A former presidential aide and the leader of the Bakassi people, Senator Florence Ita-Giwa, yesterday extolled the virtues of the late Malam Ismaila Funtua, as she mourned the media mogul who passed on few days ago.
In a statement made available to THISDAY yesterday by the former senator, she said Nigeria has lost a strong voice for unity with the passing of “this illustrious Nigerian.”
Describing him as a true nationalist and a bridge builder, Ita-Giwa recalled her encounter with him during the Abacha’s Constitutional Conference in 1994.
According to her, “I first got to interact with him during the Abacha era’s constitutional conference in 1994. As a vocal voice for resource control at that conference, it was not unusual for me to be in the thick of heated debates on the issue.
“It was taken for granted that people like Alhaji Funtua would be leading a vociferous opposition to our insistence on resource control and the principle of derivation. To my consternation and those of my colleagues, Alhaji Isa Funtua served as a bridge builder between us and his northern compatriots on the issue instead. I recall that on a number of occasions he sought me out to have private discussions on the way forward.
“Funtua was in the deepest sense of the word, a Nigerian patriot. Many people who did not know him as well as I was opportuned to may not have been conversant with his patriotic fervour.
“On those occasions, I found him to be engaging, thoughtful and understanding. He maintained a principled stand against the perpetuation of military rule and he identified with progressive tendencies. I also recall how during the early stages of this current democratic dispensation, when as a senator I would grant interviews and issue strong statements advocating for the respect of the principle of Separation of Powers, he would put a call across to me commending my stance and encourage me and my colleagues to press on.”
The former presidential aide added that in tilting the newspaper he published, The Democrat, Funtua further established his credentials as a democrat and patriot. His newspaper no doubt contributed to enriching the quality of public discourse in Nigeria.
“The last time I met him was at the Silverbird Man of The Year Award ceremony in Lagos where in his speech, he made a passionate plea for the peaceful coexistence of Nigerians as well as the unity of Nigeria. The fact is that Nigeria has lost a strong voice for unity with the passing of this illustrious Nigerian. I hereby commiserate with his family and indeed the good people of Katsina State on the passing of this iconic Nigerian, Alhaji Ismaila Isa Funtua,” Ita Giwa said.