|Urhobo Historical Society
Chief (Mrs.) Cecelia Ibru is a bankers’ banker. With the height she has taken Oceanic Bank Plc to, she deserves all the awards and encomiums she’s getting. Adeola Agorointerviewed her recently and she saw in her an epitome of beauty, good motherhood and an astute businesswoman.
When, some 62 years ago, precisely, March 22, 1946, a set of twins - Cecilia and Lucy - was born into the household of Chief Edward Sido of Otota, in DeltaState, little did anyone know that one of the twins was going to emerge one of the movers and shakers of the country. Perhaps, except for the fact that she came as a set of twins, there was little or no indication that Cecilia Ibru whose maiden name is Sido, would rule the banking world. Today however, that is the reality. Cecilia Ibru is top on the list of the movers and shakers in the country. Infact, she has had to her credit a number of laurels to show for her excellence in the banking sector.
Known all over the world today, she is the Chief Executive Officer of Oceanic Bank Plc. where she calls the shots. An encounter with her revealed that despite the height she has attained in life, she remains very simple. Ready to tell the story of her life from the beginning to date, she no doubt comes across as one who is deeply in love with her creator, God Almighty. And from all indications, she gives glory to that Him for all the successes she has recorded in life. And she has someone else to thank - Olorogun Michael Ibru - her husband, whom she describes as the best husband in the world.
"My father, Chief Edward Sido of Otota was the Otota of Udu Kingdom of Delta State. He passed on two years ago. He was one of the people you call ‘learned’. My dad was a barrister and solicitor of the Supreme Court of Nigeria. He was a very handsome gentleman. My mum, Chief (Mrs) Victoria Sido has always been an enlightened and astute businesswoman. I look more like my father in appearance. I took the fair skin from him. But those close to us have always said that though I’m a replica of my father, I took after my mum in many other ways. I think I took after my mum’s humane and agile nature. She was known as an enterprising woman and I watched her working to make us, her many children, comfortable and educated. My grandfather whom we used to call Papa Alaja was also very enterprising. So, I must have inherited that from him too. I was the eldest of nine children. I have a twin sister though, but she came after me and I like reminding her that even though we were born on the same day, I came hours before her making me the senior. We thank God all of us are successful professionals in different spheres of endeavours.
"Let me say God made me come from a happy family. I feel blessed to have come from a noble background. We were taught that money is not everything. You have to be able to prove to the world that deep inside you, there is love for mankind… the people you meet. We live in a world where love is expensive. If you have it in you, share a bit of it. It is a world replete with deprivation of all sorts. Compassion and generosity are integrated with God. I love people a great deal and I think this is one of the first things I learnt as a child. I was a happy person growing up. You couldn’t be around our household without having one thing or the other making you laugh. I told myself even before I could think about what I would become in life, that I must grow up to be a woman of virtue. My faith in God has been there from the start and that really helped shape my life to what it is today".
Banking seems to run in the veins of Chief (Mrs.) Ibru. She has taken the bank from the shadows to a giant amongst its likes in the Nigerian. With branches fast spreading all over the country and numerous awards following, one would want to know what prepared her for the roles she’s playing today. Did she study banking as a course?
"I was born during the time when the missionaries took you and moulded you into ladies. I had one of the best forms of education at Saint Margaret’s Grammar School, Ilesha, from 1960 to 1965. From there, I proceeded to University Tutorial College, London from 1967 to 1968 where I obtained a Higher School Certificate. On the successful completion of my secondary education I secured admission to study Sociology at the London University. I graduated in 1971 with B.Sc (Honours) degree and thereafter proceeded to the North East London University for a Masters of Philosophy from 1975 to 1977. I also obtained a Certificate of Eligibility from the Council of Legal Education, London. I started working with Ibru Organisation, a chain of manufacturing and financial conglomerate owned by my husband, Olorogun Michael Ibru, where I broadened and deepened my knowledge in people and materials management. I worked with the Ibru Organisation as a project director from 1978 to 1980. I became the Executive Director, Finance and Administration of Oceanic Bank from 1993 to1996. It was really challenging. I mean, I had the home front to look after and I had to prove myself as a career woman".
Well, it couldn’t have been that difficult then since it is a family business. Aren’t wives of successful men only figure heads in the company, urged to resume in the morning and close by noon at least to relieve boredom? Chief (Mrs.) Ibru laughed and disagreed over this.
"You’re wrong there. I’ve always believed in ideals and setting standards. You’re known by what you do and not what you say. I don’t think I would have enjoyed just passing time as a figurehead. Thankfully, it wasn’t even like that for me. If it had been like that, I doubt if I would have been where I am today. I vigorously applied my managerial vitality and business improvement ideas to drive change in many fronts. When I became the Managing Director of Oceanic Bank in 1997, I knew I worked for it…I deserved it. I made sure that I consistently demonstrated extraordinary level of competence by articulating vision, values and strategies for the bank in order to optimise returns on shareholders equity. I thank God that since assuming office as Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, the bank has witnessed tremendous growth on all financial indices".
Need one say that then that she deserves all the encomiums poured on her? She has been described as a woman who has lived a good life and a modern day amazon who embodies ennobling virtues of uncommon diligence and high sense of integrity. One’s head would no doubt swell with pride with these descriptions. How does she feel?
"I thank God for He has given me all the promotions, strength, power, joy and breakthroughs. God has been the one nurturing me with His wisdom. Like in everybody’s life, there have been burdens and yokes. But God in His mercy has destroyed them all because I am fearfully and wonderfully made. My darling husband, Olorogun Michael Ibru, has also always been an inspiration for me. He has been a pillar and confidant. God has been good and He has been the one working His divine purpose in me. When you have God, everything is good and your light shines for others to see. One thing I’ve leant about life is that whatever you are, it is only possible through God. When I work and people say encouraging things, I go back to thank God and I say, "I thank you for keeping your promises in my life."
If banking gives Mrs. Ibru joy, then her thought of the wonderful family she has gives her more elation. Despite the entire job she has to fill up into every waking day of hers, she still has the time to play wife to her husband, mother to her children and grandmother to her grandchildren and mother to quite a lot of other children too.
"I have seven children: Oboden, Mamemo, Osio, Obaro, Vivi, Tejiro and Rode. They’re all doing very well in their different endeavours. I must say that raising a large family is never the easiest thing to do but with God on one’s side, we have been able to take them to where they are today. I always tell other mothers that you don’t leave raising children to chance, you are the one who invited these children to the world, you must be able to guide them on the right path. I made sure I persisted until my children saw my point that they have to make their own marks in life. I could remember them feeling I was too hard when they were much younger, but today, they thank me for being firm with them. It wasn’t wickedness, it was just a way of nurturing them. On my 60th birthday, they said many things that made me really happy as a mother. I could remember them saying things like, ‘thank you mum for being the torch in the black of the freezing night, keeping us warm and enabling us to see. Thank you for making you our mummy’. As I said, it wasn’t easy at all. There I was raising seven children in London. There were many other people staying with us. My husband’s brothers, cousins and mine too. We also had some occasional friends coming around to stay. I could have chosen to behave otherwise, but in all things, I choose the positive ways. My husband is the best husband in the world. He has given me so much support and encouragement than most men would give to their wives. He’s fond of saying that my name matches my action. From the first encounter we had, he said he saw a complete person with God’s guided hand and that he was immediately overwhelmed by my virtues. He thanks God for our children whom he calls the best children in the world. And as his wife, he counts himself the luckiest man in the world".
Cecilia Ibru is a good example of what joy you get when you make other people happy. She believes very much in a communal life and she has made her own life a living example.
"If your immediate family is not happy, no matter how much happiness you’re building around you, it cannot be complete. If you’re way up there and those behind you are still crawling to make a living, then your successes are nothing. I try to be that pillar of strength to the family and since we don’t have parents anymore, I try to fulfil my duties to our parents by giving them a hand. Even when our parents were alive, I had begun to look after my younger ones. My twin sister and I sit down from time to time to see what it is we can do to make the lives of everyone happy. We encourage in times of uncertainly and despair. I urge and encourage them to move on. I’m seriously dedicated to family values. I show to them that nothing in life comes easy. Yes, there will be people to give you a helping hand, but you have to be hardworking too. You have to also let them know that if you don’t involve God in every decision or action you take, it might not be worth anything, no matter how much effort you put into things. It’s good to be diligent and focused in all you do; that is when you can be a source of inspiration to all those who watch you either as a boss, a parent or a role model".
Many people look at their lives and wish they had done something differently. What would Mrs. Ibru wish she could change about her life if she had the chance to do so?
She smiled and said, "I’m a very positive and happy person. If you ask me that question over and over again, I will have the same answer and that is that God has been good to me and he has made everything concerning me perfect. God has ordained every step I take. I could remember when I was so young and I decided to get married, there were fears that my innate abilities and intelligence would be swept under the carpet of an early marriage. Today, God has proved to everyone that His plans for one’s life will never go unaccomplished. Through the grace of God and the support of my darling husband, I’ve been able to reach heights in the banking industry, which I didn’t know I could attain. I’m grateful to God and I will continue to be. Change anything? No".