Former Chief Executive Officer, CEO, of Oceanic Bank, Cecilia Ibru has said all her friends who used to flock her house and company deserted her during her trial and travails.
Ibru was sentenced in 2010 to six months in prison for fraud and ordered to hand over $1.2bn (£786m) in cash and assets after she pleaded guilty to three of 25 counts of fraud and mismanagement.
In an interview with the PUNCH, Ibru said she had learnt a great lesson that “you never know who your enemies are until you have a problem. That underscores the prayer that God should show us our enemies so we could do what is necessary before it is late. Also, I found that you are on your own when you have problems. I was deserted.
“Remember I said my compound and even outside the premises used to be filled with vehicles when I was in office. I mean people who needed all kinds of favour. One of the foremost banks in Nigeria today got the N3bn loan they used to start at that time from our bank. They came to me one day; I was even travelling that day, so I told them we should reschedule, but they insisted they had to see me that day.
“They told me they needed N3bn loan for the bank and I told them to let us meet in the office to do the paperwork and go through the process. But when the problem arose, God showed me that He’s the only one you can depend on. The only person you can depend on in this world is God, and maybe a few people who are committed to you.”
On the death of her husband, Michael Ibru in 2016, she said she was yet to get over it, saying that it was a great shock to her.
“His death was a great shock to me. I had just come back from a trip abroad and the previous night everything seemed to be alright. He had been sick for a long time, but we felt he was getting better, so we continued to be hopeful believing that he would totally recover over time. I travelled that night and I got home that same night and then I went to bed, but somehow it wasn’t a restful night. I couldn’t tie it to anything anyway. That morning, around 7 am, my daughter called. I asked after my husband and she said she didn’t know what was happening.
“I asked what she meant by that; she wasn’t so plain about it. So I said, what step have you taken, she said she had called an ambulance and I said, so what are they doing about it, she said they had been resuscitating him. I said how do you mean resuscitating him? This was the same person who looked alright the previous night when I was with him. The most painful part was when my daughter called again and broke the news to me. She told me those resuscitating him said they had to take him to the mortuary. Unknown to me, he passed on while we were talking. It was a shocker and a very difficult moment. It was very painful because we were expecting him to get better, not for him to die, but God knows all things.
“I’ve yet to recover from his death. Someone who was consoling me then said I should try and forget it and I said how? How do you just forget somebody you lived with for over 50 years? Till today, I still go to his office to redecorate the place the way he would have loved it. Perhaps, one thing that has helped to deal with it is the university which we established two years before he died. We were already preoccupied with running the school even before he died. However, when you withdraw into the room and you are alone, what you are missing dawns on you afresh. We adopted a boy six and a half years ago, and if not for him it would have been worse.
“My husband would be two years gone in September. Taking care of the boy has been of help. He’s still small, so there are times he would do something naughty. That keeps you busy and distracted. Before you know it the day is gone. I miss my husband a lot. He was very analytical and anyone would love him. Even though he’s left us, when taking decisions, I still look at things the way he would have. So, I really miss him,” she stated.
Ibru also disclosed that she got married before 20, saying that “I think I was 18-plus then because I had my first son in January before my 20th birthday. When I clocked 70, my first son was 50. So, I was 18-plus.”
When asked why she had been absent from the social scene all this while, said she had been retooling and reinventing herself by taking on new challenges.
“I’m in the education sector now, which I think is worth going into, because everything about development revolves around education. If done properly, our nation will not be complaining too much because human capital would have been well developed. So, that is where I am now and it’s like an experiment for me. My late husband (Michael Ibru) and I started with nursery, kindergarten, primary, secondary and now a university.
“We are trying to raise talents in a way that it would produce excellence because education across the world is not commensurate with the speed at which we are growing here. We cannot expect people to become champions overnight without being nurtured and trained, even if they have the right talents. That informed part of what we are doing with the Michael and Cecilia Ibru University.”