Ibim Semenitari …Toast To A Birthday Girl


In a clime where countless jaundiced views of the word ‘success’ consumes our psyche, it is really difficult to estimate what the subject truly is. Some judge it by measure of material acquisition, others on leadership, while many hinge success on the amount of political power at one’s disposal.

But any definition that fails to take into consideration societal needs, hopes and fears and most importantly, faith,  family and values, cannot be said to be comprehensive enough.

This is why the definition of success by the American writer and poet; Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-82), appeals the most to me. It was further magnified by Reverend  Charles Swindoll, a leading American clergyman. Denis Waitely, inspirational Author of the best seller, “Being The Best”, calls it, ‘kernel of truth’.

In a column, ‘Think it Over’, contained in a weekly newsletter, copies of which he sent to the six thousand members of his Fullerton, California, Reverend Swindoll pondered the subject, with the question: How do you measure success? And went further to set the following yardsticks

To laugh often and much;

To win the respect of intelligent people

and the affection of children;

To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends;

To appreciate beauty;

To find the best in others;

To leave the world a bit better,

 whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, a redeemed social condition, or a job well done.

To know even one other life has breathed easier, Because you have lived –This is to have succeeded.

From this standpoint, the success story of Mrs Ibim Semenitari transcends her enviable professional accomplishments.

Journalism Trainer/Editor with the BBC World Service Trust, Publisher of ‘The Business Eye, first female journalist to win the CNN African Journalist of the Year Awards, second place 1997 print Journalism Award winner, Two-time winner of the Nigeria Media Merit Award and three-time winner of the Diamond Award for Excellence, Semenitari stands out.

An English graduate of the University of Benin, South-South Nigeria, the serving Rivers State Commissioner of Information and Communications, also superintended the news desk of Tell Magazine and till date remains a resource person to UN systems especially UNICEF and the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

How has she used this various roles and achievements to impact others? Does she really see beauty in others? Who has breathed easier because Ibim Semenitari lives? How often does she laugh and how much?

Born  today 44 years ago into the family of a former Deputy Governor in Rivers State, Sir G.T.G Toby and wife Dame Christy, the young woman radiated exceptional zeal and promise in everything she was depended upon to accomplish right from childhood. From kindergarten through primary, secondary to the university, Ibim did not believe that her sex was deterent and journeyed through life as any male would.

But what marks her out as very exceptional child was her empathy with less privileged mates and her willingness, to  share always every little thing she has, with others.

Her drive for professional excellence is indeed legendary, which is why she is easily repelled by laziness, lack of planlessness, and habitual failure to meet set targets. Where all these remain deep sea, Ibim, close friends say, can be a very cheerful, long-laughing person.

A mother, wife and manager of men and materials, Ibim Semenitari believes in proper utilisation of time to avoid clashes of her various roles and can go the full-length to provide for the needs of subordinates. Where direct sourcing is difficult, she does not despair but takes extra time to teach the needy how to fish and not expect free fish all the time.

This is perhaps why, state media organs, particularly The Tide still flows even with little or no hand-outs for a while now,  Radio Rivers has not gone off and Garden City Radio today competes as a private radio station would.

Ibim Semenitari appreciates beauty, and sees the best in others, which is  also why she instituted a reward-system that recognises regularly, outstanding staff within her ministry, departments and agencies. Under her watch also, government has been proactive towards the needs of professional bodies like the Guild of Editors and the Nigeria Union of Journalists, among others.

Worthy of special mention is her mien that resulted in government’s acceptance to single-handedly rebuild and furnish the state council headquarters of the NUJ. Already, the former structure ravaged by storm has been demolished in preparation for construction works.

Clearly, the Honourable Commissioner of Information and Communications seems to have a date with history. She is not only a star mate of Rivers State into which service she is deeply buried, as its image maker, she also shares the same birthday with her boss, the Executive Governor of Rivers State, Rt. Honourable Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi as well as the Children’s Day celebration.

As Ibim Semenitari clocks 44 today, her boss 47, one needs not wonder for too long where her energy is sourced as does Amaechi, it may well be that from the star they were born.

 To say that she is a square peg in a square hole as the Commissioner of information and Communications in Rivers State, is to say the least an understatement, no wonder her boss, the executive governor who is an ardent believer of one’s ability to achieve what is achievable, exploited her worthiness for a second tenure mainly because he sees in her an ability to achieve. Like terms, they say, attract.

Her pedigree could simply be summed up as the journalist’s “journalist”, who has proved herself a celebrity, hardworking, result-driven, a woman of integrity and unequalled measures. 

It is imperative to note, that despite her preoccupation with state matters, it is also on record that her developmental strides in her immediate “constituency” have become a reference point in her relationship with her people, for charity they say begins at home.

At 44, this mother of four, who upholds the principle of unity in diversity, our own distinguished and Honourable Commissioner of Information and Communications, Mrs Ibim Semenitari, truly deserves three happy cheers, as we toast to her longevity, peace and more grease to her elbow. Hip! Hip!! Hip!!! Hurray.   


Sylvia ThankGod-Amadi