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Njobdi, Ishaku
c. 1934 to 2008
Lutheran Church of Christ in Nigeria (LCCN)
Nigeria

Ishaku Njobdi was an ordained minister with the Lutheran Church of Christ in Nigeria, Adamawa State. He was the first indigenous pastor of the church in the former Lekokoma District of the Jada Local Government Area of Adamawa State. He was born in Leko District in Jada. No one is certain of his date of birth, but it is presumed that he was born in June of 1934. A few years later his parents migrated from Kodpeo to Sangara. Ishaku was the third of the Njobdi family, and was born at a time when his father was sick and was receiving traditional treatment from an herbalist. When he heard that he had a male child, he gave him the name Naval meaning "I march on death." [1] Njobdi (Ishaku's father) was a traditionalist who worshipped the gods of his forefathers through the use of fetishes and the veneration of idols. He was the chief priest of the traditional religion in Kodpeo village and was consulted for advice on many life issues, while his wife led the women in traditional worship called Vomkeyema.

Ishaku's father was a great farmer, and had farmland at Jusa, at a place called Sangara. He was engaged in large scale farming, and sold his crops to the villagers at affordable prices whenever foodstuffs became scarce. Naturally, he trained his children to work hard and to be good farmers too. Later on he moved to Sangara and settled there, becoming very influential in that hamlet, and contributing to the socio-economic development of the area. Apart from farming, Njobdi was engaged in fishing, hunting, and the local craft of weaving. Since his parents were avowed traditionalists, Ishaku had a traditional religious background, which included observation of all the traditional rites. He enjoyed the care of his parents, who died at a good old age.

Njobdi was a brilliant, fearless, wise, and well-articulated young man who was gifted in the traditional art of speaking in his community. He knew how to persuade and to convince. He was a very persevering young man, hard working, and friendly. Even though most of the young men in his age group were drunkards, he maintained a disciplined life, and refused to be carried away. He aspired to be a great farmer like his father. In his village, he was a model for the younger generation. William Illiya quoted Baba Ibrahim as saying, "Ishaku was humble, tactful, polite and hard working. He engaged in hunting and farming and was loved by both the old and the young." His father loved him very much and hoped that the young man would succeed him as priest after his death. He was greatly disappointed when Ishaku decided to become a Christian, thereby challenging his authority not only as a father, but as chief priest of the village.

Ishaku Njobdi converted to Christianity in 1954. One Wednesday, the bell that signaled the start of Christian programs offered by a Sudan Interior Mission (SIM) missionary was rung. Out of curiosity, Ishaku went to the church to see for himself what was going on. He saw many children having fellowship, and also heard the message of God preached. He decided to give his life to Jesus Christ, and many of his friends followed suit.

When the population in Sangara increased, the locals requested that the mission send someone to teach them how to read and write, and to teach them the Word of God. The missionary agreed, and sent someone. This development later led to having a permanent evangelist at Sangara to take care of these young believers. The first mission worker to come was Mallam Jothan, who was followed by Jetur, and Wuro Usmanu. The young believers found a piece of land and built three rooms there: a bedroom, a kitchen, and a room for church services. The evangelist was also given farmland.

Persecution came from the least expected quarter, in the form of the Roman Catholic Church. The Catholics had been there before the Sudan United Mission (SUM), in a village called Citta, and they did not allow them to continue. They sent them away and forced the youths at Sangara to go to the Catholic Church, but they did not like it, and preferred the SUM mission. At one point, they had no teachers, and requested some from the local government authorities. However, in a bid to force them into the Catholic Church, the Catholics denied the request, and asked them to go to the Catholic Church at Citta instead. The youths still refused, insisting that they preferred the SUM to the Roman Catholic Mission. This stout resistance from the youths caused the village head to seek assistance from two other villages, Kubbi (Mallam Hayatu) and Karlahi (Mallam Wombai). The parents and elders in Sangara were also consulted for a solution, but they chose to evade the problem, stating that the matter did not concern them. Finally, the youths were summoned to appear before the three village heads, but they all ran away, leaving only Njobdi and his friend, Liyo.

On their way to attend to the summons, Liyo also ran away, and Ishaku was left to face the three chiefs alone. He fearlessly defended his faith and position before these three chiefs and they had to leave him in peace. Since the Catholics refused to allow SUM to work in Sangara, and since Ishaku chose to continue with the SUM Mission, he traveled all the way to Abejo for baptismal class, worship, and other fellowship, until a closer mission station was opened at Tappare, in 1959. Yohanna Dogo was the first person to serve at that mission station, and Ishaku left Abejo to join him there. He was later baptized in Tappare by Rev. Bulus Buba on April 9, 1961. Although all the other youths eventually succumbed to the pressure and joined the Roman Catholic Church Mission, Ishaku Njobdi stood his ground.

In 1961, Ishaku married a woman named Rifkatu in a traditional wedding which was later solemnized in the church. God blessed their union with nine children, and the five surviving children are: Mr. Parisa Nyamimuya ("God Loves Me"), Caleb Mumonyanya ("I Thank God"), Othniel Mbasonkansenu ("To Tell the Truth is the Best"), Nyampimya ("God has Given me," or "God's Gift"), and Nyamsumuya ("God has Rescued Me"). [3] His family life was a model in the community, and his children were well disciplined, and also loved the Lord. Most of them were committed to church activities and gave their father their full support in his ministry. Parisa was a lead vocalist in youth fellowship, and was the first to produce gospel music in the Jetur Division. Njobdi did not depend on the church salary but worked hard on his farm to ensure that he could pay his children's school fees. He was a large scale producer of rice from the late 1980s through the early 1990s, and he encouraged people around him to work hard. He trained all of his children to a tertiary level of education, and also helped many of the needy people around him. He was a man who loved his family and his relatives, so he not only trained his own children, but also those of many other dependants, including Rev. Isaiah Lenun. He created time for his family and ensured that they all prayed together. He made sure his family understood his ministry and they appreciated it, supporting him fully.

It was after his conversion to Christianity that Njobdi learned to read and write. All his earlier training was in the form of informal learning from the traditional method of education of his people, particularly the art of speech, which he was good at. It also included the cultural values of his people: their myths of the creation of the world and of man, and the stories of the heroes and wars of his people. After the Catholics prevented the SUM from operating in Sangara, Ishaku started to attend the group adult literacy classes that were organized by the SUM missionary at Abejo. As the mission prepared new converts for baptism classes, they also taught them how to read and write in Hausa. A worker named Mallam Jothan was sent to Abejo from 1954 to 1959, and through him, Ishaku received thorough coaching on how to read and write. Later, he went into full time ministry, attending Palle Bible School for one year of training, and in 1970, Dashe Bible School for another year, continuing his training at Lamurde Bible School in 1971, all in Adamawa State. However, before his graduation, the church asked him to go for one more year of training for ordination. Njobdi did not want to go, and thought of relinquishing his offer to another person, but his friend Joel Woblai cautioned him against that. So, he continued with the license training for one more year, and graduated in 1974.

Njobdi started as an evangelist in a village called Iyakunab, and planted a church in that village. When he graduated from his license training in 1974, he was posted to Kojoli in Leko-Koma District, as an accountant under Rev. Bulus Buba. He was ordained as a pastor on February 23, 1975, with eighteen others, by a Lutheran pastor, the Rt. Rev. Akila Todi. There was great rejoicing, because the missionaries had started reaping the fruits of their labor, and indigenous people were becoming pastors. There was much joy and celebration because the Leko-Koma District had eventually responded to the gospel, after twenty years of serious missionary labor in that area. He was the first man from that district to go into full-time ministry, but he was not immediately accepted by his people when he was posted there by the mission. However, on April 27, 1975, he was reposted to that district as pastor in charge of the whole area, in order to relieve the Rev. Bulus Buba.

When he took up office, he wanted to create awareness in the people, so he started teaching. He was dedicated and devoted to this task, and the gospel gained ground in that district, which had once been quite backward. There was growth in the district, and it became renowned in all the LCCN district churches. He took his ministry very seriously, especially evangelism. He went with his council members to witness in the township and the surrounding villages. He worked in Tampare and Iyakunab as an evangelist from 1961 to 1968, and from 1974 to 1975 he was the accountant at Leko-Koma. From 1975 to 1988, he was posted to Leko-Koma as the first indigenous pastor from that district and was a pastor in Tola District from 1988 to 1991, and also in Binyeni in 2004. He rose to become the first dean of the Jetur Division in 1975 and from 1995 to 2000, he was the first vice bishop of Kudu Diocese (Bototem).

Ishaku Njbodi's immense contribution to church growth will be fondly remembered. He took a strong stand against syncretism and preached boldly against idol worship and sacrifices made to idols, particularly sacrifices made to ancestral spirits, calling on his people to trust in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. He taught his members well and encouraged them to be faithful to God, reminding them that they would give an account of themselves to Him in the end. Before he was transferred to any other place, he always made sure he had trained leaders who would watch over the church that he was leaving behind. He planted new congregational churches in the Leko-Koma District from 1975 to 1988. There were a total of eighty-five congregational local assemblies, with thirty-five being in his home base of Leko-Koma and these were all planted by him, including Gawalgu, Gemu Chancha, Gbansa Dunu, and Leko. Apart from that, he singled out gifted people for full-time ministry and sent them for training, thereby raising up many indigenous pastors at his own expense.

He served the LCCN for forty years and retired at the age of seventy in 2004, settling at Wuro-Usmanu. On May 7, 2006, his formal retirement service was carried out according to LCCN practice. Njobdi was attacked by armed robbers in 2008, and died that same year.

Yosi A. D. Maton


Notes:

1. William Iliya, "The Biography of Rev. Ishaku Njobdi: The First Lutheran Church of Christ in Nigeria Pastor in Former Leko-Koma District - His Contribution in the Ministry" (B.D. Thesis, Bukuru TCNN, 2007), 26.
2. Ibid, 28.
3. Ibid, 31.

Sources:

Crampton, E. P. T. Christianity in Northern Nigeria. London: Geoffrey Chapman, 2004.
Engskov, Ernst. Adamawa Province Reflections on Gongola State: Translated by Ninna Engskov. London: Roof Publishers, 1983.
Ishaya, Edward R. "Handbook on LCCCN: Brief and Activities of the Church. Prepared by Planning Committee of LCCN Development Appeal Fund." Unpublished Material.
Mikailu, Emmanuel. Interview by author, November 3, 2009, Bukuru.


This story, submitted in 2010, was written by Mrs. Yosi A. D. Maton, a Ph.D. candidate at Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary, Ogbomoso under the supervision of Dr. M. L. Ogunewu and submitted by Dr. Deji Ayegboyin, DACB liaison coordinator.