OLOROGUN Oskar Christopher Eyovbirere Ibru is no doubt a household name in social circles. The 53 year-old businessman is the Otunba Bayejo of Ijebuland and Odomese of Olomu Kingdom. In this interview with ENCOMIUM Weekly, on Sunday, January 16, 2011, he opened up on all the investments ceded to him to manage by his aging father, his tenure as the President of Nigerian Shippers Council, how and when he intends to retire and more.
What will you say has helped you as a successful businessman?
Quite frankly, I really feel I haven’t achieved anything. I just flew into the big shoes of my father and unfortunately, it’s so hard and it pinches. Even up till today, all I do is just to maintain what we have on ground. I think it’s a fact that it is more difficult to maintain than to build. In the course of maintaining, I have found it difficult building. But I believe at this point in my life, it is better for me to maintain what the old man has built. And I am very proud to say that if I have achieved anything, it’s really to maintain the family’s name, the group and to keep the legacy going. Really, I feel I could do more but it’s very difficult to do more when you have some shoes that are bigger than your legs. So, for me to ever get up one day and say I have achieved something, it’s going to be very difficult. But I hope I will achieve something. My father’s prayer is that I will be bigger than him.
What has it cost you maintaining the Ibru dynasty?
I have actually tried not to lose my privacy and my freedom in terms of doing the things I want to do. I believe that if you can do what you want to do and still do what has to be done, there is happiness somewhere in-between. Some people sometimes think I am a crazy guy and some also feel that I am a cool guy. But one thing is sure: I am humble, I like everybody – poor, rich, in-between, whatever. I can sleep in a castle today and tomorrow I can sleep in the palace. I went to Igbobi College, Lagos. I went to the most expensive school in the world. So, I dine with kings and queens, I also eat with the Isale Eko boys (laughs). So, that gives me peace. The fact is that I can go anywhere at anytime. And I am respected anywhere I go, no matter the language.
What will you say is the recurring business challenge you’ve faced over the years?
Maybe Nigeria and the economy. The coups made it a bit difficult. I was born in an interesting time. Interesting time to the Chinese are times when there is war and hardship. If they say you are living in an interesting time, they are actually insulting you. My father survived 30 coups and change of governments in Nigeria. I have been in exile myself. I had some face-off with late (General Sanni) Abacha and so on. They attacked me for doing nothing. My uncle (Alex) and my father were able to survive the high exchange rate caused by (General Ibrahim) Babangida. When I was in school, it was 50 kobo to one dollar and today, it’s N150.
Which of your father’s businesses did you actually meet on ground when you started?
The business I was born into was fish. From Sokoyokoto to Eja Ibru, I grew up with them, I lived with them and that’s what sustains me till today.
What other things are you doing now?
That’s the beauty of it, I handle everything. I am involved in hospitality, properties, trading and my major business right now is oil and gas. We own the largest private tankers in the country. I have the largest private jetty. I was the president of the Nigerian Chamber of Shippers. I just recently handed over to Mike Akhigbe, the former military Vice President who is a fantastic person. When you hand over to a former Vice President, you know you are hot. So, those are the things Oskar Ibru does.
What is your business principle?
My business principle is do unto others what you want others to do unto you. Love thy neighbours as thyself. Cut your coat according to your cloth, know yourself no be curse. Simple as that. My mother trained me that way. An expensive simplicity. Very important.
Where do we hope to see Olorogun in five years?
In my country home in the village, which I have just finished. I am retiring in three years from Lagos. I am going into cassava business, I have about 4,000 hectares of land. I am growing cassava right now. I have the largest piggery in the country, with over 2,000 pigs. I have a poultry farm with about 25,000 birds. I have archery, I have a very massive fish pond and I am going into agriculture full time. And if you want to see me, come to Aghara Otor, seven minutes drive from Ughelli, which is 20 minutes from Warri and you can find me in my home. And you are welcome to my house of palm wine, red oil, soap, fish, pigs, banga soup and chicken.
- This story was first published in ENCOMIUM Weekly on Tuesday, January 25, 2011