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Day IBB took me home, by Julie Coker, veteran broadcaster

Posted by By HENRY AKUBUIRO & ASHAMU ADEGBOLA on 2007/04/11 | Views: 1616 |

Day IBB took me home, by Julie Coker, veteran broadcaster


In her days on the television screen, Lady Julie Coker was a metaphor for excellence. Her delivery was masterful. Her voice was silky. Her looks were always radiant. Her viewers couldn’t have asked for me. Very little has changed with the passage of time, though.

In her days on the television screen, Lady Julie Coker was a metaphor for excellence. Her delivery was masterful. Her voice was silky. Her looks were always radiant. Her viewers couldn’t have asked for me. Very little has changed with the passage of time, though.

Dressed in snazzy violet, dappled with green, and a set of jewelry glistening on her ebony skin, she still cleaves to beauty, in this interview with Sunday Sun. Her dulcet tone hasn’t ebbed away and her wittiness comes in good measure.

As a child, she was an infant prodigy. At 19, she had a lucky break when she got a job at the defunct NBC (Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation), Ibadan. The first time she encountered the late premier of Western Region, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, in the studio, the vintage broadcaster recalled that she goofed.

Tender-hearted, when the Dimka coup took place in February 1976, she cringed with terror to venture outside. Guess what? It was former military president, Ibrahim Babangida, then a major, who came to her rescue, taking her home and back to work. “He was a perfect gentleman you couldn’t wish for a better friend, ” she revealed.

First day on telly
Her first day on screen was sometime in 1959. She was emboldened by the experience she had gathered as a stage actress in secondary school. “Already I was grounded in stagecraft, and it wasn’t difficult for me to face the camera, with all humility. I wasn’t particularly disturbed by the audience at home but the people in the studio, who were calling the shots. My internship didn’t last for two weeks, but some people said it took them up to six months. Ambassador Olusola was very helpful in putting me through,” she admitted.

Memorable time
For Lady Julie Coker, every moment as a broadcaster was memorable. The lilt of her voice swelled to a middle pitch as she recounted: “When you pick up a script to be a newscaster, that moment is different from when you start as an announcer; and, as an announcer, you think ‘that is it’. My first day on television should be the most memorable. For somebody who was only thirteen years then, I was excited.”

Encounter with Awolowo
Her ebullience shone as she rocked back and forth on her seat to the ebb and flow of the chat. In those days, she told Sunday Sun, it was a rarity to see notable politicians face-to-face, and it was a moment to relish when perchance such an opportunity came your way. Her lips puckered with smiles as she tripped down memory lane: “I remember when Chief Obafemi Awolowo came into the studio (Ibadan) to make a broadcast, and, as the announcer, I was going to introduce him. I knew I was going to stand up, but to sign him on, I had to be seated in front of the microphone.”
In the Yoruba tradition, it would amount to disrespect to do that, and Chief Awolowo felt that way. According to her, “he didn’t seem to take kindly to that at all, and he gave me a long look. I knew that he was chastising me, because everybody else was on his or her feet, and there I was sitting down. If the cable of the microphone were long enough, I would have held it to make the announcement while standing. I felt that wasn’t the right thing. But at the end of it all, he came round and said some pleasant things to me, which made me a bit relaxed.”

She broke a jinx
Low moments go side by side with high moments – such is life. There was an occasion in the 1970s when she had an argument with one of the announcers, who said some nasty things to her. She broke down in tears, and it was almost time to go on air! “The show must go on, and I had to face the camera. Apparently, it didn’t show on my face,” she chuckled.
Another moment was when she did the impossible at NTA Lagos: reading the news meant for a male newscaster. In those days, only male newscasters were meant to read the news on network news. But on that particular day, minutes before the news hour, there was no male presenter around, so she had to read the news. With that she broke the ice: women were then allowed to read the news on NTA Lagos.That was how Siene Allwell-Brown and others started reading the news.

Relationship with IBB
There were recurring military coups in those days. “They weren’t pleasant experiences,” she recalled. The scariest of them all was the bloody Dimka coup of February 1976, which toppled Gen. Murtala Mohammed as Nigeria’s head of state. She was scared stiff to go to work until a young army officer in the name of Major Ibrahim Babangida showed up in her house.
“When the soldier came, it was Major Ibrahim Babangida. He said, ‘Lady Julie, I understand that you are frightened to go to work.’ His office was at Bonny Camp on Victoria Island, and we were very close to his family. He came to my aid, and that was when I knew he was very humane. He dealt with all his friends in that way. He brought me to the office without a hitch and told me, ‘When you close, don’t go home in your official car; call me again, and I will come and pick you.’ I did, and he came back the next day. He was a perfect gentleman you couldn’t wish for a better friend. That was when he became closer to other broadcasters. So, we all loved it when he got accelerated promotions.”

Weird dress code of TV presenters
The veteran broadcaster is miffed at the weird dress code of later day TV presenters, accusing them of overdressing. “Newscasters have a code of ethics on dressing to observe. It has to be native and decent. For now, I believe the newscasters are overdressed. Each one is trying to outdo the other. The headgears are just like mama Kofo’s head tie – that is not the image of a television newscaster.
“In other countries, like Ghana, you won’t see any newscaster with grotesque headtie. Newscasters should be humble in their mode of dressing. If you are going on a catwalk, it is a different thing. Newscasters should be moderate and modern. In other countries, the station takes care of the wardrobe, and the ward mistress determines what a newscaster is going to wear. We cannot go on wearing the Yvonne Chaka Chaka kind of Zulu head tie on the televison. We have to be modest so that people can forget the newscaster and concentrate on the news.”

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Comments (3)

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Abieyuwa(Edo, Nigeria)says...

Otasowie means evening life is better than morning life. There is an error in your “evening life is better than evening life”?

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Naija g(Houston, Minnesota, US)says...

Sokari doesn’t mean joy. Joy is Biobela. Go to the village and ask the meaning of the name.

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Fay(Katy, Texas, US)says...

Actually translates to bravehearted.