Bangoji was born in 1912 to a hunter named Bido in Bakin-Kogi, Kafanchan District in Zangon Kataf Local Government Area. Bangoji was from the Bajju ethnic group (also called the Kaje by the Hausa) in Kaduna State in Nigeria. The Bajju form one of the largest non Hausa/Fulani groups in what is known as southern Kaduna. At this time the Hausa and Fulani had intermarried to such an extent that, in some areas in northern Nigeria, it was impossible to differentiate the Hausa from the Fulani and vice versa.
Bido was a polygamist. Bangoji was his mother’s only surviving child. At his birth his father named him Bangoji, a Fulani name which was meant to cement his friendship with a particular Fulani individual. Bangoji grew up associating with this Fulani family to such an extent that most of the time he wore Fulani attire and took on some of their idiosyncrasies. Later, when one of Bangoji’s sons named Steven asked a Fulani man what his father’s name meant, he learned that Bangoji was a name was used for warriors and meant “a leaning wall” or “a wall one can lean on.”
In 1938 Bangoji was married to Dukwu according to Bajju tradition. This means that after the payment of the bride price-which was usually a hoe-Dukwu was abducted by Bangoji’s friends and carried shoulder high to Bangoji’s house without any ceremonies. They later had five children.
Bangoji first heard the gospel through Bajju evangelists from the Sudan Interior Mission (SIM) Church in the next village. By this time one of his uncles had become a Christian. Even though Bangoji attended the Christian gatherings led by these evangelists, he dared not accept the new way for fear of his father’s wrath. His father considered Christians lazy, rebellious meddlers in other peoples’ affairs. Finally Bangoji could no longer resist the urge in his heart to receive Christ as his personal Savior. One day he stepped forward in one of the gatherings and gave his life to Christ but did not tell his father.
When his father died, Bangoji felt he could now freely attend the Christian gatherings without fear. However, another one of his uncles who had adopted him and who was a traditionalist would not allow him to depart from the path his father had laid out for him. Bangoji then had no option but to run away to Kafanchan, a cosmopolitan city which had a railway station. There Bangoji stayed with a Christian friend named Soji.
Soji did not attend the SIM church. He had been a leader of the United African Church but had stopped attending because he had been suspended for misconduct. This must have been frustrating to the young Bangoji. One day as Soji and Bangoji were in the Kafanchan market, they heard someone shout at Soji’s name. When they turned around, they saw it was Soji’s old friend, Moses Ishola, a Yoruba tailor and a member of the First Baptist Church. When Ishola caught up with them, he asked Soji whether his problem with the church been resolved. When Soji answered that it hadn’t and that, as a result, he hadn’t attended church for a year, Ishola invited them both to his church. Thus Bangoji found himself in the Baptist church. As the Baptist church and the SIM church were very similar, Bangoji felt at home. He immediately started the inquirers’ class and was baptized in 1943 by the Reverend J. A. Ade Jumobi. Bangoji began to attend extra-mural classes to learn to read and write.
At this time there were many Baptist churches in the cities of northern Nigeria but they were all Yoruba speaking. As Ezekiel A. Bamigboye tells us, the churches were planted by Yoruba traders–most of them Ogbomosho Yoruba. Yoruba churches were not attractive to native northerners because their services were in Yoruba, sometimes with translations into Hausa. But since the Yoruba did not speak good Hausa, it was difficult for Hausa speakers to follow. It became obvious that in order for the Baptist church to expand beyond Yoruba communities, non-Yoruba people had to be brought into the church and be encouraged to evangelize their people. This is why Bangoji’s decision to become an evangelist after his baptism was significant.
Bangoji was sent to his village of Bakin Kogi as an evangelist. As he was a gifted speaker he soon began to make an impression and a church was started. Bangoji’s early converts were his wife and children. Soon Hausa speaking Baptist churches started springing up in northern Nigeria. In the Kafanchan area, Hausa Baptist churches grew up in Garaji, Zonkwa, Zangon Kataf, Ashafa, and Jaban Kogo. Dr. Charles Knight of the American Baptist Mission heard of Bangoji’s work in Bakin Kogi. He sent for Bangoji and began to have a Bible class in his house in Kawo, on the outskirts of Kaduna, for Bangoji and two Hausa speaking evangelists. After three years of Bible training, the Baptist Church in Kawo asked Bangoji to be their lay preacher. Bangoji also preached among the Gbagyi (or the Gwari as the Hausa call them). The Gbagyi were difficult people to change and after five years of preaching, he was only able to lead Dogo Sabo Gari to Christ.
In 1951 Dr. F. E Runyan, another Baptist missionary, started a Bible school called the Baptist Pastors’ College, in the mission compound in Kawo to train local Hausa speaking pastors. Bangoji was one of the nineteen evangelists who enrolled in this school in 1951. After Bangoji graduated in 1954, Miss Monnies Moore, a missionary, asked Bangoji if he would serve as a chaplain for the Hausa speaking soldiers in Ibadan. He agreed. So Bagoji, Dukwu, their son Steven, and their daughter Jummai began a Baptist church in the parlor of their house in Ibadan.
When Bangoji and his family returned from Ibadan in 1956 , he was appointed traveling evangelist for the Kaduna Baptist Association, a position that gave him the opportunity to plant Hausa speaking churches in and around Kaduna between 1956 and 1958. This was no small job and Bangoji toured more than thirty preaching stations scattered throughout the Kaduna area.
Not satisfied with his level of education, Bangoji entered Baptist primary school in Kaduna. He studied there for five years and received the First School Leaving Certificate. In 1963, the Hausa Baptist Church, Kawo, invited Bangoji to be their pastor. On November 19, 1967, Bangoji was ordained and thus became the first Hausa speaking Baptist pastor. In 1960, he was elected president of the Northern Nigeria Baptist Conference. It must have been a thrill for Bangoji when, as one of the Baptist leaders, he had the rare privilege of receiving Billy Graham on his visit to northern Nigeria in 1960.
Bangoji had a large family. Dukwu died in 1992 and Bangoji remarried a widow, Temile, in the Baptist Church of Bakin Kogi a year later. In addition to his own children, he had adopted others. One of his adopted children was Dauda who became a pastor in the Baptist church. The Reverend Dauda Bangoji is the pastor of Baptist church, Gwagwalada near Abuja, the capital of Nigeria. When Bangoji was getting old and weak, his church Baptist church, Bakin Kogi, recalled him. He was a pastor of this church when he died in his sleep on Tuesday, October 28, 1997.
Musa A. B. Gaiya
- The Bangojis spent eighteen months in Ibadan.
Ezekiel A. Bamighboye, The History of Baptist Work in Northern Nigeria 1901- 1975 (Ibadan: Power House Publishers, 2000).
James Akintayo, “Rev. Nagoji Bido (d.1997): His Life, Ministry and Contribution to Baptist Work in Northern Nigeria,” M.A. thesis (University of Jos, 2001).
“Bangoji’s General Service,” Funeral Service Program, 1997.
Interviews with Mr. Steven S. Bangoji, 55, in Kaduna, November 11, 2001; Temile Bangoji, c.60, Bakin Kogi, January 2002.
This article, received in 2006, was researched and written by Dr. Musa A. B. Gaiya, Senior Lecturer in Church History at the University of Jos Department of Religious Studies, Jos, Nigeria, and Project Luke fellow in Fall 2003 and Fall 2006.