‘Felix Ibru’s role in growth of democracy legendary’
• Buhari, Saraki, Mark, pay tributes to ex-governor
Even the elements may have joined in the outpouring of tributes for former Delta State Governor Felix Ibru, who died on Saturday at the age of 80 with reports of rainfall widely considered a blessing in and around Ughelli and Agbarha-Otor where he hailed from.
From across the country and beyond there were tributes with President Muhammadu Buhari who received the news of the death with sadness, describing the former governor as an illustrious and patriotic Nigerian.
A statement by Buhari’s spokesman, Femi Adesina, said the president, on behalf of the Federal Government, extended sincere condolences to the Ibru family, the Urhobo whom he led for many years as President-General of the Urhobo Progressive Union (UPU) , the entire people of Delta State and his friends and associates across Nigeria.
“The president joins them in mourning the late governor and distinguished senator who made remarkable contributions to the progress and development of Nigeria during his long career as an illustrious architect, businessman, politician, community leader and philanthropist.
“President Buhari urges all who mourn Chief Ibru to take solace in the awareness of his very fulfilled life of great accomplishments and give thanks to God Almighty for the indelible legacies which the late governor has left behind for his heirs and successors to build on. He prayed that God Almighty would receive Chief Ibru’s soul and grant him eternal rest in peace,” the president’s statement noted.
To the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, “Ibru’s contributions to the growth of democracy in Nigeria remain legendary. He laid the solid foundation upon which subsequent governors of Delta State have continued to build. We shall all miss him.”
In a statement by his Special Adviser, Media and Publicity, Yusuph Olaniyonu, in Abuja Saraki also described Ibru’s death as painful and a great loss to the people of Delta State, the Niger Delta Region, the political class and the entire nation.
Former Senate President David Mark described the death as a huge loss to the economic and socio-political development of Nigeria as the country has lost a very disciplined, honest, patriotic and incorruptible statesmen who promoted the culture of integrity and moral uprightness in private and public life.
Mark noted that late Ibru was a pan-Nigerian who worked for the peace and unity of the nation, pointing out that “ he craved a nation under one God where every citizen is free to pursue his or her legitimate ambition anywhere without fear of molestation.”
Former governors of Delta State James Ibori and Emmanuel Uduaghan have also paid tribute with Ibori describing him as uncommon leader, astute businessman, and celebrated architect.
To Uduaghan:“Though it is saddening to lose a patriot like Chief Ibru, we are comforted by the fact that he set the stage for the new Delta as the first civilian governor of the state. Even though his regime was truncated, he was an unrepentant patriot who as a senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria worked tirelessly to ensure that the unity of the country was non-negotiable.
“I recall with nostalgia, his role and fatherly interventions in our peace agenda as President General of the Urhobo Progressive Union where he brought to bear his characteristic humility.”
James Manager who was a commissioner in the late Ibru’s administration told The Guardian: “The death of Chief Ibru came to me as shock…Ibru is gone. I am terribly, hugely affected. He was a great statesman, a very wonderful administrator.
“I served under him as a Commissioner for Social Development, Youth, Sports and Culture at the very beginning of the creation of Delta State. Ibru, a great architect was able to lay a proper foundation for the Delta State that we have today. He will be greatly missed, not just by his immediate family, the Urhobo nation has lost a great man.
“Delta State has lost a great personality. And, of course, Nigeria has lost a great statesman. He brought integrity and character to governance, he was respected and his word was his bond, and therefore the nickname he had at the time , was ‘talk and do governor.’
Whatever he said, Felix Ibru did it and unfortunately, a very negative wind of change blew across the entire country, creating problems for Delta. He was swept away in the coup that took place on the 17th of November 1993. Unfortunately, Felix Ibru is gone today, but what he did for Delta, what he did for Nigeria as a senator live on. He was one of the oldest senators at the time, but then he was very active. He was the Chairman Senate Committee on establishment. Felix Ibru performed and all senators who served with him at the time will live to attest to that fact.”
Manager, who went into the Senate at the same time with Ibru in 2003, said he saw him not as a colleague but a boss, adding that he deserved the respect of everybody. He may have been referring to the accolades Ibru got from his colleagues and then Senate President Ken Nnamani for the way he concluded all assignments passed on to him with dispatch .
He was especially applauded by his colleagues for the work he did on the Contributory Pension scheme, for which even former President Olusegun Obasanjo praised him.
At the palace of the Ovie of Agbarha-Otor, efforts to get the King, HRM Okorefe I to speak on the loss of one of their greatest sons, proved unfruitful as he was said to be away.
The king’s spokesman, Otota ‘ruvie, Chief Dr. Alfred A. Akpobome modestly declined to speak except permitted by the king.
“I’ m sorry I can’t speak on the matter without authorisation by the king. What you want me to speak on is a big matter”, he said.
Meanwhile, a Niger Delta activist, Mr. Zik Gbemre said the demise of Ibru, who he called ‘Father of Delta State’, was a great loss to the entire Urhobo nation.
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