Julie Coker at 81: Thanks for making TV great in the 1970s

Julie Coker at 81: Thanks for making TV great in the 1970s

Sunday, August 16, 2020 6:30 pm

Chief Julie Coker


By Bola Adewara

The Nigerian television girl of the 1960s and 1970s, the delectable, beautiful and glamorous Julie Coker is 81. This babe, now mama, kept us enthralled in the 1970s. 

-Watch the video of her 2019 birthday here

Julie Coker, Mike Enahoro, Bode Alalade, Bukki Ajai, Arthur (Art) Alade, and so many of them kept us glued to TV those days. You learn how to pronounce English words by watching to them. Julie is a Itshekiri babe. Enahoro, Edo, Bukki Ajai, Igbomina. There were others like Bimbo Roberts (later Bimbo Oloyede) Sola Omole, Funmi Odubekun, before others like the pretty Ronke Ayuba, Sinne Allwell Brown, Ruth Benamisia, Frank Olizie etc came on the scene in the early 1980. These broadcasters pronounced names and words of other ethnic groups perfectly.

Bola Adewara

I say, you learn how to pronounce words by watching them. It was from Julie I knew that Education is pronounced ejucation, durable is jurable, measurement is Meajurment, during is Juring, etc. Broadcasters of their generation were diligent and detailed, not like now that anything goes on television.

As a primary school pupil, I had an opportunity of meeting Julie Coker at a music concert in Ahmadu Bello Stadium Kaduna, sponsored by Nigerian Breweries Ltd (NBL). Julie and Funsho Adeolu, another great journalist of his time, (Chief Eleyinmi in Village Headmaster) handled the show that night. The concert featured great musicians like the Calypso king, Mighty Sparrow (real name Slinger Francisco) Eric Donaldson and some local stars like Victor Olaiya and the Ghanian great, ET Mensah. 

I remember walking to where Julie and Eleyinmi sat while Eric Donaldson was on stage. They had no airs, no security, no police, they were free with everyone. Nigeria was good then. I walked straight to her and said, ‘I see you everyday on TV.’ She stretched her hands to me and gently drew me close as if hugging me. It was a great night for me meeting my television star.

This is my returns, my gratitude to you, Julie Coker. Happy birthday!

Julie Coker’s Profile

Julie Coker is a former television journalist and broadcaster. She was, according to her biographers whose writings were put together on Wikipedia, a familiar face in television broadcasting in Nigeria during the beginning of the industry.

Born on 25 July 1939, Coker’s father was Yoruba from Abeokuta while her mother is itsekiri from Warri area. She grew up in Lagos with her mother and step-father and attended St Mary’s Convent primary school, founded by Catholic missionaries and managed by nuns of Our Lady of Apostles. At school, Julie found interest in the choir and performance art, an interest that was nurtured by the nuns. She later gained admission into Holy Child College. When she was fourteen years old, her mother fell sick and went to her village to recuperate, Coker stayed with her step-father’s family who lived in a communal compound. But after a year, without a letter or note from her mother, she risked the waterways and strangers to go and search for her in the Sapele area of present Delta State. Coker spoke Yoruba and Itsekiri, the language of her maternal family. When she landed in Sapele, she talked with strangers to describe what she knew about her mum’s village and by nightfall, someone was able to assist and get her to her grandmother’s place. A few days later and after much apprehension, she was taken to see her mother who was quite ill. She stayed with her until she was fairly strong. When she was ready to return to school, her mother had expended her savings. Coker asked family members for school fees but she could obtain the full payment. It was at this point in her life, her great aunt’s tricked her into an early teenage marriage. She was briefly in the man’s house until she escaped with the help of her aunt to Lagos. In Lagos, she earned a scholarship to continue at Holy Child College. In 1957, she represented her school in a festival of arts that was featured in the Daily Times Newspaper. After she left secondary studies, Coker began teaching at a convent in Warri, it was during this period she noticed as advertisement for a Miss Western Nigeria competition. 

Coker entered and won the competition in 1958, that same year, she was a runner-up at the Miss Nigeria contest.

She is the mother of two sons Michael and Richard. Along with Nephew Events Maestro Baba Epega, and nieces Property Developer/Financial Advisor Yewande Epega, Media Consultant/Producer Jayjay Epega, brother Meshack Enahoro and cousin Benjamin Awiri in 2004, they set up The Richard Coker Foundation, in memory of her son Director and Animator Richard Coker-Enahoro who passed away as a result of Sickle Cell Anemia that year.

Coker’s uncle, Justice Ighodaro was well connected with many administrators in the Western region, when Coker wanted to work in broadcasting, he was able to get her an audience with a T.V. station manager. In 1959, she became part of the team of WNTV, she initially worked as a receptionist but when Anike Agbaje-Williams was pregnant and wanted to go on maternal leave continue, Coker was brought in as a replacement. Coker became one of the earliest well known television broadcasters in Nigeria. After Western Nigeria Television started operation as the first T.V. station in Nigeria, Coker was the second female announcer but unlike Anike Agbaje-Williams who worked as producer and programme director, Coker had long career as a familiar face seen on t.v. broadcasts.

Apart from television, Coker released three albums under E.M.I. Music Nigeria and was an actress in the film, Dinner with the Devil.

A compilation record of seven songs was released by Kalita Records in 2019. The four recordings from ‘Ere Yon (Sweet Songs)’ and three from ‘Tomorrow’, these include ‘Ere Yon’, which was re-interpreted by Anderson Paak as “Savier’s Road” on his album ‘Oxnard’ which was globally released on Dr. Dre’s Aftermath imprint, also on this compilation was the lost Afro disco classic ‘Gossiper Scandal Monger’.”

–Bola Adewara is the publisher of E-Life Magazine

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