•Lawan, Gbajabiamila, Govs, IPI, Tinubu, others mourn
Deji Elumoye, Chuks Okocha, Olawale Ajimotokan, Udora Orizu in Abuja, Segun James, Peter Uzoho in Lagos and Francis Sardauna in Katsina
The remains of a former President of the Newspapers Proprietors’ Association of Nigeria (NPAN), Malam Ismaila Isa Funtua, were interred in Abuja yesterday amidst tributes from dignitaries, including the President of the Senate, Dr. Ahmad Lawan; Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila; National Leader of All Progressives Congress (APC), Senator Bola Tinubu, governors and chieftains of the International Press Institute (IPI).
Funtua, 78, a Second Republic minister, died of cardiac arrest on Monday night while keeping a doctor’s appointment, according to family sources.
The body of the elder statesman and former Managing Director of the Democrat Newspapers was interred at the Gudu Muslim Cemetery in Abuja.
Funtua’s remains were interred after the funeral prayers, held at the Shehu Shagari Central Mosque, Area 1, Garki, Abuja.
The Chief Imam of Area 1 Mosque, Sheikh Abdulahi Yau, led the session while the Chief Imam of the National Mosque, Abuja, Dr. Muhammad Kabir led the prayer session at the graveside.
Some of the dignitaries at the funeral included President Muhammadu Buhari’s nephew, Malam Mamman Daura; former governor of Ogun State, Senator Ibikunle Amosun; Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Mr. Mohammed Bello; Senator Tunde Ogheha; Yobe State Governor, Mai Mala Buni; Chairman of THISDAY /ARISE News Channel, Prince Nduka Obaigbena; former governor of Zamfara State, Alhaji Mahmoud Shinkafi; and a former chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mallam Nuhu Ribadu.
Lawan, Gbajabiamila, Govs, Tinubu, IPI, Others Mourn
Lawan, in his tribute, described the late veteran journalist and businessman as a man of many parts who brought to bear his great intelligence, energy and integrity on everything he did.
Lawan said Funtua was a pioneer and trailblazer who established an authoritative national newspaper and a giant construction company through both of which he left indelible footprints on the nation’s landscape.
He described his death as a painful loss and expressed his heartfelt condolences to the family of the late business mogul, community leader, social and political activist and nationalist.
Gbajabiamila, in a condolence message by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr. Lanre Lasisi, said Funtua, who was a lifetime patron of NPAN and the IPI, lived a life full of service to humanity.
The speaker also condoled with Buhari over the death of Funtua, who was the president’s long-time friend.
While praying Almighty Allah to give his family, the people and government of Katsina State the fortitude to bear the irreparable loss, the speaker prayed for Al-jannatul firdaus to be Funtua’s final abode.
Katsina State Governor, Hon. Aminu Masari, who described Funtua as an iconic Nigerian, said his death was a monumental loss to the world.
In a statement by his Director-General, Media, Abdu Labaran Malumfashi, the governor described the deceased as a prince of the world who, as a successful businessman, politician and a top-notch member of the IPI, had traversed the globe promoting and advertising the very best of Nigeria.
Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, expressed grief and shock over the passing of Funtua.
The governor, in a statement, described his death as a huge loss to the country and humanity, praying that God grants his family and associates the fortitude to bear the irreparable loss.
Obaseki’s counterpart in Delta State, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, commiserated with Buhari on the passing of his friend and condoled with the family of the deceased, who he described as a consummate leader, shrewd boardroom player and elder statesman.
Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, described the death of Funtua as a great loss to Nigeria, especially happening at a time when the country is desirous of more men of good conscience to offer wise counsel in the nation’s drive towards socio-political and economic development.
In a message issued by his Media Office, Tinubu described the passing of the elder-statesman, nationalist newspaper publisher and prominent businessman, as a saddening national loss, describing Funtua as a rare individual of immense talents, abilities and generosity.
“We spoke about two days before, as we often do. 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,” the former Lagos State governor said.
In its condolence message, the IPI said it received with shock and profound sadness, the news of the sudden death of the Nigerian statesman.
In a condolence statement signed by the Chairman, IPI Nigeria, Malam Kabiru Yusuf; member, IPI Executive Board, Mr. Wada Maida; and Secretary, IPI Nigeria, Mr. Raheem Adedoyin, the IPI noted that Funtua’s colossal influence and contributions to national development traversed the fields of public service, business, politics and the media.
“A man of immense international stature, Mallam Isma’ila was a life patron of IPI- the global network of editors, senior journalists and media executives- with a lifetime devotion to a free press. Severally, he led the Nigerian delegation to IPI events outside Nigeria. He was an elected member of the IPI Executive Board and a major financier and sponsor of the Vienna- based global body.
“Mallam Isma’ila will be most remembered as the arrowhead of Nigeria’s successful hosting of the historic 2018 IPI World Congress & General Assembly in Abuja,” IPI said.
The Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) has also commiserated with Funtua’s family over his death.
In a message signed by the President of NGE, Mr. Mustapha Isah, and the Publicity Secretary, Mr. Ken Ugbechie, the association said it was deeply saddened by his demise and prayed God to grant the family the fortitude to bear the loss of the “elder statesman, newspaper publisher, a brilliant administrator, a former minister and a feisty defender of a free press.”
According to NGE, “Funtua has, over the decades remained consistent like the North 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 Federal Executive Council (FEC) also extended condolences to Buhari and the people of Katsina State on the death of Funtua.
A letter of condolence signed by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. Boss Mustapha, described Funtua as an exceptional statesman, accomplished businessman, prominent media patron and a distinguished administrator.
The statement said Funtua’s legacy would be forever remembered.
The Governing Council of the Nigerian Institute of Journalism (NIJ) has also joined Nigerians to mourn its late chairman.
In a condolence message yesterday by the Provost of the institution, Mr. Gbemiga Ogunleye, NIJ commiserated with the family, friends and associates of its late chairman.
Ogunleye stated that Funtua was more than a strong pillar of support for the NIJ, and that he treated the institution as a major assignment Allah bestowed on him, which he devoted his time and resources to.
According to Ogunleye, the “chairman was a committed and passionate defender of freedom of speech, press freedom and democracy. In pursuant of this commitment, he established the Democrat Newspaper during the era of military dictatorship in Nigeria.”
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) also expressed sadness over the death of Funtua.
The party commiserated with the president over the death of his close confidant, a long-time friend and associate.
The PDP, in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, noted that Funtua would be remembered for the roles he played towards the development of the nation, including his contributions as a minister, an outstanding publisher and life patron of IPI and the NPAN.
Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, mourned Funtua and described his death as a rude shock and a severe blow to the media industry in the country.
The minister, in a statement, hailed Funtua’s contribution to media development and his untiring defence of free speech and the freedom of the press, starting from his days as the founder of the Democrat Newspapers to his stint as the president of NPAN.
He said Funtua’s passion for the media industry saw him serving as the life patron of the NPAN and taking an active interest in matters concerning the industry until his death.
He extended his condolences to the president, family, and friends of the deceased as well as NPAN and the media industry.