Chiemelie Ezeobi and Peter Uzoho
Encomiums were thursday poured on the late former Delta State Governor, Senator Felix Ovuodoroye Ibru, as his family organised an evening of tributes to kick-start his final burial rites.
The evening of tributes, which held at the Federal Palace Hotel, Victoria Island, themed: ‘Lord be thou exalted’, was a combination of hymns and tributes put together.
The Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu led scores of Nigerians, including Chief Emeka Anyaoku, Chief Philip Asiodu; a former Delta State Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan, Professor Bolaji Akinyemi, Prince Julius Adelusi; Chairman, Philips Consulting, Funso Philips and Divisional Director, Corporate Services, THISDAY, Mr. Emmanuel Efeni, among other dignitaries to pay tributes to the deceased who died after a brief illness on March 12, 2016.
Ekweremadu said: “In this hall, I see a whole lot of Nigerians that have played significant roles in the socio-economic growth of the economy and the nation is indebted to you.
“He was a statesman, a perfect gentleman. He was a man of inestimable pedigree. He was my friend and mentor.
“He would be remembered for the great strides he achieved in his position. He was a lawmaker of uncommon wisdom and a one-time Chairman of the Senate Committee on Establishment.
“In the fifth Senate, he always calmed frayed nerves and would appeal for senators to calm down and this earned him the name ‘Mr. Calm down’.”
Speaking for his siblings, the deceased’s first son, Dr. Paul Ibru, described his father as a very humble man who was the best dad, friend and uncle.
He said: “He was a man of unity and he had a dream. In his last few days, he thought about governance and how to keep the family together.”
On how he died, he said: “It’s surreal because I can’t believe that he is gone but this has brought me closer to closure. In his last days, he got closer to God and that really warmed my heart.
“The day he died, I was with some investors and I had gone to drop them at the airport. I was actually on my way to see him afterwards, when I got a call that he was ill.
“I rushed to the hospital and he was in his last moments. I anointed him with oil and His maker took him. He loved life and people but most importantly, he was at peace with God.”
Anyaoku described Ibru as a genuine gentle man. He said he had a very striking humility, adding that the usual pomposity which Nigerians were known abroad and at home was lacking in the late senator.
Anyaoku also noted that Ibru was a nice man he enjoyed his company, adding: “You would hear nothing but salient and wise words from him. The late Senator Felix Ibru was what I would describe as gentle. The word gentle man doesn’t come easily because in our society where you have many who masquerade as gentlemen but in reality are not. Ibru was a genuine gentle man.”
Akinyemi took time to narrate the relationship he had with Ibru right from their boyhood days till his departure, saying his company with Ibru made him learn good virtues.
He said: “I came to thank the senator for protecting me at Igbobi. I came to thank him for making me learn good virtues. I’m here to thank him for the virtue that I learnt from him. I learnt from him that you don’t use your position to oppress anybody.”
The service of songs holds today at Archbishop Vining Memorial Cathedral, GRA, Ikeja, while the commendation service would be held at the same venue tomorrow.
Born on 7 December, 1953 in Agbarha-Otor, Ughelli North Local Government Area of Delta State to Chief Peter Epete and Chief (Mrs.) Janet Omotogor Ibru, the deceased was survived by his two wives — Matilda and Caroline.
He is also survived by his six children — Onojoma, Aidido, Oyovwevotu, Sheri, Olotu and Amoroto — and his grandchildren — Stella Atamu Ibru, David and Marie Oniwinde, Noami Analise Oghomaado Ibru, Arika and Ariel Ray.
The deceased, who was the second of seven children, obtained his formal education at Yaba Methodist School, Lagos; Igbogbi College; Nottingham School of Architecture, England on Elder Dempster Lines scholarship, qualifying as an architect in 1962.
At Igbobi, he was the head boy and the first black president of the British Council with responsibility for Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, Lincolnshire and Leicestershire, in which he was presented to Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh in Buckingham Palace in 1960.
A statesman and a patriot in the mould of the pioneer nationalists, he waded into the murky waters of Nigerian politics in 1983 when he contested for a seat in the Nigerian Senate under the defunct Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) headed by Chief Obafemi Awolowo, his political idol and mentor.
Though he lost, he subsequently won elections into the Constituent Assembly in 1988. In 1991, he contested and won the election to become the first civilian governor of Delta State. Twelve years later in 2003, he achieved his dream and became the senator representing Delta South senatorial district.
On assumption of office as the first governor of Delta State, he established the Delta State University, the Delta Radio and Television Station.
Described as a gentleman of the finest order, he was greatly admired for his love for family values, dedication to his wives — Matilda and Caroline — and devotion to his children and grandchildren.
He was a man of dignity, dedicated to any cause he believes in. He was a faithful friend and great supporter of the masses. He was for years the President-General of the Urhobo Progressive Union (UPU).