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‘Coker will be missed by old Grammarians’

On behalf of the Trustees, Patrons and former Presidents of the Old Grammarians’ Society,.

It is my great pleasure to write the following tribute to Chief Nathaniel Folarin Coker, OON, who transited to eternal glory and remembrance in Lagos on 12th August, 2020, at 97 after a brief illness.

Chief Folarin Coker was one of the most revered, loved and distinguished old boys of the CMS Grammar School, Lagos. He entered the school in 1935 and left in 1941 at only 17, as the senior prefect of the school. His academic record at the school was very impressive. Among his contemporaries at the school were Chief Akintola Willians(now101 years old), Chief Rotimi Williams and Engr Tunji Haffner, both of whom have passed on.

After leaving the school he worked as a clerk in the old colonial civil service. In 1948 he won a colonial government scholarship and proceeded to Exeter University in England from where he obtained a diploma in public administration(DPA) in 1950, after which he returned to the colonial civil service in Lagos and was appointed an Information Officer. He later studied at the Inns of Court in London and became a barrister at law. But it was in information that he acquired an enviable reputation as a thorough professional in the old Western Region . He was one of Chief Awolowo’s favourite civil servants and rose rapidly to become the Chief Information Officer in the old Western Region.

When the new Lagos state was created in 1967 he returned to Lagos as one of the pioneer permanent secretaries, serving in various ministries. As Governor Sanwo-Olu has said of him in his tribute Chief Folarin Folarin Coker was ‘the true spirit of Lagos’. A tall, strikingly good looking and imposing figure he made his mark quite easily in Lagos. A kind, friendly and generous person, and a top rank socialite he was conferred with the title of Baba Eto by the Oba of Lagos for his contribution to the rich cultural and social life of Lagos. He was at various times the President of the Yoruba Tennis Club and the Island Club. He was an impressive and much loved raconteur whose deep and profound knowledge of  the history of Lagos could be spellbinding.

Chief  Folarin Coker was a man of many parts . He was a proud old grammarian and gave generously to the school. He donated a huge automated and electronic bell to the school chapel after its completion. He also donated an Olympic sized swimming pool to the school now being used by all Anglican schools in Lagos. He hardly ever missed attending the school’s Founders’ Day service. Last year, at 96, he was at the service at the Cathedral Church of Chtist, Marina, Lagos. When I was the President of the Old Grammarians’ Society he gave me and the school his instincts support at all times.

But, one of his greatest contribution to the Anglican Communion in Lagos is the series of books he wrote on the bishops of the Diocese in Lagos. He was the Diocesan historian and his books on the bishops and the growth of the Anglican Communion in Lagos and all over the country are all authoritative and profound. I have read all of them and wrote the Foreword to the last published two years ago when he was already 95.

While at the CMS Grammar School, he was privileged to have lived with both the younger bishops Phillips and Howells. He was a choir boy.  All this gave him an insight into what the Anglican Communion is all about. His knowledge of the history of the Lagos Anglican Diocese was unsurpassed and rich.

He was a man of great spiritual faith who hardly ever failed to attend Mattins at the Cathedral Church, where he would sit at the back of the church accompanied by his aides. He remained an iconic figure in the Cathedral until the end .Though he had turned blind he remained calm, friendly,  warm and generous until the end.

We pray for the repose of his soul and for God’s blessings on the family he has left behind. We join them in mourning his transition.

  • Amb Fafowora, FNAL . A Patron and former President of the Old Grammarians’ Society. Lagos

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