With WNTV, Nigeria Set The Standard For Other Countries – Julie Coker

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The last part of Julie Coker’s reflections as a pioneer staffer of WNTV. She spoke with Ayo Babajide who is also one of the WNTV veterans. Enjoy…

I have to thank God that I was created the way God wants me to be. I dabbled into drama and I actually acted in “Dinner with the Devil.” People like Taye Ayorinde drafted me to the stage but I discovered I was more like “two left feet” a misnomer on stage. One can only try to get there, if you are not meant to be there, there is practically nothing anybody can do. In any position one finds himself or herself just try and make a mark.

I was always in the studio and actually I was in charge of the 7up children’s birthday party, most of whom I know by name and you wouldn’t believe this was when I discovered most fathers don’t know the birth date of their children. Quite interesting, most of the women would know and even the children. This is the type of thing that made people appreciate your efforts. There was an occasion when I was invited to the office of the Reverend mother. This was very rare as the convent was separated from the main school by a lawn which nobody dared to cross. When I was invited, there were speculations that I had trespassed and I was to be shown the way home. I didn’t really know what was happening until the Rev. Mother said that whenever I put up the cross you say “No” and when I put it down, you say “YES”.

It was like a movie to me. It was to be an interview and all the interviewers happened to be white. We need to understand, however, that when people think it’s over that might be just the beginning. The interview was to be at the Ministry of Education and that was when my mother was having issues with my fees. Eventually, I got the scholarship to finish off my academic journey.

I don’t see anything wrong in anything and when something goes wrong, I can just draw somebody’s attention. Like there are certain colours that should not be worn on TV. They damage the camera that was what they were told. No vocal dots, no stripes but sometimes one can get away with some of these colors.

Over 60 years of our independence, it is quite “amazing” the way we churn out awards of appreciation. Like some people even sleep in the studio to make sure the job is done even at the risk of their lives, during coup d’état which was not palatable. The situation might not be appreciated when people appearing and talking on air are giving awards forgetting that there are some people behind the scene like; the cameramen and other people handling the other items of equipment. I remember quite glaringly some notable name; like Victor Adeniyi, Nelson Ipaye, Kunle Olasope, he’s dead now, but his brother who later became Director of News in NBC (Nigerian Broadcasting Service) is still alive. Obiagele was also there who was always there with me then to present Request Programmes during public holidays like Nigeria’s Independence Day. We enjoyed doing all those things. Ted Mukoro came much later.

When there was the break and the Mid-West was to be separated from the West, it was a difficult task transferring Ted from WNTV/WNBS as he was a bundle of talents. If those of us who were there then could be rated vis-à-vis our standard as far as television was concerned we would have been rated one of the best. We had English News Editors, all of them. It appeared we were doing it all by and for ourselves transmitting to a Nigerian audience, but if we had the opportunity to showcase what we had to the whole world, by now, people will watch us first before watching other channels.

South Africa did not have a television station then, even Ghana that got her independence before us didn’t have television until much later. We became the torch-bearers and everybody wanted to find out what we were doing.

julie-coker-early-life
Julie Coker

It was time however to showcase these talents to people abroad. That was when from WNTV they took people like myself, Segun Smith and Charles from the old NBS, also Charity a younger sister of Professor Adadevoh. What actually caused the aura of trepidation was part of the politics that was hovering around Nigeria then. There were some of these regions that were not truly independent like the West and the East but the North was not prepared. We could not really reach out to all the other regions. If we had had strong transmitters to beam our signals to other parts of the world, people would have been able to reckon with us. We had Duro Ladipo theatre as the best performance produced by Segun Olusola those days. He was the producer. We had better productions than Ipi Tombi to show to the outside world. Even with our constraints at that time. All these other countries were buying programmes from Hollywood. We also had those programmes then, like “Love Ranger” and some other ones. The standard Duro Ladipo set at that time, people are still groping to catch up with it. Nollywood is doing its best. If we had been able to harness these talents, most of them would have been stars making a lot of money.

Television Stations being tied to the apron strings of government is another issue. It is what the Piper says (the people supplying the funds) that would come out as the tune. There was an occasion when the Premier walked into the studio to make some announcements and everybody stood up to welcome him. I could not do that with the position of the microphone. The Premier, however, understood, even when other people could not understand. They taught this girl has behaved in a way. But this is sycophancy of the highest order on the side of those who were there then.

Misfits could not find their way in there as standards were already set. There were not so many challenges as the case may be as remunerations were paid as and when due. Even those of us who did well were given special bonus at the end of the year. Even double the amount paid as salary.

How did I get in there? The government already understood I was “Miss Western Nigeria” and they wanted to promote that image. After the cutting of tape at Obisesan Hall then, people started to look for me. I came second too in the Miss Nigeria competition in 1957.

It was as if things were not really crystal clear. I got married somehow and I was waiting for the baby that was why I could not come at that time. God has a special way of organizing how one’s journey in life will be.

My auntie just came to me with the message that they have been looking for me. My brother-in-law was the Attorney-General and came to ask me to follow him to Ibadan when my baby was still four months old. My auntie insisted on my going and I came with them from Warri to Benin and finally to Ibadan. We were there at the office of Chief Anthony Enahoro who was signing some papers on the items of equipment and other related matters for the final take off of the Television Station.

It was later revealed that all the announcers have been selected and they later asked if I could settle for the post of a Receptionist. To which I consented, because the environment looked nice with sparkling floor and beautiful furniture.

I went back to my auntie who was not favorably disposed to my working as a receptionist. She was married to a British and after all was said and done, at a dinner later, I was introduced as “Miss Western Region.” Before then, Chief Anthony Enahoro had whispered that he would have loved to have me as the first face and voice on TV. I was eventually asked what type of programme I would like to present on Television even though I have never watched any programme on TV before. I came up with the idea of Nigeria’s Cuisine. This was more like an audition then for me. I was asked to come for my letter of appointment the second day. All the other candidates had already gotten their schedules but I was also lucky to get my own letter of appointment the second day as promised.

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