The publisher who was the former Internal Affair Minister during the military administration of Late General Sani Abacha, died Sunday, this week, while the NUJ celebration was on.
Comrade Norbert Chiazor, the state chairman, who had billed the President of the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE), Gbenga Adefaye, Governor Adams Oshiomole’s Special Adviser on the Media, Tony Iyare, and a former House of Representatives member, Patrick Obahiagbon as guest Speakers, in an announcement described Ibru’s death as “a big blow.”
The chairman, who shifted the celebration for another week, opened a condolence register at the union’s secretariat in Asaba even as he urged the National leadership of the union to impress it on media houses to carry black masthead to mourn him.
Meanwhile, President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan, Delta Information Commissioner, Chike Ogeah and the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) have expressed shock over the news of the passing of Mr. Alexander Uruemu Ibru, publisher of The Guardian Newspapers.
In a statement signed by Reuben Abati, Special Adviser to the President (Media and Publicity) and made available to Blank NEWS Online, President Jonathan said Mr. Ibru contributed immensely in shaping Nigeria’s media industry, setting the standard for the industry with the publication of high quality newspapers.
“This man, whose life recorded a pattern of good works, has definitely gone too soon. Many will remember him for founding The Guardian Newspapers which set the tone for independent and balanced journalism in Nigeria. Those who knew him closely will remember him for his life’s work of quiet philanthropy,” the President said.
The President recalls Mr. Ibru’s service to the country as Minister of Internal Affairs, noting that he was devoted to the promotion of reconciliation and national stability in the wake of the post-June 12, 1993 electoral crisis.
“The country benefitted from his wealth of experience and peaceful disposition. He believed in and sowed his life as a seed to God by, amongst other things, building up the Ibru Centre to advance the study of religion and religious harmony. We can see that his life demonstrated that he valued his relationship with God, with man and with his family,” President Jonathan added.
He said Nigeria has lost an astute businessman, and a committed nationalist who willingly accepted to serve the nation when the odds may have dictated otherwise. President Jonathan expresses his condolences to the Ibru Family, and prays that God would grant them comfort and consolation.
For Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan who visited the Ibru family, in Lagos and condoled with Mrs. Maiden Ibru, wife of the Late Mr. Alex Ibru, Publisher of The Guardian, had earlier in a statement issued by the Sunny Ogefere, Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, noted that late Ibru was a pride to the Urhobo and Delta State, who promoted peace and unity of Nigeria particularly with the Ibru Centre, an international ecumenical centre founded by him to enhance inter and intra religious affairs.
Besides, he said that Ibru’s The Guardian which has become the flagship of the Nigerian media revolutionized the industry with the injection of the academia into the media thereby compelling the intelligentsias to play part of the critical role of the watchdog of the society.
The Governor recalled Ibru’s tenure as Minister of Internal Affairs, stressing that in spite of the public office, Ibru did not interfere even when The Guardian was critical of the government he was serving. According to him, this was “an exceptional mark of integrity and discipline on the part of the late publisher”.
He condoled with the Ibru family, The Guardian and the friends and colleagues, urging them to take solace in the fact that Alex Ibru lived a peaceful and fulfilled life. Governor Uduaghan prayed God Almighty to grant his soul eternal rest.
According to Chike Ogeah, Delta state Commissioner for Information, the passing on to the great beyond of Mr. Alex Ovuemu Ibru, came as huge shock to the government and people of Delta State as well as to him and my family.
He said even though he did not practice journalism as an on field reporter, he has had a profound impact on the emergence of modern journalism in Nigeria when he brought The Guardian to the media landscape in 1983.
Ogeah said his newspaper redefined journalism practice in the country while his style and principle of letting experts have unfettered control of the management of The Guardian introduced a new dimension in media management – freedom and independence in editorial judgment.
‘’We are proud of this accomplished son of Delta State and take solace in the fact that his legacy is entrenched in the Nigerian media space and has already outlived him’’, he stated.
In the same development, the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), through its spokesman, Anthony N Z Sani, said the Forum received with shock the death of Chief Alex Ibru, describing it as a great loss to the country. “We received the news of the passing away of Chief Alex Ibru as a shock. Chief Alex Ibru’s life was eventful in service to humanity because he lived a good, meaningful life.”
“Ibru contributed in building many people’s capacity to support themselves and some others in many spheres. That is why ACF can confidently say Chief Ibru has left Nigerians with warm memories. Now that the Chief is gone, all we can do is to pray to God to provide his family, his friends, government and people of Delta state, the fortitude to endure what cannot be changed, since death is a necessary end and would come when it would come.
“The late Chief may be no more. But in so many ways he is with us, considering he needs no memento to remind us of his legacies. One way of according Chief Alex Ibru befitting recognition and respect is to live up to what he stood for and worked for in our daily lives. May his soul rest in perfect peace”, the ACF stated.
Chief Ibru died in Lagos today after a protracted illness that got him leaving the management of the newspaper organisation to his wife.
The nature of the illness which took the life of the prominent man from the Ibru family is yet to be disclosed but sources say the family is already meeting to put in place modalities for his burial which would be announced later.
According to a statement released by The Guardian, Ibru gave up the ghost at about 2.30pm today at the age of 66.
Alex Ibru, who was born on March1, 1945, to Chief Michael Ibru, founder of the Ibru Organisation, and hailed from Agbhara-Otor, in today’s Delta State, was Minister of Internal Affairs from 1993 to 1995 during the military regime of General Sani Abacha.
Alex Ibru was a former chairman of Rutam Motors. In 1983 he met with newspapermen, Stanley Mecebuh of the Daily Times of Nigeria, Dele Cole, also formerly of that paper and Segun Osoba, formerly of the Nigerian Herald and with 55 per cent funding from the Ibrus, they launched The Guardian in 1983, with Alex Ibru as chairman.
The Guardian had various pro-left academics on its board, with a clear bias towards Obafemi Awolowo’s Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN), and the first editor Lade Bonuola was held to strongly support the UPN. On the other hand, Ibru was from a millionaire business family and Stanley Macebuh was right wing in his views, so the paper tried to maintain a balance.
The success of the Guardian made it clear that there was an appetite for high quality journalism in Nigeria.
The military regime did not appreciate the paper’s independence and it was persecuted under military ruler, General Muhammadu Buhari (January 1984 – August 1985).
Ibru provided funding to the Civil Liberties Organization (CLO), established during the military regime of Buhari’s successor, General Ibrahim Babangida. He became Minister of Internal Affairs from 1993 to 1995 in the Sani Abacha government.
His appointment by Abacha was seen as a gesture of appeasement to the press. In December 1993 there were violent clashes between the Ogoni and Okrika people in the slums of Port Harcourt in Rivers State. Alex Ibru led a committee to tour Ogoniland and investigate the causes of unrest. Other members of the Committee were Don Etiebet, Minister of Petroleum Reserves and Melford Okilo, Minister of Tourism. The military administrator of the state, Dauda Musa Komo, escorted the group.
Embarrassingly for the military regime, during the trip a large crowd demonstrated in Bori, blaming Shell Oil pollution for their problems. Alex Ibru had told his staff on the Guardian that he would not get involved in partisan politics.
Despite this, the respected newspaper was highly critical of the Abacha regime. On 14 August 1994, The Guardian offices were raided and shut down by the government, although Alex Ibru retained his post. The newspapers were only allowed to reopen in October 1994 following an apology by Ibru for any offensive comments that may have appeared.
On 2 February 1996 his car was sprayed with machine gun fire from unidentified men who had trailed him in a deep-blue Peugeot. Both Ibru and the editor-in-chief Femi Kusa were flown to England for treatment of their injuries. After Abacha’s death in 1998, his Chief Security Officer Hamza Al-Mustapha and others were charged with the assassination attempt that left Ibru with one eye.