‘A founding father of Lagos gone’

The news of the transition of Chief Nathaniel Folarin Coker filled me with utter sadness. The Baba Eto of Lagos and Bobagunwa of Igede-Ekiti attained a grand old age of 97 and lived a fulfilled life of impact. His departure is painful because of the relationship I had with him as my uncle and mentor and memories of the time we shared together.

He contributed in no small measure in helping to shape my course in life as a young man, and career as a technocrat and public servant. I believe he made similar impact on many of my contemporaries, not just in Lagos, but also across the length and breadth of Nigeria.

Papa (as he was fondly called) was the quintessential Lagosian, full of fervour, panache, intellect and industry. He was a renowned socialite and philanthropist. Baba Eto was a passionate volunteer and social worker using the Boys Scout and the Church as veritable platforms of service. Though an Anglican by denomination, his love for God and God’s work extended beyond denominational boundaries.

He was a founding father of Lagos State and one of the legendary technocrats that bestrode its public service. He left indelible footprints in practically every aspect of our public service, from agriculture and natural resources, trade and commerce, to education, community and social development.

He contributed in laying the foundation for the state, which I had the rare privilege to strengthen and build upon decades later as Governor. A good friend of the late Oba of Lagos Adeyinka Oyekan II, Chief Coker brought grace and candour to everything. It was not surprising that he became the Baba Eto of Lagos, an appellation that came to define him throughout his life.

He believed in the values of hard work, diligence, perseverance, integrity and service. And he upheld those virtues with uncanny resolve everywhere he found himself. He also believed in and lived the good life without crossing the line.

To the glory of God, he was blessed with lovely children who are left behind to continue his good works. One of them is the debonnaire and hardworking Director-General of Nigerian Tourism Development Commission, Folorunsho Coker, who himself, has served Lagos State meritoriously in several capacities.

My condolences to Folorunsho Folarin-Coker, a chip off the old block, and a loyal, dependable and competent ally who has continued in the tradition of public service that Chief Folarin Coker bequeathed.  To the entire Coker family, be consoled that your patriarch and father lived a long and positively eventful life. I encourage you to continue to maintain and uphold his legacies.

My condolences to Governor Babajide Sanwo-olu and to the Oba of Lagos, Oba Rilwanu Osuolale Akiolu.

Baba Eto will certainly be missed by all of us, not just by the family, the traditional institution, but also by the Palace, Lagos State, and the nation as a whole.

We wish our beloved Baba Eto eternal rest in the bosom of the Lord.

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