Goodie Minabo Ibru has seen the goodness of God. Not once, not twice, not thrice but eighty times, if we are to distribute God’s goodness in a ratio of one per year for the man who clocked 80 on May 11, 2022. Born 1942 in Kano, Goodie Ibru is the sole survivor of the five amazing Ibru brothers glued together by brotherly love and a rare communal fraternity, each brother being the other brother’s keeper under the patriarchal, inspirational leadership of their eldest brother, the late Olorogun Michael Christopher Onajirevbe Ibru, the legendary business titan who introduced Nigerians to eating frozen fish and made a fortune which he later diversified to build a business empire.
Between Goodie Ibru and his eldest brother Olorogun Michael Ibru are two human-interest stories that must be told before anything else. In journalism, we define “human interest” to mean stories that are dear to the heart, stories that are touching, that are emotional. As he basked in his fresh octogenarian glory, Goodie Ibru, the last man standing remembers how as a three- or four-year-old, he got lost in the big city of Lagos and couldn’t find his way home. Tears in his eyes, he was swamped amidst the din and bustle of Lagos, a little boy in the middle of nowhere, going nowhere. He was wandering and wondering. In his confused mind, he was asking himself: where is home? Where is my mummy? Where is my daddy? Where are my siblings?
Meanwhile his parents and his brother Michael had organised a search party. They cast their fishing net wider in search of their little boy whose baptismal name was Goodluck, a name that was later shortened at school by friends who renamed him Goodie.
“God has been very kind to me,” says Goodie Ibru as he recaptures the story of his lost childhood alter ego called Goodluck. “My baptismal name is Goodluck. And I have been lucky all my life. When I was a child of about three or four years old, I was lost. My parents were urgently looking for me along with my elder brother, Michael who said: ‘Your name is Goodluck. We would find you.’ And they found me. Someone found me wandering around and the person took me to the police station at Lagos Island. That was where they found me. I don’t know how I got lost. I was just a wandering little kid who missed his way home, who lost his direction. So, God sent me an angel who sent me to the police station.”
“In those days,” he continues, “there were child-kidnappers called gbomogbomo in Yoruba language. There were ritual killers just as we have them today. I could have fallen inside their net and taken away. That would have been the end. But God was so gracious. I was born lucky. Kidnapping didn’t start today. Gbomogbomo had been on for as long as I can remember.”
The second story was when Goodie Ibru was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease just as his brother Olorogun Michael Ibru too unfortunately had Parkinson’s at the height of his glory. Again, Goodie Ibru recalls: “My hands were shaking and I was diagnosed here in Lagos of Parkinson’s disease by a neurosurgeon. Of course, I did not believe it. Because I felt I was too young. Usually it’s a disease for people over 60 years old. It was around 1992 and I was 50. Incidentally, my elder brother also had Parkinson’s, so I said maybe it was in the family. My mother was so worried to the point where she asked me: ‘Is it the same disease worrying your elder brother that is afflicting you?’
“My brother visited me and obviously worried about my state of health, he said that if it pleases God to take him instead of me, he would be happy. I think that was very touching. Because he felt that being an older man, he should go before me. I was so afraid. I thought I may die.”
Goodie was advised to go for a second opinion in London which he did. And even in London it was confirmed by a specialist that he had Parkinson’s. But then, there was a twist in the tale when an old, experienced doctor recommended him to the “No.1 expert in Parkinson’s” who intervened by simply asking Goodie to button his shirt. People with Parkinson’s have trouble buttoning their shirts due to tremors. But Goodie passed the buttoning test with the hand of God who delivered him again.
After secondary school, Goodie Ibru’s dream was to be a medical doctor, following in the footsteps of his dad Peter Epete Ibru who worked as a Nursing Superintendent, a job that took him to Kano where Goodie was born and to all over Nigeria. But his brother Michael Ibru convinced him to go study law, just as he influenced the careers of all the other brothers. After his law degree in England, he returned home to learn entrepreneurship, sitting at the feet of the master: Olorogun Michael Ibru. Even though he set up his law firm, he was more occupied as the Personal Assistant to his brother and mentor Michael who could hardly do without his trusted kid brother.
“I got some form of mentorship in entrepreneurship through working closely with my brother Michael,” Goodie recalls. “I was attending meetings with business people and learning by association and observation. I learnt risk-taking from my brother. Where angels feared to tread, he trod. He didn’t succeed all the time but when he succeeded, it was a big success which overcompensated for the one that he did not succeed. I used to tell my colleagues and mentees that as an entrepreneur, if you embark on 20 projects, even if 19 of them failed, the only one that succeeds will overcompensate for the remaining 19. This is because the law of probability, in my opinion, will give you five per cent success rate. So if I try 20 businesses and 19 fail, it doesn’t bother me. I am hopeful that the 20th one would succeed and it will more than compensate for all the costs of the first 19.”
Today, if Goodie Ibru is reputed as the entrepreneur who built the Sheraton Lagos Hotel, he learnt what it takes to be an entrepreneur from observing his brother and benefitting from being under his tutelage. Together they travelled to Russia, Germany and various parts of the world, meeting other businessmen and watching how businesses are transacted. As an eyewitness, he saw everything which more than qualifies him to tell the authentic Ibru story. And that is the driving force. As the last surviving Ibru out of the original five brothers, he thinks the story of the Ibrus should be told so that the younger generation of the Ibrus and Nigerian youths wishing to go into business will read to inspire them.
In addition to telling the Ibru story, Goodie Ibru also tells his own unique entrepreneurial story, the mark he has made in the corporate world as a business lawyer and business leader plus the journey to build an international hotel like the Sheraton Lagos. In all of these, he sees the hand of God at work. He talks professorially on what it takes to be an entrepreneur using his brother and himself as case studies.
The beautiful thing about Goodie Ibru is that he is a good storyteller just like his brothers Michael and Felix who all inherited their mother’s storytelling skills. To everything, every incident, every chapter of his life, there are anecdotes to back them up ending with this triumphant evangelical statement in which Goodie asks his listeners like a Sunday school kindergarten teacher to “Clap for Jesus.” Indeed for 80 years, Jesus has been good to Goodie. Clap for Jesus one more time!