While the Urhobos and indeed the people of Delta State are yet to recover from the shock of the death of the first civilian Governor of the state, Olorogun Felix Ibru, who died at the weekend in Lagos, it may sooth their nerves to recall that late Ibru laid the foundation for the state.
Having assumed office as Governor barely five months after the creation of the state, Ibru an accomplished and renowned architect took it upon himself to bequeath a proper masterplan not just for the development of the state capital, Asaba but also for the growth of the young state.
Unknown that his tenure as governor would be cut short by military intervention, this time around by a coup led by the present President Muhammadu Buhari, Ibru took his time to have a thorough job done, a situation that drew the ire of the Aniomas particularly the indigenes of Asaba who attacked him from the first day.
But he was a meticulous and diligent man who meant well for the state.“He did say something about taking his time, that he was an architect and wanted a very beautiful masterplan for the state capital and did not want a situation where they would rush into a plan which will be changed again the next day,” stated Norbert Onwuegbuzie a retired Director from the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) was the Delta State Correspondent of NAN in 1992.
The (former) governor said ‘Ibru has seen money, money did not corrupt Ibru, now Ibru has seen power, it is my prayer that power will not corrupt Ibru.’ Power did not corrupt Ibru because I still see him as one who was down to earth, realistic and as one of the most accommodating governors we ever had. He was quite liberal and was never aloof.
Onwuegbuzie lamented that unfortunately Ibru’s tenure was aborted, so was not possible to see to the completion of the plans.
Besides, he recalled the peace overtures of the late former Governor particularly at the height of the protest and opposition from the Asaba people. Then, there was tension and antagonism between the Asaba people and the Urhobos over the newly created state.
“You will recall when he was governor there was this crisis between him and Asaba (actually between Asaba people and the Urhobos). When he was addressing the issue one day, and suing for peace, he said: ‘if you keep looking back particularly with anger, you can never make progress and you can never move forward’. He was appealed to everybody to allow peace to reign, he told The Guardian.
Onwuegbuzie recollected also as part of the efforts to manage the crisis then that resorted to the famous quote about power corrupting and corrupting absolutely.
“The (former) governor said ‘Ibru has seen money, money did not corrupt Ibru, now Ibru has seen power, it is my prayer that power will not corrupt Ibru.’ Power did not corrupt Ibru because I still see him as one who was down to earth, realistic and as one of the most accommodating governors we ever had. He was quite liberal and was never aloof.”
The former staff of NAN recalled an incident when the then governor visited the Press Centre in Asaba, and was being bombarded with questions and he fired back querrying whether the Press Centre was no longer a place to relax.
He said: “He came to the Press Centre and people where asking questions and he stated.that he thought that the Press Centre was a place to unwind and relax and wondered why people were bombarding him with questions. He asked for where the fridge was located, walked to it, opened it and helped himself.”
The Urhobo Progressive Union (UPU), the socio-cultural umbrella of the Urhobos which late Ibru headed at a time described his death as ‘shock to Urhobo nation’
Mr. Josiah Ntekume, the Public Relations Officer (PRO) interim committee of the UPU in a statement in Warri said, ”The death of Olorogun Felix Ibru came as a shock to the Urhobo nation. A heart has stopped beating. A good soul has ascended to heaven. We part with our beloved former President-General and first Executive Governor of Delta in pain.”
Ntekume prayed God to grant the family the fortitude to bear the great loss. The demise of the first civilian governor Delta State, Olorogun Felix Ibru, fondly called father of Delta is still creating massive waves across the state.
Yesterday, It was not only humans that mourned his passage, nature equally joined: from since when his death became public rain had been falling endlessly in Ughelli and adjoining Agbarha-Otor community where he hails from. Many stated.the endless rain was a natural sign that Senator Ibru was a good man.
His demise, notwithstanding, the official residence of Felix Ibru at Otovwodo-Ughelli, a two storey building resplendent in its usual immaculate white colour, remained under lock and key. One was expecting to see a large crowd there and perhaps to sign the memorial register, but it wasn’t so.
When The Guardian visited the residence yesterday the house was absolutely quiet and lonely; no other human being beyond the gate man was seen inside the expansive compound. Even the gate man turned down a friendly chat, he just gave a sign with his hands that no one was in the house and as such he could not open the gate.
Prominent Nigerians including former Minister of Health, Prince Julius Adelusi Adeluyi, former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi, former Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Works and Housing, Eng. Guy Otobo, Bishop of Lagos West, Anglican Communion, Rt. Rev. James Olusola Odedeji, Reverend Omoyelu Abiodun of Chapel of St. Luke The Physician, Lagos State University (LASUTH) and others have euologised the virtue of former Governor of Delta State, Senator Felix Ibru as they described him a gentle, humble and fair man.
Prof. Akinyemi stated.Ibru was his senior prefect in Igbobi College in 1955 “he was very kind and protective. Being the youngest in the college those days, my senior prefect used to protect me and I enjoyed his humility and love.”
Akinyemi commended Ibru as selfless public officer who demonstrated traits of leadership right from his youth “the country needed people like him.”
He urged the children not to feel sorrowful over the death of their father because he lived a worthy life and died honourably “he led his people well as a governor and as a Senator.”
Adeluyi who came with his wife Julia described the former governor as a giver, mentor and leader who was dedicated to the service of God in his lifetime.
Recalling the good old days he shared with the deceased, the former Health minister stated.Ibru was a hardworking person, dedicated to whatever he believed and worked as if he knew he was going to become a leader.
Commending Ibru’s love for God’s services, Prince Adeluyi stated.the former President of UPU served God with all his strength and did his best in mentoring those behind him irrespective of their ethnic and religious affiliation.
In similar vein, Mr. Eddy A Chukwura, a legal practitioner described late Ibru as a good mentor whose death news came as a rude shock.
In his remark, Otobo stated.Ibru was a good senior brother whom he revered. As stated by him, “Olorogun Felix Ibru was an elegant man, a good statesman who served Delta State very well as a governor and a senator. He was very kind and gentle and someone who lived a blessed life.”
In another condolence message, Reverend Omoyelu Abiodun of Chapel of St. Luke The Physician, Lagos State University (LASUTH) stated.Ibru was a dedicated member of the church and also the Chairman of the church’s Hospital ministry. “His dedication to God’s service was second to none and a very punctual worshipper.”
Recalling some of the last moment of Olorogun Ibru, Rev. Abiodun said, “Last year December he donated a world class organ for the use of the church during his birthday celebration.”
He also charged leaders in the country to emulate the humility of the Ibru who never discriminate between the wealthy and the less privilege “through him many people got their hospital bills settled and other benefits.”
To Mr. Yomi Badejo Okusanya, the Secretary General of Igbobi Old Boys Association, “Ibru was so passionate about the college and hardly does he miss any of our events.
“He was a noble Nigerian worth of emulating and we all definitely miss his fatherly love.”
Bishop Odedeji stated.the former governor of Delta was a kind man who comes down to the level of everybody when it comes to interaction “he doesn’t discriminate. Very kind and humble person whom we will all miss.”
Bishop Odebiyi who also had words of prayers with the family stated.he “is sure that papa lived a live that touches everybody that came across him.”
Eng. Olefemi and Chief Olayiwola Araba, who were childhood friends of Ibru narrated the story of how they used to go and hunt when Onike, Iwaya was a bush in those days.
As stated by Eng. Olufemi, “Felix Ibru’s father had a shop near our father’s house at Kings George Avenue now Herbert Macaulay Way in 1946.
“Our own father was a fire arms and catapult dealer. We used to go hunting with Ibru in those days.”