President Muhammadu Buhari has expressed sadness over the death in Abuja yesterday of his associate, business and media mogul, Malam Isa Funtua, saying the deceased stood by him during his tortuous political journey. He died at the age of 78.
“President Muhammadu Buhari received with deep sadness on Monday evening information on the passing of his long-time friend and associate, Malam Isma’ila Isa Funtua, who was Life Patron of International Press Institute and Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN),” a statement by his senior special assistant on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, said yesterday.
It added: “The President condoles with family members, government and people of Katsina State, and all associates of the former president of NPAN, especially the media industry, on the loss, describing him as “greatly admired and respected.’’
“President Buhari believes the demise of the publisher and businessman has created a huge gap as Malam Funtua consistently stood by him in his political journey.
“The president prayed to Allah for the repose of Malam Funtua’s soul, and to grant the family strength and fortitude to bear the loss.”
Funtua, who died of cardiac arrest last night at 78, will be buried today, according to family sources.
He was the chairman of Bulet Construction Company, which built many of the iconic public buildings in Abuja, the nation’s capital.
In a tweet, Mr. Bashir Ahmad, an aide of Buhari, expressed regrets over the incident
“Inna lillahi wa inna ilaihi raji’un! Just heard about Mallam Ismaila Isa Funtua’s sudden death. This life! May Allah accept his soul, forgive his shortcomings and grant him Jannah al-Firdaus,” he tweeted.
Born in Funtua, Katsina State, Funtua was a pioneer student of the Federal Training Centre, Kaduna.
He trained as an administrative officer at the Institute of Administration, Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria and also as an administrator at the Manchester University in the UK.
He commenced his working career at the Katsina Native Authority many decades ago, and remained as constant as the northern star in the polity.
In his public and private endeavours, the Manchester University-trained administrator was indisputably remarkable.
His feats as a businessman, media patron and administrator distinguished him as an exceptional statesman, whose image was profitable to Nigeria’s developmental trajectory.
Under the administration of the late President Shehu Shagari in the Second Republic, he was the Minister of Water Resources and the youngest minister in that administration.
He established the Democrat Newspapers during military rule, and when decrees restrained freedom of speech, the newspaper thundered against the ills of that age.
Funtua stood against the plots and attempts to kill freedom of expression, especially during the regime of the late Gen. Sani Abacha.
For not keeping quiet in the face of tyranny, Funtua became one of the targets of the regime, as he was said to be No. 13 on the Abacha’s hit-list.
As a member of the 1994-1995 Constitution Conference, he was on the committee that proposed the models in some of the key areas of Nigeria’s democratic evolution.
One of such was a special committee of 37 people on zoning and rotational presidency, which resolved that rotation of power between the North and South be entrenched in the constitution.
He was the Monitor General of the Course 9 of the prestigious National Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), Kuru.
Funtua served the Katsina Native Authority for seven years as Administrative Officer.
He later served in various ministries in the defunct Northern Region before his secondment by the Northern Region government as the Personnel Manager of the 10,500 strong United Nigerian Textile Company, Kaduna.
From there he became a successful entrepreneur.
Funtua founded Bulet International Nigeria Limited, the largest wholly-owned indigenous construction company.
He was the founding Managing Director of the New Africa Holdings (publishers of the defunct Democrat newspapers).
He was elected Vice President to the late MKO Abiola as President of the NPAN, where he declined to succeed MKO as president while being incarcerated by the late Abacha.
He later became the President of the NPAN.