The death of Prof. Akintoye Coker of the Department of Medical Microbiology who died on 24th September at 74 has created a vacuum that will be difficult to fill in a long time Provost, College of Medicine, University of Lagos (UNILAG), Prof. Afolabi Lesi has said.
He spoke on Tuesday on the sidelines of the Day of Tributes and funeral ceremony organised by the Department of Medical Microbiology and the mentees of the late scholar in Lagos.
Lesi said Nigeria, and indeed the world had lost one of the finest researchers in recent times and a scholar of repute.
Coker was born on Nov. 28, 1945, in the Ijero area of Ebute Metta, Lagos.
He attended Methodist School, Ago Ijaiye, Ondo street West, in 1950 before proceeding to Igbobi College in 1959 for his secondary education.
Coker gained admission to study Medicine at the College of Medicine, University of Lagos in 1966.
After his sojourn overseas to further his education, Coker joined the Department of Medical Microbiology and Parasitology, UNILAG, on Feb. 10, 1981.
He became a professor in the Department of Medical Microbiology and Parasitology of the college and the Lagos University Teaching Hospital in 1992.
Coker’s pioneering PhD work on ‘Studies on Local Strains of Campylobacter jejuni’ in Lagos became a guiding force in the study of Campylobacteriosis in Nigeria.
He was also an internationally renowned scientist in this area.
Lesi said that Coker’s death had left a huge gap that would take some time to fill in his area of specialty.
“Prof. Coker was an icon in his field of research that is just about Campylobacter jejuni, which is an organism that is related to things that cause infections in the gastrointestinal tract.
“He was a fantastic teacher, highly spiritual, someone, who loved teaching and loved his students.
“This is the kind of quality needed in our university system across the country.
“He had a fatherly relationship with his students and was interested in their progress.
“Today’s ceremony is something we do for our distinguished professors and people who have passed through here and have served the college with distinction.
“It is a way of just honouring them and also expressing to the family how much we appreciate them and what they did in their time. “We will definitely miss him and we ask God to rest his soul in peace,” Lesi said.
Prof. Wellington Oyibo, one of the mentees of the late Coker, described him as a visionary person and an academic icon.
Oyibo, a professor of Medical Parasitology, College of Medicine, UNILAG, eulogised the late Coker for his values and contributions to the education sector.
He said such were needed for the much-needed growth and development in the country.
“Late Prof. Coker was my mentor. He was a visionary person, an erudite academic, a scholar of repute and we have summarised him as an academic icon.
“A person who took time l to build capacity in the health professions in his work in the college of medicine for over 39 years is worth celebrating.
“So, this day of tributes put together by his mentees and the Department of Medical Microbiology is to say, Prof, you came and you did what God asked you to do and it indeed impacted our lives, and that we are grateful,” he said.
He said that the mentees held in high esteem, all the values the late professor instilled in them in his lifetime.
“What we are trying to do as well, is to use him to mirror those who are on ground now, that if you do well, you will be celebrated. I pray God will grant him eternal rest.”
“We have just lost one of the finest researchers and a great scholar and academic, not only in Nigeria but the world in general,” he said.
On her part, Mrs. Adetoun Ogundu, one of the daughters of the deceased, described him as an amazing father who has left a great name and legacy behind.
Ogundu, a Project manager with a software development team, said that her father would be missed sorely.
Sunday Omilabu, a Professor of Medical Virology in the Department of Medical Microbiology and Parasitology of the college, said Coker offered him employment into the university.
“Late Prof. Coker was the one that employed me as a lecturer in 1991 and so whatever I am today, I pay that tribute to him.
“If he did not employ me, I would not have been a member of the faculty today. And so I return all the glory to God.
“He was a father to all of us. I joined at a very tender age and I was yet to complete my PhD.
“He took it upon himself to start guiding me on how I would complete this programme on time.
“It is that PhD that has made me a part of that faculty and I owe that to him,” he said.
Earlier, there was a short memorial lecture in honour of the deceased, titled: Bacterial Weapons of Warfare; The Campylobacter Jejuni and Helicobacter Pylori Models delivered by former Vice-Chancellor, University of Calabar, Prof. James Epoke also one of the mentees of the late Prof. Coker.