Yusuf Jatau was a prominent minister of the Nigerian Baptist Convention who was instrumental in the promotion of the Baptist message in the northern part of Nigeria. He served the mission in various capacities for a period of fifty years.
Yusuf Jatau was born in 1929 at Gidan Jibir, Sabon Sarki District, in the Kachia Local Government Area of Kaduna State, Nigeria. He was born into the family of Mr. and Mrs. Yoga Jatau and was the seventh of the twelve children in the family. Yusuf’s parents were adherents of traditional religion, and were devotees of Dodo, the ancestral deity of the community.   Like any other people of his time, young Yusuf adhered to the traditional practice of Dodo worship.
Christianity, which brought western education, did not come to Jaba land in Kaduna early enough for Yusuf Jatau to have access to it. Even when it eventually came in the early 1900s, parents in the community would not release their children for schooling, because they wanted them to help on the farm.  At that time, as it is still today in certain parts of the area, the reputation and dignity of a father depended solely on the quantity of the harvest and food crops brought home from the farm at the end of the season. This need to have a bountiful harvest required a large work force on the farm, so men wanted to have many children, if only to produce laborers to assist with the work on the farm. To this end, polygamy was a predominant practice in the area. Also, the nearest school at the time was about thirty-five kilometers away, and parents could not afford to subject their children to such an arduous trek. Community clashes were also rampant in the area at that time, and parents were quite cautious when it came to releasing their children for schooling.  For these reasons, Yusuf could not acquire formal education at a young age.
His conversion in the year 1947 was a surprise to many of his people. Initially, when his father heard of it, he thought it was a joke, because it was least expected, as his father was known to be a committed traditionalist. On the second day of the crusade, the evangelist Musa Sidi (who was from the same village with Jatau), preached on “The Parable of the Prodigal Son” (Luke 15:11-24), and on the third day, he again preached on the same topic with much emphasis on repentance. During the invitation, Yusuf was among those who answered the altar call and repented of his sins. In February 1948, he was baptized by Dr. Knight of Sudan Interior Mission (SIM) Church at Jaba Kogo in Kaduna State. Some months after his baptism, the evangelist turned over the preaching responsibility in that village to him. As God used Saul of Tarsus, so did He use Yusuf to the conversion of many people before he even went to Baptist Pastors’ School, Kaduna in December 1948. There at the Pastor’s school he became a class mate of the evangelist whose message had culminated in his conversion a year before.
In the 1940s, the rule of the pastors’ school was that every trained pastor must be married and attend the school together with his wife. At the time of Jatau’s conversion, he was not married, but since he wanted to go for Bible training, he needed to get married in order to complete his application. He had little time to do this if he was to begin his studies in December of 1948. Unfortunately, he was not courting any girl at the time, so his parents had to help him search for a suitable woman. After some days of searching, the Lord directed them to a girl who was younger than he was. Subsequently, in November of 1948, Jatau was married to Princess Jummai Dubu through the traditional process. The marriage was eventually blessed with twelve children: Ado, Yinushu, Joshua, Rhoda, Sule, Tabitha, Gee, Emmanuel, Sim, Esther, Julius, and Sunn, some of whom are still in school. (2010)
During his training at the Bible College, Jatau worked with the Kankada Baptist Church in the Zangon Kataf Local Government Area of Kaduna State. In 1952, after his graduation, he was appointed to pastor the same church, and he worked there until 1955, when he was posted to Keffi Baptist Church. In 1959, he left Keffi for the pastorate of Akanga Baptist Church in the Plateau State, and was there until 1964. In 1964, he was appointed to pastor Abet Baptist Church in Kaduna State, and in 1968, he received a call to the pastorate of Kawo First Baptist Church in Kaduna, where he stayed until 2001, when he retired.
His coming to Kawo First Baptist Church was a milestone in his life as a minister. Through his integrity, hard work, and dynamic leadership style, he made significant contributions to the lives of the members and to the church as a whole. After arriving in Kawo, he embarked on evangelistic outreaches to all the villages surrounding Kaduna Township. In time, he established many preaching stations, which later became full-fledged local churches. These included the Salama Baptist Church in Tudun Nupawa (1971), which is situated in the heart of a Muslim settlement. That church has suffered much destruction from religious riots that were perpetrated by Islamic fundamentalists, and it is still struggling to survive. Others churches include: Rahama, Kawo (1972), Kokomake, (1974), Babel, Malali (1975), Fellowship, Kawo (1980), Bethel, Kawo (1984), Badiko (1989), Tsamiya (1993), and Elil Belu, Zuru (1998).
Yusuf Jatau will forever be remembered for his famous radio program, Filin Tambayoyin Addinin Krista, which means “Christian questions and answers.” This made him the most prominent Hausa radio preacher and counselor in northern Nigeria and in the West African Hausa speaking sub-region. It promoted his fame and brought many people to Christ, and also helped to mend many broken homes and hearts. However, Jatau always gave credit for his success in the radio ministry to Miss Moore, who was a pioneer Baptist media worker in Kaduna, and who first introduced Yusuf to the media ministry. Both Yusuf and his wife attributed their success in this area to Miss Moore, and Yusuf said, “All honor and glory I received from my listeners goes to Miss Moore and the Baptist Media Ministry in Nigeria, for allowing me to serve God in that dimension of ministry.”
Support in Training Pastors
Because of the love and commitment he had for God’s work, Jatau supported and encouraged the First Baptist Church in Kawo to train pastors for the ministry. As the church was close to the pastor’s school, student pastors who could not afford to pay for their food would always come to him, and he always brought their needs before the church. This was why almost every Baptist pastor in northern Nigeria called him Baba, meaning “Father.”
Due to his dynamism, uprightness, and dedication to duty, Jatau held many responsible positions in the church and in its administration. These included: chairman, sub-ministerial board, Bethel Baptist Conference (1984 - 1990), moderator, Salem Baptist Association (1991-1996), chairman, property committee, Bethel Baptist Conference (1993-1997), adviser at various levels of both conference and association (1986-1999), and second vice chairman, Kaduna State Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), (1992-1997). He also received some awards: the Final Advocate of Baptist Award, Baptist Theological Seminary, Kaduna (1998), the Ham Illustrious Son Award (1999), and numerous honorary certificates.
Jatau shared with the First Baptist Church in Kawo some of the encounters and experiences he had while he was at the two stations. The experience he had in Akanga remained fresh in his mind until his death. He was caught up in a cross-fire of political rivalry which engulfed the area in the early 1960s, and his mission was mistaken for a political campaign because his medium of communication was the Hausa language. This was never taken lightly by the people of Akanga, and at times, his life was in danger, but God saved him. Once, in the middle of the night, some young Akanga Christians had to smuggle him to a safe village nearby. This motivated him to learn the Tiv dialect, and he became fluent in it.
Also, in Mada land, Kataku, in Keffi, he once had an experience similar to Elijah’s. On that occasion, the gods of the people and the true God were put to the test. If his prayer and his God had failed to deliver a woman who had childbirth complications, he was to be killed with a machete. But just as with Elijah, the God of Jatau triumphed when He instantly answered Jatau’s prayers and granted the woman a safe delivery. These incidents resulted in the conversion of many people.
Crop and animal farming were Jatau’s hobbies. In this regard, he was a father to many and a counselor to others. He reared cattle and other animals, including fish and crocodiles.  At his death he left behind a 28-year old crocodile named Gimbiya, meaning “Princess.”
In September of 1999, he experienced a major stroke that threatened his life. In February of 2000, Kaduna experienced one of the most deadly and devastating catastrophes in the recent history of the church in Nigeria. As his son Emmanuel put it, “It is indeed sad and provoking to recall that in spite of Yusuf’s age, status and condition, he had to be carried like a baby to escape from the hands of the Sharia rioters.”  Because of ill health, Jatau retired from active service in the pastorate on January 3, 2002. He died three months later, on March 13, 2002.
Sani Yero Magaji
Jummai Yusuf (wife), interview by author, September 18, 2009.
Maidadi Ndak (friend of Yusuf), interview by author, September 19, 2009.
Adam Nkut (classmate of Yusuf), interview by author, September 19, 2009.
Thanksgiving service program, First Baptist Church, Kawo, Kaduna, March 3, 2001.
Ado Yusufu (first child), interview by author, September 20, 2009.
Emmanuel Yusuf (Yusuf’s son), interview by author, September 17, 2009.
This story, received in 2010, was written by Sani Yero Magaji, a Ph. D. candidate at Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary, Ogbomoso, under the supervision of Dr. Michael L. Ogunewu and submitted by Dr. Deji Ayegboyin, DACB liaison coordinator.