A CROSS-SECTION of eminent persons in Nigerian society and the diplomatic community attended the service of songs for the late Publisher and Chairman of Guardian Newspapers Limited, Dr. Alex Uruemu Ibru, in Lagos yesterday.
Present at the Federal Palace Hotels, Victoria Island venue of the ceremony were religious leaders, serving and former public servants, business moguls, medical practitioners, members of the academic community and thousands of friends and family members.
Dignitaries who attended the event included former head of the Interim National Government, Chief Ernest Shonekan, Deputy Governor of Lagos State, the wife of Governor Babatunde Fashola, Lt.-Gen Theophilus Danjuma (rtd) and his wife Diasy, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, former Governor of Cross River State, Donald Duke, former External Affairs Minister, Maj.-Gen Ike Nwachukwu (rtd), Chief Akintola Williams and Chief Ebenezer Babatope.
Yesterday’s service came as the torrents of tributes to the renowned publisher since he passed on November 20, 2011 continued.
In her first time out of the Ikoyi residence since her husband’s death, it was a stoic Maiden Ibru who emerged, in black attire, at the venue 30 minutes before commencement of the service.
At exactly 5.00p.m. the service began with the hymn, ‘Nearer my God to Thee.’ Guests were already seated at the garden overlooking the Atlantic. It was a solemn assembly.
After the opening hymn, Ven. Igein Isemede offered prayers. He said: ‘We thank God for the life of Alex Ibru which you have called to your side. We ask that you comfort all troubled hearts.’
This was followed by a reading of Psalm 23 read by Revd John Nriama. The second hymn of the evening was ‘Jesus, lover of my soul.’ The first scripture reading was from I Thessalonians 4:13-18. The second reading was from Romans 8:31-39 by Christiana Ibru, daughter of the deceased.
Other hymns included “Through the love of God our Saviour,” “Rock of Ages cleft for me” and “Through the Night of doubt and sorrow.”
In his sermon, the Anglican Archbishop of the Ecclesiastical Province of Lagos and Bishop of Lagos, Most Reverend Dr. Adebola Ademowo said Alex Ibru touched many lives as he was an embodiment of succour to them.
He said: “Life is borrowed, temporary and transient. It is a gift of God, given by the owner for us to use productively. Death is a necessary end, and it will come when it will come.
“Alex Ibru served this country creditably well without enriching his pockets like many people in this country do. He gave the Anglican Church of this country the Ibru Centre at Agbarha-Otor without any strings attached.
“Many times I heard him use the word ‘impeccable’. He believed in the principle of impeccability that you have to do things flawlessly. Alex Ibru would say ‘I am God’s treasurer, God gave me money with a deal of blessing for others. To set up institutions to help others.’ He was ever tireless, he would not look down on anybody. He was a student of perfectionism who did not allow his riches to go into his head. His philosophy of life was to make maximum impact on the society without drawing attention to himself; in other words, he was not egocentric. He was a trailblazer and a detribalised Nigerian. He was simplicity personified and his wife is an epitome of virtues. He was a great man. The Guardian is one of his legacies. He raised a family of well-brought-up children. He established The Guardian as a voice of the masses and the downtrodden. I am not painting him perfect because he has his minuses. I will say without any apology that his pluses were much more than his minuses. His minuses are infinitesimal to his pluses. The Bible says forever we shall meet again. Christians do not die but go to a temporary place for transformation. The Bible confirms that there is life after death. Death is not total annihilation but a transformation into glory. Life is a gift from God, life is borrowed. Your spirituality is important.
“This country needs to be prayed for because I believe things can change for the better. We need to tackle the problems of inconsistency, greed, lack of dependability, poor lifestyle, avarice. Our secular leaders should work towards this equation. The Federal Government should think twice on the removal of fuel subsidy, a lot of Nigerians are frustrated, a lot of Nigerians live in abject poverty and misery. I can say this because people like us work closely with the masses and we know what they go through. The living standards of our people today are going into oblivion because I would not want to say it is going down. Unemployment, insecurity are the banes of the people.”
In a special tribute, a former governor of Ogun State, Chief Olusegun Osoba, said: “Alex was a generous person, over-generous although very frugal and shrewd. In 1970 he bought a car and later gave it out to one his family members. He built a house in London and gave me the key that anytime I am in London I should be using the house. He was a very loyal person and he demanded less in return.”
Osoba added that during the last period of Alex Ibru’s earthly sojourn, “he used to tell me that life is all vanity. Alex showed courage and fortitude in his days of sickness. People said he made money but I can say that Alex worked assiduously for his wealth.”
To Maiden Ibru, Osoba noted that her husband had left a great responsibility for her and that she must stand up to the task. “You are now Madam Publisher,” he said.
In another tribute, Gbekeleoluwa Osunkoya, a friend of Ibru for over 60 years, said he was a totally humble man who was never interested in worldly titles and that throughout his lifetime he chose to be called ‘Publisher.’
Osunkoya said he was actually Goodie’s friend “but I picked interest in Alex.”
On how the Ibru Centre in Agbarha-Otor, Delta State was established, Osunkoya said: “One day Alex told me that his house in Ikoyi is beautiful and good and he will like to build a bigger one at Agbarah-Otor. Being a trustee of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN), he hoped to use the place to host the President but unfortunately the 1983 coup put an end to democracy. Alex went ahead to donate the complex to the Anglican Church but he said his grave should be constructed in a corner of the complex.”
He also said Alex donated one of his buildings in Opebi as an HIV centre while during his last moments he donated another building as a hospital.
Another friend, Dr Stephen Olofunwa described Ibru an epitome of “humility and generosity.” He said: “Alex had a passion for Nigeria and love for the people. I was with him when a new machine was to be installed at The Guardian, and I was surprised that Alex was talking to the lower cadre workers there. One would have expected that as the publisher, he would relate only with the management staff. That was Alex for you.” He also praised Mrs. Maiden Ibru, whom he described as ‘a rock.”
The Managing Director of Guardian Newspapers Limited, Mr Eluem Emeka Izeze, in a vote of thanks expressed the management’s appreciation for the show of love visibly demonstrated by all present at the Service of Songs.
He said: “We are overwhelmed by your show of love, demonstrated on this occasion. We used to call our Chairman a fine boy in The Guardian. He was always happy when he saw us putting on good dresses and he would retort, ‘you guys are wearing good dresses and good shoes” and we would all laugh over it.”
He thanked the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) for the interest shown from the time the Chairman passed on.
“The Church actually captured a lot from our Chairman and the interest shown has been tremendous. You deserve special thanks,” Izeze stated.
Izeze also expressed appreciation to the Primate of the Anglican Church in Nigeria, the Most Reverend Nicholas Okoh, for coming to Lagos to commiserate with both the family and The Guardian. He also thanked distinguished clergymen who all came to see the Chairman in the course of his illness.
He added: “Thank you all for being here and for all you have done on behalf of the departed ‘fine boy’. The family and The Guardian pray that God leads you safely to your various destinations.”