Nigeria: Malam Isma'ila Isa Funtua (1942 - 2020)

3 August 2020

Nigeria, again lost one of its illustrious sons on July 20, 2020, Mallam Isma'ila Isa Funtua, adding to the number of losses the country suffered this year.

Malam Isma'ila Isa Funtua was said to have died of cardiac arrest minutes after driving to see his doctor in Abuja. He was reported to have told his family that he was going to see his doctor after feeling unwell.

Born on January 17, 1942, in Funtua, Katsina State, he was a pioneer student of the Federal Training Centre, Kaduna. He also trained as an administrative officer at the Institute of Administration, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, and as an administrator at the Manchester University in the United Kingdom.

He began his working career at the Katsina Native Authority, where he served for seven years as an Administrative Officer and later served in various ministries in the defunct northern region.

He was later seconded to the United Nigeria Textile Limited (UNTL), Kaduna, where he served as Personnel Manager overseeing the company's 10,500 workers.

Late Isma'ila Isa Funtua had, in his 78 years sojourn on this earth, cut out a niche for himself as an administrator, a politician, a philanthropist, and a businessman.

He was the Minister of Water Resources under President Shehu Shagari and the founder and Chairman of Bulet International Nigeria Limited, the largest wholly owned Nigerian construction company, in addition to being a director in several companies including Funtua Textile Limited, which he founded and has remained the only textile in the country to be in business in spite of operating difficulties. He was also the founder and Chairman of New Africa Holdings Limited publishers of the defunct The Democrat newspapers.

More importantly, late Malam Isma'ila had exhibited dedication and zeal to his work, provided quality leadership and treated his subordinates with fairness. As Personnel Manager at UNTL, he was reported to have put a stop to the practice of summary dismissal of workers without following due process and ensuring all their entitlements were fully paid.

His leadership qualities came to play at NIPSS as he was elected the Monitor General of Course 9. He was also elected the Vice President of Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN) with Chief MKO Abiola as President. It is on record that he refused all entreaties by the government of the day to assume the position of president when Abiola was under detention. He was later elected the president of the association.

Malam Isma'ila was also a life patron of the International Press Institute (IPI), a global network of editors, journalists and media executives.

As President of NPAN, he worked tirelessly, sometimes at a great risk to his personal safety, to protect press freedom, especially at that trying moment the nation found itself.

Malam Isma'ila was a politician who chose to work quietly to ensure Nigerian became a better place for all citizens. He was quite frank and forceful with his views and provided sincere advice and assistance to both the young and old.

As a testimony to his simplicity, Malam Isma'ila lived in Area 1, Garki, Abuja, one of the earliest settlements even when his friends lived in those posh areas of city. He was kind to his neighbours, always providing the needed help to them.

In recognition of his service to the Nigerian media, the Nigeria Press Organisation named the newly built headquarters of the Nigeria Institute of Journalism, NIJ, after him, where he served as the Chairman of the Governing Board of the institute.

The death of Isma'ila Isa Funtua has robbed Nigeria of a patriot, journalism of a friend, the business world of an entrepreneur and Nigerians of a generous man.

May Almighty Allah grant him Aljannah Firdaus.

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