Today, 20 July makes it exactly one year since Malam Ismaila Isa Funtua answered the call of his Creator.
It is exactly one year ago that I received that unforgettable phone call from a cousin, Lawal Isa, conveying the sad news of the demise of Ismaila.
Baba, as we fondly called you within the family circle, I still can’t believe I am writing another tribute because of your passing.
Words cannot describe that difficult moment but if this is the time I get to say goodbye, then I know I will do so with the knowledge that I consider myself blessed to have lived this life as your nephew.
You touched so many lives with your selflessness and countless acts of kindness, always giving and never expecting favours in return. Your dedication to a cause was what set you apart.
For every institution you worked for, you laid the path for others to succeed.
Your footprints in the media, business, public service and politics are so glaring and evident.
The benefits of your hard work is a living testimony for so many young men and women you took under your wings at a personal and professional level.
Baba, you were and will always be an inspiration to me, the entire family and anyone who worked or was associated with you.
You have left a void in the family that will be almost impossible to fill.
While we mourn today, we also take solace in the fact that your mission on earth has been fulfilled. We thank the Almighty Allah for your life and bid you farewell until we meet again.
Though your death came suddenly, as a rude shock to us on that fateful Monday, your immediate and extended family, friends and associates have come to terms with the reality that you have gone forever.
When we spoke, you sounded okay and you told me not to bother coming to your house that evening as you will be too busy to attend to me; not knowing that will be our last conversation as I only met your lifeless body two hours after.
Though saddened with your death, and the huge space it has created in our lives which will be near impossible to fill, we are, however, consoled with the outpouring of testimonies from across the globe from the people that knew and interacted with you while alive.
What will be more gladdening to our hearts than prayers offered for the repose of your soul not only in our mosques here in Nigeria but even in the two holiest mosques of Makkah and Madinah?
Your anonymous good deeds, philanthropy and touching people’s lives positively suddenly became a subject of public disclosure that even those of us close to you came to know for the first time.
If there is anything I will miss from your death are those virtues of simplicity, humility and the ability to relate seamlessly with all classes of people without any air of arrogance or feelings of superiority even with your elevated status.
To all those that came across to you, they found in your conduct and character what they never expected from a personality of your status.
The house and the area you lived in throughout your stay in Abuja till your last breath attests to that. Many could not believe someone of your status could settle and found comfort within the commoners.
Baba, you were the pillar and large shade for the extended family where everyone rushed to for succour. You were the rallying point for the family, always eager to assist everyone according to their needs.
One thing that never failed to amaze me in your lifetime was your ability to pick your phone calls from any number known or unknown at any given time. Even if you couldn’t pick for one reason or the other, one can be certain you would surely call back.
I always remember your admonishment that, “pick any call for you don’t know why the caller is calling, and it is just a matter of yes or no”.
I can’t forget your usual joke that your telephone number had become easily available to people as sachet water.
Your death has certainly negatively affected an uncountable number of people particularly those that relied on your generosity for their livelihood, school fees, medication and such other assistance you are famous for.
Baba, you are gone but your legacies will continue to impact positively on us and those you touched their lives through your goodwill and generosity.
Allah ya jikan ka, ya gafarta maka.