20 June 2009

Nigeria: I've Made Money From Shipping - Oskar Ibru


Olorogun Oskar Ibru is the scion of the Ibru dynasty and has been able to make a mark for himself through so many things over the years. Not only is he Managing Director, Emsee Shipping Lines Ltd - with interest in the receipt, delivery and distribution of petroleum products - he also has several other businesses under his belt. With an aristocratic background, Skiddo, as he is fondly called, was trained and nurtured with cautious humility befitting a "heir apparent" to the Ibru dynasty. Oskar, however, sees himself as the son of a humble fisherman, whose contributions to Nigeria's economic and political development transcends the shores of the country and the West African sub-region.

Despite his personal duties and responsibilities, Oskar still finds time to serve the nation, as he was a one-time member of the Board of Directors of Voice of Nigeria (VON) and Nigeria Chamber of Shipping among many others. He turned 50 last year, and the milestone was celebrated with pomp.

Happily married to pretty American-born Yeye Boyejo, Wanda Elaine Ibru (nee Swan), and blessed with three beautiful children: Makashe, Ebruba and Nenesi, Oskar, recently took out time to talk to, Reporter, Gbenga Bada, about his life and business.

You are perceived to be a fun-loving personality. What is responsible for this?

A good heart, accepting people for what they are and who they are is simply the key. Being nice has been my watchword and whenever I meet people, I try to be very nice to them because you don't know where you can meet again.

Do you really think you are living up to the family name as the scion and the awaiting patriarch of the Ibru dynasty?

To my ability, I have been trying all my best to ensure that I live up to my responsibility. Also, while ensuring that, I have been adding value to the family name. And as the years roll by, I am pretty confident that I am living up to the name, which has been there and would continue to be there.

What do you think people don't understand about the Ibru family?

I don't know but what I can readily tell you is that we are a fun-loving family, made up of very simple people. We like everybody and I think people love us as well.

Some people say you are arrogant. How would you describe your personality?

I am not arrogant; I am a down to earth person and people who know me well can attest to that. For me, being natural and not necessarily having airs around me does everything for me. I don't know why anybody would say that I am arrogant but for what it is, I am just my humble self. I have always been this unassuming and down to earth because I was brought up to be humble and I still remain that way till now. So, it would be totally wrong to assume or presume that I am an arrogant person.

What does it feel like being an Ibru?

It's just being your father's son and child. I have always been an Ibru all my life and I grew up knowing my parents and being a member of the Ibru family. My father is just a fisherman who has helped so many and has won the hearts of so many to his side. It feels good just being the son of your father. I am open to everybody just like I believe everybody is open to me; that is simply my way of life. I am just me and nothing more.

A lot of people attended your 50th birthday celebration last year. Do you think it was because of your personality or they attended because of your background as an Ibru?

All I have to say is that it's good to be good. What goes around comes around. Do to others only what you want others to do to you and all will be well. I wanted the people at the party to come and many of them came because they felt it was necessary to come. It's a two-way thing and it is also wise to know that only one good turn deserves another.

Many of your friends refer to you as Skiddo. Where did you get the name from?

Skiddo is just a coinage from my name Oskar and my good friends coined it while we were in school. It's actually Oskido and they just feel good calling me Skiddo. It really changes nothing about me.

The Awujale of Ijebu, Oba Sikiru Adetona decorated you with the chieftaincy title of the Otunba Boyejo some years back. Was that as a result of your relationship with his son?

Well, I have a relationship with Prince Ade Adetona who has been my friend from our days in school. We've been very close and his father knows me very well just as my father knows him too. As a result of that I have been able to impact on the area and the king in his gratitude decided to reward me. I have been able to do well for myself and live up to the title as the Otunba Boyejo of Ijebuland.

What would be your response if it were said that you ventured into the shipping business because of your father's involvement in the same business?

Well, I believe my father did it because of his love for the business and for the growth of the Nigerian economy. He has been able to make gains and learnt several business techniques from doing the business. I believe it's only best for me to complement my father's work and consolidate on his past achievements. I am into the business because of my love for the marine business, this is why I have been travelling a lot to bring more value and other area of the shipping and marine business, which people are not yet exposed to here in the country. I have been in Singapore for sometime now and it's because of a new thing I am currently studying in the shipping and marine business which after I am through with it, it would no doubt be helping the Nigerian economy and shipping magnates as a whole. It's a big business that has been abandoned by the Nigerian businessmen for reasons that I do not know. It should be tapped into and we must ensure that we run our shipping lines and marine businesses ourselves instead of the foreigners who are reaping bountifully from the business. It's a very lucrative trade and it goes a long way to improve every other business because the movement of many businesses depends solely on it. I have made money and have become comfortable through my involvement in shipping.

What is your position on the current state of the Nigerian economy?

It is not in the best state at the moment, but all I can say is that the Nigerian economy would change for the best. It all has to do with the leaders; they need to be accountable, so that the country can become a better place for us all to live in.

For a man who has been in business and comes from one of the biggest dynasties in Nigeria, what really does business entail in Nigeria?

First, we need to reshape our image all over the world because business is not what it should be in Nigeria at the moment. A lot of genuine Nigerians want to do business in Nigeria but many people still have the belief all over the world that Nigerians are cruel. I have in my own way made it known to people all over the world that Nigerians are not cruel people. In fact, we have wonderful people in Nigeria and we have to make people all over the world know that we are good people and we are worthy of doing legitimate and good business without defrauding or duping the other party involved. I would specifically say that the maritime industry is what we need to move the Nigerian economy forward and make people believe in us as being wonderful people.

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