IT is with great regret and sadness that we pay our humble tribute to a media colossus, astute businessman, industrialist, administrator, suave member of the power elite and highly esteemed friend of the Vanguard family, the late Mallam Ismaila Isa Funtua.
Funtua’s sudden passage on Monday, July 20, 2020, aged 78, came as a painful shock, though it is appointed to every person who has experienced life to die. This is yet a reminder to all of us that as we enjoy the sadness and joys of living, the end can come at any time and in any form.
But we take solace in the fact that Isa Funtua lived a very purposeful life and left us with an overflow of fond memories. Throughout his very eventful life, Isa Funtua was comfortably positioned within the Nigerian ruling establishment, mainly because he grew up with the crop of people who have led the country since the end of the Nigerian Civil War.
A graduate of the Ahmadu Bello University, ABU, Zaria and the University of Manchester, Funtua was part of the third generation of Northern technocrats who, unlike their predecessors, had exposure to education in the United Kingdom.
This group of Western-educated Northerners with roots in Barewa College and the ABU, have enjoyed commanding positions in the military, federal bureaucracy, the security agencies, the academia and the traditional institutions.
Because of their common Kaduna base, highly close-knit community and espousal of ideals promoted by the late Premier of defunct Northern Region, Sir Ahmadu Bello, they were known as the Kaduna Mafia, a term popularised by journalist(now Professor) Mvendaga Jibo.
This put Funtua in a vantage position to cultivate a vast network of friends and associates from all parts of the country and became a bridge between them and the corridors of power.
He shot into national limelight when he was appointed Minister of Water Resources during the Shehu Shagari regime in the Second Republic.
Soon after he left government, he made his foray into the media industry as the Managing Director of The Democrat, a well-designed Kaduna-based newspaper that attracted celebrated columnists from different parts of the country in 1984.
He remained a strong pillar of the media as the Life Patron of the International Press Institute, IPI, and President of the Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria, NPAN.
Funtua was also a member of the Constitutional Conference convened by General Sani Abacha (1994 to 1996). He founded many manufacturing outfits and the Bulet Construction Company, which has played a leading role in the creation of the Abuja skyline as we know it.
Mallam Isa Funtua disdained political jobbery, which was the pastime of many of his peers. When the position of Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari fell vacant upon Mallam Abba Kyari’s demise in April this year and his name was touted as a possible candidate, he quickly counted himself out of it despite being a known Buhari close confidant.
We wish him eternal rest.