The home stretch begins


SOMETHING, till yesterday, made Alexander Uruemu Ibru’s so-called death just that: so-called.

Untrue. Unreal. Unlikely. Unbelievable. Even impossible.

But the Funeral Rites which began yesterday at the Federal Palace Hotels, Victoria Island, Lagos with a service of songs brought the reality closer home. Finally, it is the end. The body of the Publisher of the flagship of the Nigerian press will leave for Agbarha-Otor in Delta State this afternoon to be interred in the bowels of the same ground which nurtured the bones of his illustrious forebears.

A commendation service will be held today at the Our Saviour’s Church, near Tafawa Balewa Square. The body will make a brief stop-over at the Rutam House, Apapa-Osodi Expressway premises of Guardian Newspapers Limited on its way to the airport for the journey to Delta State. Interment is on Saturday while all activities will come to an end on Sunday with a Thanksgiving Service.

Even as the journey progresses, the incredulity of Alex Ibru’s passing is poignant.  Such a beautiful mind, is he dead?  Really? Questions upon questions.

From the traditional hunters’ elegy comes this saying, an illustration of the pain of irrevocability, if not the finality, of death

The bush rat’s death renders its well-travelled path desolate and its place of refuge an abandoned, even stale lair. The all-knowing craftsman who stitched and made the broken calabash useful still is now helpless at the sight of a broken bottle!

This much was evident in the tears of wife, children, brothers, sisters, friends and citizens of a nation Ibru served so well for so long with his body, soul, spirit, material endowments and, of course, with his life. Whence would another Alex Ibru come?

“This system killed my husband,” his beloved wife, Maiden, on whose 62nd birthday the Founder, Chairman and Publisher of The Guardian died muttered to sympathisers, more as a marvel at the dementia of Nigeria, a nation that seems to routinely consume its best, than a complaint.

She knows. And history knows.

Alex Ibru died 15 years after he was ‘killed’ by state-sponsored assassins, a state he had served so selflessly and diligently, a state, which could not countenance his honesty and principles.

Like the biblical King Hezekiah, however, Ibru received favour from     The Almighty God and outlived his enemies. They were not the easiest of 15 years. Especially for his wife and children, the larger Ibru family and, of course, The Guardian family. But he was a soldier for his conscience and his country, leading him, in spite of the pains inflicted on him and the injustice of not bringing his attackers to justice, to keep nurturing, until his death, what he loved to call the Voice of the People, The Guardian.

Tributes were paid last night to his humility and generosity by Bishop of Lagos, Most Revd. Peter Adebola Ademowo, who in his exhortation, described the founder of The Guardian as epitome of humility and a man committed to service. Impeccable, according to Ademowo, was one word Ibru always used as this reflected in all he did, including The Guardian.

If there was anything he valued more than service to the people, it was service to God. He gave and gave in this service to God and man.

The second scripture at yesterday’s service of songs was read from the epistle to the Romans. In chapter eight, verse 31 -39, it read:

“What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own son, but gave him up for us all, how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom god has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus who died more than that, who was raised to life is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: For your sake we face death all day long

We are considered as sheep to be slaughtered. No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God.”

Harold Wallace Ross, the legendary publisher of the magazine, New Yorker, was once described, on account of his volatility, irrepressible physical and intellectual restlessness by one of his greatest editors, James Thurber, as  “a bullet-torn battle flag. No one could capture its colours, no one could silence its drums.”

Alex Ibru was the publisher who assembled the best and the brightest to produce a newspaper that changed the journalism landscape, who put his life on the line so the nation could be free, free of dictatorship, free of want.

In the battle to make Nigeria great, Alex Ibru was the bullet-torn flag, a banner aloft whose emblem was service to Nigeria.

His colour was pure white. And even with the scars, his song always was peace.


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