THE passage, on September 7, of outstanding businessman and philanthropist, Micheal Ibru, elicited tributes from many Nigerians who hold him in high esteem on account of his many accomplishments and uncommon patriotism. He was 86 years old.The dynasty built by the departed business icon and his brothers looms large on the country’s economic landscape, traversing fishing, agriculture, real estate, automobiles, banking and general merchandise. It is to his credit that the foundations of the Ibru Organisation stand firm today, 60 years since he established it.
The building of the Ibru business empire on enviable family traditions is a lasting testimony to Micheal Ibru’s visionary leadership. The first of the seven children (six males and one female) of the late Pa Peter Epete Ibru and late Janet Omotogor Ibru, young Michael had his secondary school education at the prestigious Igbobi College, Lagos between 1948 and 1951, and obtained the Cambridge Certificate of Education with Distinction.
He, thereafter, joined the services of the United African Company, (now, United African Company of Nigeria) and rose quickly in three years to the position of Manager. It was a meteoric rise, no doubt, for a young man in those days, but not surprising for the young Ibru, who was imbued with exceptional academic ability, sound character and intuitive ingenuity.
He resigned from his prestigious position at UAC at the age of 24, brimming with ideas and enterprise. He set up the Ibru Organisation in 1956 and went into fishing business in 1957, forming a partnership with a Japanese with whom he had worked at UAC.
By 1963, he chartered his first fishing vessel from the Taiyo Gyogo of Japan.
This collaboration with Japan was to bear more fruit when he founded the Osadjere Fishing Company with a Japanese conglomerate in 1965. His uncommon business acumen informed his decision to bring his brothers into the business in its early days.
This winning formula saw him farming out his siblings into strategic professional and career paths for the benefit of the family business. Felix (his immediate younger brother who is now deceased) chose Architecture. Goodie embraced Law, while Alex (the youngest of the brothers who is also deceased) combined Agriculture with Financial Management.
On this firm foundation, the Ibru Conglomerate under the able guidance of Michael quickly expanded and gained global recognition. In 1969, Rutam Motors was incorporated to distribute Madza, Savien, Tata and Jeep brands. It was later to add the immensely popular Peugeot brand which it distributed to a huge success.
In the same 1965, he started a large Oil Palm plantation which he incorporated under the name of Aden Farm in the old Bendel State (present Edo and Delta States) where he planted citrus fruits and pineapples spanning over 800 hectares. Mitchell Farm followed in 1973, specialising in poultry products. The Ibrus have one of the most highly mechanised piggery farms in the country today.
Michael Ibru’s philanthropy knows no bound. He remains a longstanding supporter of many good causes. He started Abraham College in Agbarha-Otor, Delta State, in memory of his late father who was a missionary worker and Nursing Superintendent at Igbobi Orthopaedic Hospital in the colonial times. That college has metamorphosed to Ibru Centre, which is today a great learning centre of Theology and Ethical Values.
He was part of the foundation and success story of the present University of Benin (UNIBEN). He served in the Provisional Council of the university at inception in 1975. There is also the Michael/Cecilia Ibru University in Agbarha-Otor, Delta State – a private university standing as a testament to his entrepreneurship.