The first civilian governor of Delta State, Olorogun Felix Ovuodoroye Ibru, died recently at the age of 80. The passage of the politician, who was a scion of the notable Ibru family, sadly depleted the ranks of elder statesmen who played important roles in the democratic evolution of the country.
The departed ex-governor started his political career in 1982 when he contested for a seat in the Senate but lost the election. He was elected governor of Delta State in 1992 on the platform of the defunct Social Democratic Party (SDP). He served in that capacity until 1993 when the federal government was toppled by the military. He was later elected into the Senate of the Federal Republic Nigeria and represented the Delta Central constituency between 2003 and 2007.
Besides politics, the deceased also served his Urhobo people diligently and became President-General of the Urhobo Progress Union (UPU). His tenure was remarkable for enhancing the unity of Urhobo people. In apparent appreciation of his stewardship, he was bestowed with the highest honour available in Urhobo land in December 2015.
Felix Ibru, with his brothers, formed and nurtured the business conglomerate, the Ibru Organisation. The business grew so big that the Time magazine of America reportedly listed the Ibru family as the richest in Nigeria in its special edition on Nigeria’s 25th Independence Anniversary in 1985.
Since his demise, many eminent Nigerians, including the governor of Delta State, Dr. Emmanuel Okowa, have lauded his sterling achievements. Dr. Okowa said the late patriot and political icon led the state at its embryonic stage, and will be missed by those whose lives he touched in many diverse ways in his achievements-laden life. Former Senate President, Chief Ken Nnamani, also eulogised the leadership qualities of the late politician, who once served as chairman of the Senate Committee on Establishment. In the same vein, His Royal Majesty, Okorefe 1, the Ovie of Agbarha Kingdom, hometown of the deceased, said that one of the pillars of the Kingdom had been snatched by death.
The late Ibru was born on December 7, 1935 at Agbarha-Otor in Ughelli North Local Government Area of Delta State. He attended the Yaba Methodist School and Igbobi College, where he was made the Head Boy in 1955. After his secondary school, he had a stint at the United African Company (UAC), before venturing into business. He later won the Elder Dempster Lines Scholarship to study Architecture at the Nottingham School of Architecture in the United Kingdom, where he graduated in 1962.
While in the United Kingdom, Ibru was elected the first black President of the British Council with responsibility for Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, Lincolnshire and Leicestershire. In that position, he had the privilege of being presented to Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip at a special ceremony in 1960.
After qualifying in England, he worked briefly with the Jewish Agency, SOCHNUT on various projects in farm settlements and prefabricated buildings in Jerusalem and Haifa. Later, he enrolled at the Technion– Israel Institute of Technology and obtained the M.Sc in Architecture in 1963.
He was appointed a lecturer in Architecture at the Yaba College of Technology from 1963-64, and was elected a member of the Nigerian Institute of Architecture (NIA) in 1969. He was registered by the Architects Registration Council of Nigeria (ARCON) in 1971 and became a Fellow in 1995.
The late Olorogun Ibru was a distinguished architect, who mentored many generations of architects in the country. He was the Managing Director of Roye Ibru Associates in 1964, and later merged with Alan Vaughan-Richards and Associates to form the Ibru Vaughan-Richards and Associates (Planning Partnership). He was involved in the design and supervision of several Geodesic Domes of various dimensions in many parts of the country. He also supervised over 40 projects in the country, among which are the Sheraton Hotels and Towers, Ikeja, Lagos; the Sports Complex of the University of Lagos and that of the University of Benin.
Ibru was a good family man and a devout Christian of the Nigerian Anglican Communion. He was a member of the National Committee on Sports Appeal Fund, and a founding member, Nigerian Conservation Foundation. For all of his achievements and selfless service to the Urhobo people, a three-day mourning period was declared in his honour.
The deceased will be remembered for his selfless service to the nation, especially in the fields of architecture, business and politics. His humility, forthrightness and devotion to his God, family, community and the nation are attributes that are worthy of emulation by all Nigerians.
We commiserate with his family, professional colleagues and the political class on his demise. May God grant his soul eternal repose.