnessed the presence of the Delta State Governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan and his Deputy, Prof. Amos Utuama (SAN); former Edo State Governor, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun; and former Ogun State Governor, Aremo Segun Osoba.
Others were former Delta State Deputy Governor, Chief Benjamin Elue; Senator Pius Ewherido (Delta Central) and his counterpart from Delta North, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa; and Presidential Adviser on Media, Dr. Reuben Abati.
From the military came former Chief of Defence Staff, Lt.-Gen. Alani Akinrinade and the former Adjutant General of the Nigerian Army, Maj.-Gen. Olu Bajowa.
The business world was represented by industrialist, Chief Oba Otudeko; Chairman of First City Monument Bank, Otunba Subomi Balogun and Chief Sony Kuku.
Not left out were Alex Ibru’s fellow publishers, Chief Ajibola Ogunsola of The Punch newspapers; Mr. Nduka Obaigbena of ThisDay newspapers as well as the Managing-Director and Editor-in-Chief of The Guardian newspapers, Mr. Eluem Emeka Izeze and the Editor and Deputy Editor-in-Chief, Mr. Debo Adesina and a host of others.
In his homily, the Most Revd Okoh advised Nigerian leaders to emulate the life of Alex Ibru by providing good leadership, as it is a panacea to the many ailments bedeviling the country.
The Archbishop said it is not how long or short one lives but what matters is the application of the life itself in creating impact and relationship, adding that Alex Ibru touched the lives of many people in his short journey on earth.
He said that with the death of Jesus, there is no more tears, sorrow, hunger disease, suicide, fear of the unknown and kidnappers.
Life, he admonished, is temporary and so people must prepare to face God by having a close relationship with Him on judgment day, as it is the only way to eternity.
He said: “Life is not going to continue here forever no matter who we are. People should prepare to meet God by having a close relationship with Him.
“Alex was a man dedicated to the pursuit of excellence. He was an impeccable man, who set excellent standard; a wonderful man who didn’t mind how long it took him to execute his projects so long as they were impeccable.”
Waxing philosophical, Revd Okoh recalled that Ibru was always fond of describing himself as God’s own treasurer, who dedicated whatever he had, inclusive of education and wealth, to the glory of God who rightly owe them.
“Alex was a Servant Leader, the kind of leadership that we need in Nigeria today; people with this kind of mind and orientation,” he said. “A leader should minister to the needs of his people.
“Jesus said that he came to serve and not to be served. It will be very difficult to forget this man he touched the lives of several people. His was a leadership of self-denial, which the nation needs.
“This is the legacy Alex left behind for Nigerians. It is society-friendly and will help to cure the malady of armed robberies, kidnappings and unemployment,” he added.
To fellow Nigerians, Archbishop Okoh charged them to pray for the Ibru immediate family, the Ibru extended family, the Ibru Ecumenical Centre and The Guardian newspapers.