By Dapo Akinrefon, Victor Ahiuma-Young, Olasunkanmi Akoni, Henry Umoru, Emmanuel Elebeke, Dirisu Yakubu, James Ogunnaike & Ibrahim Hassan
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, Northern Governors Forum, All Progressives Congress National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, Nigeria Guild of Editors, NGE, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and other eminent Nigerians, have continued to mourn newspaper patron, elder statement and influential media leader, Mallam Ismaila Isa Funtua.
Mallam Funtua, who was also the founder and Chairman of Bulet Construction Company, died on Monday at 78, while undergoing a routine medical check-up.
His death, a grievous loss to his family, entire nation — Obasanjo
Reacting to his demise, Chief Obasanjo, through his media aide, Kehinde Akinyemi said: “There is no doubt, this is a grievous loss to his family, his friends and associates, Katsina State and, indeed, the entire nation. We commiserate with the entire family of Mallam Isa Funtua and the great people of Katsina State over this great loss.
“Mallam Isa-Funtua was a well-respected elder statesman, an accomplished business mogul/publisher, an astute politician and a frontline industrialist whose various contributions to the development of governance and public administration have ensured for him an evergreen memory in the hearts of many admirers and associates, particularly during the administration of President Shehu Shagari under whom he served as Minister of Water Resources as well as during his membership of the committee of the 1994-1995 Constitutional Conference that came up with models in key areas of Nigeria’s existence.
“As the founder of Bulet International Nigeria Limited, Mallam Isa Funtua’s robust identification with the objective of my administration as the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria between 1999 and 2007 in implementing the master plan of the nation’s capital, FCT, cannot go unrecognised. He built some of the iconic public buildings in Abuja and remained steadfast in making the FCT a more habitable place and a major tourist and investment zone.
“In particular, his great contributions, as a member of Board of Trustees of the Bells University of Technology (BUT) to the orderly growth and development of the institution will remain evergreen in the annals of the University. He exhibited boundless generosity through his kind donation to the erection of the entrance gate of the BUT. His direct involvement in the administration of the University and kind gestures, no doubt, could easily be considered as a testimony of his deep love, concern and admiration for the University in particular and human capital development in general.
“Our nation also certainly owes him a debt of gratitude for the immense contributions he had made over the years to the development of media industry in the country. He was the publisher of The Democrat newspapers during military dictatorship, particularly the regime of General Sani Abacha, when decrees restrained freedom of speech and his newspaper thundered against the ills of that era. Until his death, he was the life patron of Newspaper’s Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN) and his contributions were always that of a committed patriot with a well-developed sense of equity, justice and fair-play.
“For his patriotism, courage, frankness and steadfastness, Mallam Isa-Funtua will be long remembered by those who knew him and those who care about the evolution of a virile democratic culture in our nation.”
Similarly, President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan in a statement by his Special Adviser, Media, Ola Awoniyi, said among others; ”He was a man who touched many lives and impacted the development of Nigeria with his foresight, industry, enterprise, boundless enthusiasm, magnetism, friendliness and accommodating spirit. Mallam Isa Funtua made friends across tribe, religion, generation and class in Nigeria, and touched many lives in public service as well as in his private life.”
Lawan said the Late Mallam Funtua was a pioneer and trail blazer who established an authoritative national newspaper and a giant construction company through both of which he left indelible footprints on the physical and sociology-political landscapes of Nigeria.
Lawan said: “Even in death, Mallam Isa Funtua’s presence will continue to be felt for a long time by Nigerians.”
He was a statesman, nationalist — Tinubu
On his part, Asiwaju Tinubu in a statement by his Media Office, said: “The passing of elder statesman, nationalist, newspaper publisher and prominent businessman, Mallam Ismaila Isa Funtua, is a saddening national loss. He was a rare individual of immense talents, abilities and generousity.
“We spoke about two days before, as we often did. He spoke vibrantly, with his trademark logic and deep knowledge. We ended our conversation agreeing to resume soon again. There was no indication that this would be our last talk. I had the distinct honour of knowing this man for many years. Mallam Funtua loved our nation with uncompromising passion having served Nigeria with dedication and commitment at different times in many important capacities.
“He wanted the best for the country and its people and worked diligently in his private capacity to advance the cause of Nigeria. As a long-time friend, associate and in-law of President Muhammadu Buhari, he served as a strong buttress of support for the president and for his progressive administration.
“I commiserate with President Buhari at this time for we have suffered the loss of another person of great intellect and extraordinary character. Our national family mourns deeply because of this unexpected departure. May Allah give our President the added strength and grace to overcome this loss. I mourn with the immediate and extended Funtua family who have lost a father, patriarch and much more.”
A strong pillar of support for our institution — NIJ
Also reacting yesterday, the Nigerian Institute of Journalism, NIJ, in a statement signed by the Provost, Gbemiga Ogunleye, said: ‘’Mallam Ismaila Isa Funtua, a former president and life patron of NPAN was ore than a strong pillar of support for our institution. He treated the institution as a major assignment.
‘’The chairman was a committed and passionate defender of freedom of speech, press freedom and democracy.’’
NGE mourns, condoles with Buhari
Meanwhile, Nigerian Guild of Editors, NGE, has said it is deeply saddened by Mallam Funtua’s demise, describing him among others, as an elder statesman, newspaper publisher, a brilliant administrator, a former minister and a feisty defender of free press.
In a statement by its President and Publicity Secretary, Mustapha Isah and Ken Ugbeche, respectively, NGE said: “A friend and political associate of President Muhammadu Buhari, Ismaila Funtua has, over the decades remained consistent like the Northern Star, whose influence stretched beyond journalism to manufacturing and politics. In him, the nation will miss a forthright and bold patriot who deployed his defunct newspaper, The Democrat, to foster national unity, promote free speech and engender a culture of high ethical standard in journalism.
”The Guild mourns a friend and supporter whose appearances and seminal contributions at our annual conferences helped to deepen discourses and provide a compass for the younger generation of journalists in the country.
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”The late Funtua was the founder of Bulet International Nigeria Limited, one of the biggest indigenous construction companies in the country which built most of the magnificent public buildings in Abuja. He founded the New Africa Holdings (publishers of the defunct Democrat newspapers). He was also a former President of the Newspapers Proprietors Association of Nigeria, NPAN.”
Also, the PDP, in a statement by its spokesman, Kola Ologbondiyan, commiserated with President Muhammadu Buhari over the death of Funtua, “who was Mr. President’s very close confidant, long-time friend and associate.
“The PDP notes that Mallam Isa Funtua would be remembered for the roles he played towards the development of our nation including his contributions as a minister of the Federal Republic, an outstanding publisher and life patron of the International Press Institute, IPI, and the Newspapers Proprietors Association of Nigeria, NPAN.
“The PDP condoles with the Mallam Isa Funtua’s family, the media industry as well as the government and people of Katsina State, and prayed God to grant eternal rest to the faithful departed.”
A big loss to Nigerians — Lai Mohammed
Also, Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, in a statement yesterday, hailed late Mallam Funtua’s contribution to media development, his untiring defence of free speech and the freedom of the press, stressing his days as the founder of The Democrat.
The Minister said Mallam Isa Funtua’s passion for the media industry saw him serve as the life patron of the NPAN and taking active interest in matters concerning the industry until his death.
‘’Mallam Isa Funtua was a man of many parts, with his eventful life highlighted by service, whether as a media icon, an entrepreneur or a philanthropist. He also served as a Minister and a member of the 1994-1995 Constitutional Conference, hallmarking his versatility,’’ he said.
Northern Governors Forum
In the same vein, Chairman of the Northern Governors Forum, NGF and governor of Plateau State, Simon Lalong, in a condolence message by his Director of Press and Public Affairs, Dr Makut Macham, among others, said: “This is a great loss to his family, the Northern region and the entire nation considering his immense contributions to national development. He is one person that has built bridges among people of different ethnic, religious and political persuasions and also encouraged unity, peace and tolerance.”
Also reacting, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State, in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Gboyega Akosile, described Funtua’s death as a great loss to Nigeria.
He said: “Although the loss of a loved one is usually a painful experience, we should take solace in the fact that death itself is a natural occurrence and it is inevitable.”
According to Sanwo-Olu, the late Isa Funtua would be missed by a wide range of people and professional bodies, especially the NPAN, noting that the “late elder statesman lived a life of purpose, championing the right causes such as a free press, which is the soul of democracy. He was a philanthropist of note, a well respected personality with a lot of knowledge and experience.”
Also, Governor Dapo Abiodun of Ogun State in a condolence message by his Chief Press Secretary, Kunle Somorin, described Funtua as “a quality icon who would occupy many good pages in Nigeria’s history. His footprints are in the public service, journalism, entrepreneurship and indeed all spheres of our national life and living.
“Mallam Isa Funtua was a man of honour and a great achiever. He lived an exemplary life; he was a democrat and a fine gentleman whose idea of power was that of being a tool to serve his fatherland and humanity. He was an elder statesman in the truest sense of the word in and out of government – as a technocrat in Northern Nigeria and later Minister in the Second Republic.”
Similarly, Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State, in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Ekerete Udoh, described the late Isa Funtua as ‘’a great Nigerian patriot, a strong advocate for press freedom and a highly successful businessman and journalist whose intellectual rigour added deep value to our national discourse. Above all, he was loyal to causes he believed in. He will be deeply missed. May God grant his family, the good people of Katsina State and all his friends and associates the fortitude to bear his unfortunate demise.’’
For the Vice President, IndustriALL Global Union and immediate past General Secretary of National Union of Textile, Garment and Tailoring Workers of Nigeria, NUTGTWN, Issa Aremu, late Mallam Ismaila Isa Funtua was a patriot and industrialist who would be remembered as an enthusiastic employer of labour.
Aremu said in a statement that late Funtua meant many things to all; a publisher, elder statesman, a silent and dignified politician, father and grandfather.
According to him, “However, we will like to remember him as an investor and enthusiastic employer of labour. Until his death yesterday, Mallam Isa Funtua was among the few standing African entrepreneurs counted on the side of domestic production in place of wholesale importation and smuggling.”
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