It’s September 2016, and family and friends are gathered to remember the amazing life of Chief Michael Christopher Onajirhevbe Ibru. A family member reads aloud a self-penned poem:
You lived a vibrant and full life
You were a man ahead of your time
A leader with matchless generosity
While Chief Ibru was all those things, modestly he was much more.
It’s hard for people outside West Africa to understand the impact Chief Michael Ibru had on Nigeria. To the Urhobo people, the most populous group in Delta State, he was like a messiah.
The comparison was not lost on the fact that he was born on 25th December, was a baptised Christian, and was a man of strong faith, compassion and humility. But he was also a man of vision. From the humble beginnings of a trainee manager working for a British conglomerate in Lagos, to becoming a serial entrepreneur, Michael Ibru could have lived a thousand lives.
He founded one of Nigeria’s most successful deep sea trawling companies and helped redefine the fisheries industry by the introduction of frozen fish. In doing so he transformed the Nigerian economy, giving opportunities to thousands of people, changing the lives of many forever. It made him the head of one of the wealthiest family dynasties in Africa of the 20th century.
With an expanding family portfolio of diverse investments spanning several continents, Chief Michael Ibru decided to make London his base in Europe and moved his family there. They purchased 6 Kensington Park Gardens in 1974, and it would remain the family home for over 45 years. In 2007, Michael Ibru left London to return back to Nigeria permanently.
During his lifetime Chief Michael Ibru was known for his philanthropy and moral rectitude. He was a regular goer to St. John’s Notting Hill Parish, Diocese of London, and the current pastor, Revd. Canon Dr William Taylor will deliver the blessing for the plaque ceremony. It will be the 20th diverse plaque in the royal borough of Kensington and Chelsea, and the 81st installed by the Nubian Jak Community Trust.
Chief Michael Ibru passed away on 6th September 2016 at the age of 85. Indeed, the words of the poem spoken by a member of the Ibru family 10 days later still ring true today, even if is only half the story.
“Daddy was a charismatic man, charming, cool and elegant, his daughter, A O Vivi Ibru, said. “Humility and integrity were values he regarded highly and he had a tirelessness to create business and to generate opportunities with generations in mind.
“His legacy lives on.” Dr Jak Beula, CEO of Nubian Jak Community Trust, went on to say: “It is incredibly humbling to honour an individual who epitomised the word humble.
“Through all his achievements Chief Ibru never forgot his origins or lost his humanity. The Trust is delighted that Chief Ibru will become the first Nigerian to receive a blue plaque in the Royal borough.
Councillor David Lindsay, The Worshipful the Mayor of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea said: "I am honoured to be unveiling this plaque in honour of Chief Michael Ibru, a successful entrepreneur and philanthropist, impacting many in Nigeria and those who chose to make his home in Kensington and Chelsea for over 45 years.”
What: London Blue Heritage Plaque to Chief Michael C.O Ibru
When: Saturday, 8th April, 2023, 11:30am – 12pm.
Where: 6 Kensington Park Gardens, London, W11, 3HB
“I am honoured to be unveiling this plaque in honour of Chief Michael Ibru who chose to make his home here for over 45 years.