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Friday, March 1, 2024

Tribute to the late Rev. Bankole William Coker.

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By:-DR. Henry D. R. Carrol (M.R.G.)
Solicitor General Emeritus Of The Gambia
& Senior Oxford-Trained Lawyer.

Let me start my tribute, by playing on my mouth organ or harmonica, the beautiful tune of the famous hymn, “Now praise we great and famous men.”
“Now praise we great and famous men,
The fathers named in story,
And praise the Lord who now as then,
Reveals in man his glory.” William George Tarrant (1853-1928).
William Shakespeare also expresses similar sentiments, when he wrote :- “ Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.” The late Rev. Bankole William Coker, was indeed a great gentleman in his own right, because he “fought tooth and nail” (relentlessly), to achieve greatness, and with God’s help he was successful. The victorious Julius Caesar, after winning The Gallic Wars, rightly proclaimed:- “ Vene Vidi Vici ( Latin- I came, I saw and I conquered.

“The curfew tolls the knell of parting day,
The lowing herd winds slowly over the lay,
The Ploughman homeward plods his weary way,
And leaves the world to darkness and to me.”
These powerful and inspirational words, are the figment of the fertile imagination, of the erudite British celebrated Poet, Thomas Gray, from his masterpiece poem entitled “An Elegy Written In A Country Churchyard.” On Tuesday 10th July 2018, the late Ploughman Rev. Bankole William Coker, exited this transitory World for eternity, leaving his indelible footprints, “on the sands of time”, to burrow the poetic terminology of the brilliant American Poet, Henry Longfellow, from his masterpiece poem-” The Psalm Of Life.”

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Rev. Coker’s eldest son, Mr William Coker, is the able Secretary General of The West Africa Insurance Companies Association, he is now working in Ghana, and he is a good friend of mine. Insurance Contracts, are Contracts Uberrimae Fidei (Latin-utmost good faith). Rev. Coker died at the ripe old age of 87 Years. This was 17 Years above the Biblical normal life span of the average human being, “three score years and ten”(Psalm 90, Verse 10). At the time of his death, he was among the oldest Ordained Ministers in The Gambia Methodist Church. I am not sure whether, he was older than Rev. Mary Mwagdudo. To confirm this, i have to see, Exhibit A and Exhibit B (their birth certificates). Indeed he was one of
“The Methuselahs Of Our Beloved Church.”

For a good part of his Ministerial or Pastoral work, The Gambia Methodist Church, was Officially affiliated to The British Methodist Church, until on 24th May 2009, when the Spiritual umbilical cord linking the two aforesaid Churches for Centuries, was finally cut, and The Gambia Methodist Church., became an autonomous Church. It was the case with Simeon (an old pious man in The Holy Bible, whom God told, he would not die, except he first saw baby Jesus). This is called Nunc dimittis ( Latin:-now dismiss your servant Lord). Similarly, the late old, Rev. Bankole Coker, was like the Simeon of our beloved Church, and it was as if, God had told him, that he would not die, until he witnessed The Gambia Methodist Church., become an autonomous Church., autonomous of The British Methodist Church. Mathematically speaking, our beloved Church, is now 9 years old, as an autonomous Church.

My association with the late Rev. Bankole Coker, started in earnest, after I passed the Common Entrance Examination with flying colours, and I proceeded to the then St. Augustine’s High School at Box Bar Road in Banjul, for my High School Career. During that time, Mr Coker as he then was, was working at The Printing Office in Banjul, closed to The State House. My classmates and i, used to go to him to beg for different colours of paper. He once jokingly told me:- “Mr Henry Carrol, you are always coming here with your friends, to beg for papers, you like writing a lot, may be when you grow up, you will be a Lawyer or a prolific Writer…” Little did I know, that he was jokingly making a prophecy about me, and I am very happy, that his prophecy came to pass, during his lifetime. He was also alive and well, when I became a Doctor Of Laws and a Barrister-At-Law and a Solicitor of The Gambia Supreme Court respectively.

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Mr. Coker later became the able Choire Master of the famous Bethel Church Choire, at Stanley Street, in Banjul, The Capital of The Gambia. This Choire in my spiritual opinion, is among the best Choires in The Gambia Methodist Church. Or I dare say, it is indeed among the best Choires in The Gambia. Vel Primus, Vel Cum Primus (Latin:-either the first or among the first). I was greatly influenced by the singing prowess or talent of Choire Master Coker. He was the one, who first gave me the melodious music, of the great religious song entitled:- “The Holy City”, which I sang as a solo for many years, during Watch Night Services, at the then Wesley Church (now The Wesley Cathedral), accompanied by the Pipe Organ, beautifully played by Mr Arthur Roberts, The Chief Organist, of the aforesaid Cathedral. William Shakespeare, the erudite “Bard Of Avon”, once wrote, in Act1 Scene1 of his masterpiece Play or Comedy entitled:- “Twelfth Night”, these inspirational words:- “If music be the food of love, play on, give me excess of it…”

Mr. Coker later left for Ghana, for his Theological Training, and after successfully completing it, he became an Ordained Rev. Minister of The Gambia Methodist Church. As a Canadian-Trained Theologian, I always enjoy his lively, hilarious and inspirational sermons. Rev. Coker, also did part of his Theological Training in The U.K. I can fully remember, when I was an Undergraduate L.L.B. Student, at Buckland University College in Oxford, every week-end, I traveled by train from Oxford to London, and on many Sundays, Rev. Bankole Coker, Mr Stapleton (a Gambian U.K. College Lecturer) and my humble self, used to meet at the London House of Mr and Mrs Modou Moore, for many happy and memorable hours. Mrs Modou Moore, is a sister of the late Honourable Justice Obrien Coker, who was one of my professional mentors.

The late Rev. Bankole Coker, was the happy grandfather of a pair of twins, one of which is our beloved Rev. Louis Rodney Prom, and the other, is his twin brother, Mr Lawrence Prom, and working in The U.K. When co-joined twins are born, they are called Siamese twins. The most famous pair of co-joined twins or Siamese twins were, Chang and Eng Bunker, two Thai brothers who were born in Siam, now Thailand. They were called the Siamese twins. The word “ Siamese” therefore originated from “ Siam”
(now Thailand). In both The Holy Bible and The Holy Quran, we are clearly told, that Esau and his brother Jacob, were born as twins. The elder was Esau, because he was born first, and the younger was Jacob, because he was born later. In Law, as far as twins are concerned, the first to be born, is clearly the elder of the two babies, because of the famous Latin maxim:- Qui Priore Est Tempore Portio Est Jure ( Latin- he who is first in time, has priority in law). But in our African Tradition, the baby who is born second, is the elder of the two, because he/she told the baby who is first born:- “I am your elder, I am sending you, to go and look what the World looks like, I will come after you.”

This African Traditional belief, indeed has a scriptural basis, because for example, John The Baptist came to this World, before our Lord And Saviour Jesus Christ, but the latter, was far greater than the former, that is why John The Baptist humbly said, he was merely the fore-runner of Jesus Christ, and he was not worthy, even to untie the lace of his sandals. The Holy Bible also says- “ The first shall be the last, and the last shall be the first.” Perhaps Rev. Louis Rodney Prom, should graciously and honestly tell us, he and his twin brother, Mr Lawrence Prom, who was born first? We also thank God Almighty, that they were not born as medically complicated Siamese twins. The motto of our beloved Church is “ In everything give thanks.”

The wife of the late Rev. Bankole Coker, Mrs. Elizabeth Irene worked at The Methodist Bookshop, at Cameron Street, in Banjul. She worked with Mr. Esau Davies and Mr. Jacob Davies (twins). She also worked with the then Mr. James Yaw Odico, now His Lordship The Bishop Of The Anglican Church and The Bishop Of The Gambia. Bishop Odico’s late colleague, Rev. Jacob Williams (who was also a twin) and his late twin brother was, Mr. Esau Williams. Indeed, Theology is about twins, twins, twins.

The late Rev. Bankole Coker, used to regularly visit his daughter, Mrs Vera Coker-Prom, the Mother of his twins grandsons, at the then Royal Victoria Hospital (R.V.H.), now re-named Edward Francis Small Teaching Hospital, to pray for his twins grandsons. Usually when he came to the R.V.H., he would find me sitting by the bed next to Mrs Vera Coker-Prom’s bed, where my late Maternal Aunty, Mrs Mary Joiner (nee Smart) alias “ Aunty Maga” was lying, nursing her sick daughter, Ms Cashopeh Joiner (my cousin), who unfortunately died before her mother. Indeed “ her sun went down, while it was yet day,” as Theologians and Poets would say. Rev. Bankole Coker, also prayed many times for Ms. Cashopeh, before she died. The late Ms. Cashopeh Joiner, was named after Mrs. Cashopeh Gomez (my cousin), who is the wife of Honourable Mr. James Furmos P. Gomez, the Minister Of Fisheries, Water Resources & National Assembly Matters and a Lord Mayor Emeritus Of The City Of Banjul ( The Capital Of The Gambia).

When the late Rev. Bankole Coker, was the Priest-In-Charge of The Marakissa Methodist Church, every Wednesday he would visit The Brikama Junior Secondary School, affectionately called “ Alpha Khan School” ( since he was then the able Principal of that School). Rev. Coker would regularly visit the aforesaid Citadel Of Learning, to give moral lesson classes ( free of charge), to Methodist Students of the aforesaid School. Roman Catholic Students, were also given such classes, by Ordained Sisters (probably from The Sisters Of The Order Of Cluny), and whenever the said Sisters were unable to come to the said School for the said Classes, Rev. Bankole Coker, would conduct a joint Class for both Methodist and Roman Catholic Students. The Muslim Students of the aforesaid School, were also given similar Classes, by the Oustass of the said School. Indeed Alhaji Alpha A. Khan (J.P.), a good friend of mine, fully respected both the “ right to religion” and the “ right to education” of the aforesaid students, since The Gambia is Constitutionally, “A Secular State.”
The late Rev. Coker, was indeed a gentleman with multifarious talents, which he wisely used Pro Bono Publico ( Latin :- for the good of the public). We will all really miss him, and our heartfelt condolences, go to the bereaved family.
May the dear soul of our late and beloved Rev. Bankole William Coker, rest in perfect peace–Amen.

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