Title: Nigeria Ere Yon
Author: Julie Coker
Publisher: Wirinet Publishing
Reviewer: Flora Onwudiwe
‘Nigeria Ere Yon’, which means, ‘life in the limelight’, in Itsekiri and Yoruba, is the title of Julie Coker’s, third book. It chronicles the birth of the author, formative years in school, her emergence as a beauty queen, and her journey into broadcasting and retirement in 1992.
She reminisces on her birth with all the beautiful vegetation, flowing of the river; the downpour that comes with lightning chased people to their thatched huts, keeping warmth by the fireside.
Such moment of conversations is quite symbolic. No one ever witnessed a heavy rain that comes with destructions, just because a new baby is coming into the world.
But for the witch doctor, subjecting pregnant women to psychological trauma of being expelled from the land, either for given birth to twins or baby boy, that is the situation Julie’s mother found herself.
“Words went round the village that she had been up in storm trying to cast a spell to prevent the safe delivery of the poor child or change the sex, so it will be boy”P1. Her mother’s faith in God, “…that I may be set free from this labour and the darkness of the hands of the unbelievers”.
P1. But their expectation is crushed as Julie arrives on July 25, 1940. In her conscious effort to rebuke the memories of the witch doctor, rather than giving her comfort, the feeling she gets is hatred, “Because of insecurities that he would bring misfortunes and deal with him the same way.”
P.4 Again, she recollects in tranquil, “Memories of the past deliveries came flowing along like the river, why has she come back. Places where they took away her babies, and those of her mother’s and Sister’s.
The birds kept on singing their sweet and sorrowful songs… seemingly in empathy or mockery no one can tell”.P.4 Here, the author gives the impression that the presence of a baby girl erodes hardship.
She notes: “On the day, when we are to have the naming, there was a heavy rain and the thunder was roaring ……tradition signifies the birth of a great child and the whole village was filled with joy shouting it’s our dawn of joy, hardship has been taken away …….”
P.5 But for the father, Okorogheye, a convert refused to be one of the worshippers of their ancestors, for giving his two daughters away in marriage without offering goat to these deities,
“…..Two others gone with the English men and each time they bring precious gifts, Okorogh eye… does not offer a single goat to appease the ancestors for his daughters walking away from home.” P.5. But the most painful aspect of Julie’s life is growing up without a father, the privilege her mates enjoyed, as a student at St. Mary Convent School and Holy Child College, Lagos. She is actively involved in school activities, but feels bad as no member of her family comes to watch her performance,
“Of course, I was sad that she could not come to my plays, but I would tell this cousin of mine about any performances and he would bring his friends along, so I had some support.”
P.20 In addition, Benjamin Edigbe becomes a great relief, she watches him as an organist and choirmaster. His presence was not only as a stepfather, he helped in the paying of her school fees. She recalls: “My mother could not bear him a child; this attracted hostility from his family members…
This was very painful for me and I was devastated as we had nowhere to go,…” P10.
According to her, she had to travel by boat to Sapele for three days: “I had no idea where my mother had gone; …going back to the village was a daunting task. I had no money to buy food and some passengers were cooking their meals, out of pity they contributed food for me…”
P11. On arrival, she does not even know that her mother is ill, “she crawled out of her bamboo hut; we had not seen each other for 18 months…”
P.13 Emerging the winner of Miss Western Nigeria beauty pageant contest and the first runner up at Miss Nigeria Beauty Contest opened the door to limelight. Her good diction and photographic memory scored her highly as a good presenter with the Western Nigerian Television (WNTV). “Impressed and fascinated by my spoken English, good diction and manner with which I delivered the lines, he promised to create a space for me as an Announcer.”
P.31. She performed better than others, “Nigerians are very particular about school certificates and not many of us then at the station had been to the University.”P32. “The fact that I had been Miss Western Nigeria did not help them to gel with me either.
They considered I had no qualifications or experience and just had a pretty face. There was quite a lot of friction”. P32 Julie becomes the second woman to feature on WNTV, the first television station in the whole of Africa, located at Agodi in Ibadan, after Mrs. Anike Agbaje-Williams.
“I felt jittery stepping into her shoes, because she had already set a high standard for the show being a more experienced broadcaster. I did so well that even when Agbaje returned from maternity leave, I was asked to continue with the children’s programme.”
P33. The Minister of Information Broadcasting and Culture Theophi lous Benson recommended a six months training programme in the U.S.A. On her completion, “The trip gave me a whole new level of exposure about the industry…I needed to go home to use my insights to contribute to the development of broadcasting in Nigeria.”
P43. She is demoralized as her name is on the front page of the newspaper, “I knew my bosses decided to punish me because I had gone to America without permission, I was upset that I cried.”P43.
The five years’ experience and overseas training qualified her to work with the Nigerian Television Service (NTS) now NTA. Julie’s memoir is traumatic, how she overcame them remains a mystery.
The reviewer considers the appropriate title of the book “Queen’s birth shrouds in Mystery” than ‘Nigeria Ere Yon’. Reading ‘Nigeria Ere Yon’, that contains 12 chapters with different titles and divided into 92 pages with 10 pages of photo gallery of Julie with Mike at Richard’s baptism, Senator Daisy Danjuma, staff of the Nigeria’s high Commission UK, and so on make up 102 pages.
Again, to quote from the information on the blurb consists of the author’s memoirs and the poor artistic image at the front cover, quite different to the displayed picture at the photo gallery. ‘Nigeria Ere Yon’, serves as a vital ingredient for the up and coming broadcasters.
She confirmed that the standard of English pronunciation has fallen, compared to their time. She therefore advised broadcasters to, “Attend workshops, training programmes.
Throughout my days in broadcasting, I have never tried to be the best copy of another person including those who inspired me in the industry, I have always been the best version of Julie Coker…” PP 74, 77.