Lot, David Obadiah Vrengkat
David Obadiah Vrengkat Lot was a pastor of the Church of Christ in Nigeria established by the Sudan United Mission (British Branch) [SUM] and a politician. He was the first pastor of the Panyam district church and a founding father of Middle Belt politics.
Vrengkat Lot, the son of Daniel Lot, the Maghavul evangelist, was born in 1907. As Vrengkat was the first male child, he was named Vrengkat which means “a precious gift.” He was born the same year the first missionaries of the Cambridge University Missionary Party arrived in Panyam (his village). His father, Daniel Lot, had become a Christian early on and had created a Christian environment for his children. Added to the experience of a Christian family environment, Daniel Lot, who had become an evangelist in 1916, also exposed Vrengkat Lot to Christian ministry at an early age by taking him along when he itinerated. Vrengkat Lot enrolled in the same evangelists’ school in Panyam as his father and was in the same class. Of course, Vrengkat did better in class than his father,–in fact, he was at the top of the class.
But Vrengkat was too young to be an evangelist–a very adventurous job at that time. Rev. E. Hayward and his wife placed him in the elementary school they had started and also engaged him as their house boy. Vrengkat went school in the morning and later in the afternoon he would work with the Haywards. He learned many skills from the missionaries such as masonry, carpentry and sewing. He was also growing in Christian faith. One day, a cookie was missing in the kitchen and Daniel Lot heard about it. He came to the mission house and gave Vrengkat a thorough beating. When Mr. Hayward intervened, Daniel Lot retorted, “But I will not have my son grow up to be a thief!”
The Haywards left Panyam in 1919 for medical reasons. They were replaced by Miss E. M. Webster who took interest in the young boy and “adopted” him as a son. In 1923, when his mentor lay critically ill, young Vrengkat saved her life by trekking about 50 kilometres to Foron (northwest of Panyam) to seek medical advice from Dr. Percy Barnden. Dr. Barnden was the first resident doctor of the SUM hospital in Vom.
Miss Webster noticed Vrengkat’s academic potential and, in 1926, decided to send him to St. Bartholomew’s, the CMS boarding school in Zaria. Vrengkat Lot quickly adjusted to the new environment where most of the students were his age. He did very well in his classwork and also in hockey and football. He was a member of the hockey team that represented St. Bartholomew’s in Ghana in 1927. He probably acknowledged his Christian faith at St. Bartholomew’s. As he later told Pauline Lere, St. Bartholomew’s was “like heaven” and his experience there left a lasting impression on him.
After graduating from St. Bartholomew’s in 1928, Vrengkat Lot returned to Panyam. In 1932, he took a short teacher training course at Kabwir, a missionary centre among the Ngas. The missionaries, under the leadership of Webster, appointed him head teacher of the mission primary school in Panyam as a successor to Edward Othman Audu, a Hausa from Zaria. Vrengkat Lot later became the supervisor of all SUM primary schools in the Panyam area. He enrolled in the baptismal class and was baptized on January 22, 1929 and christened David. He was confirmed almost immediately and given the name Obadiah.
Vrengkat married Nakwar on March 5, 1929. She was baptized on May 19, 1929 and christened Christiana. The Lord blessed the marriage with many children, some of whom rose to important positions in public service.
Meanwhile, the Cambridge University Missionary Party (CUMP) had handed over its areas of operation on the Plateau and in Bauchi to the Sudan United Mission (British Branch). All the CUMP missionaries left for home except Miss Webster whose love for the Maghavul would not allow her to leave. She helped to make a smooth transition from an Anglican to a more Baptist church polity. About 1937, the need arose to have an ordained minister who would take charge of the teeming Panyam district church. As a result, Vrengkat was nominated to attend the pastors’ training school in Gindiri. After graduating, he was ordained the first pastor of the Church of Christ in Nigeria (Panyam district) on December 18, 1938. Among those who laid their hands on him was his proud father, Daniel Lot, and his mentor, Miss Webster. From 1938 to 1972, when he retired, Vrenkat Lot was the leader of the Panyam district church. Panyam was the biggest district in the the SUM field of operation.
In the 1940s, Vrengkat Lot tried his hand at politics. He was one of Nigeria’s representatives at the Sir Arthur Richard’s Constitutional Conference in London in 1946. In 1949, he became the leader of the Northern Non-Muslim League (NNML), a Christian political organization which was transformed into the Middle Zone League (MZL) in 1950. On this platform, Pastor David Obadiah Vrengkat Lot was elected to the House of Representatives in 1951. The Middle Zone League became United Middle Belt Congress (UMBC) in 1955, still under the leadership of Vrengkat Lot who, in 1956, led the party into an alliance with the Muslim dominated Northern Peoples Congress (NPC), the dominant political party in northern Nigeria. With this alliance, the NPC led government in northern Nigeria appointed Vrengkat Lot as minister of state without a portfolio. This appointment gave the impression that he had been wooed into the alliance. He lost the position of leadership of the party to a much younger politician, Mr. J. S. Tarka
As Vrengkat Lot later explained to Lere, through his involvement in politics he had wanted to help his people by drawing government social amenities to his local community. Like other Christians who went into politics at this time, Lot wanted to fight against what he considered discrimination against the Christian minority by the NPC led government in northern Nigeria. There was even a motion in the Northern House of Assembly calling for the government to restrict the activities of Christian missionaries in northern Nigeria. Fears were so strong that Christian politicians in northern Nigeria asked for a separate Middle Belt state in 1957. In spite of these noble objectives and visionary actions on the part of Vrengkat Lot, some missionaries were disappointed at his political involvement. They believed working in politics was too dirty for a minister of God.
However, David Obadiah Vrengkat Lot did not allow the light of the gospel to be eclipsed. He objected to holding political meetings on Sundays and when the premier wanted to appoint him full minister, Vrengkat Lot refused because such an appointment would have jeopardized his responsibilities as a minister in the church. Even so, the premier so trusted Lot that he asked him to act as premier for two weeks while he went on a pilgrimage to Mecca.
For his selfless public service, Vrengkat Lot was decorated with the Queen Coronation medal in 1953. He was honored as Member of the British Empire (M.B.E.) in 1961 and Member of the Federal Republic (M.F.R.) in 1964. In 1987, the University of Jos bestowed on him a Doctorate of Letters (DLitt) Honoris Causa. The Reverend Lot is perhaps the most decorated minister of the gospel in Nigeria.
David Obadiah Vrengkat Lot introduced the Boys Brigade in Panyam in 1940 when the fifth company of the Boys Brigade was started there. He became the national chaplain of the Boys Brigade from 1970 to 1985.
The Reverend David Obadiah Vrengkat slept in the Lord on March 18, 1995, at the age of 88.
Musa A. B. Gaiya
Pauline Lere, Rev. Dr. David Obadiah Vrengkat Lot: His Life and Church Development on the Jos Plateau (Jos: Jos University Press, 1996).
Nanwul Gutip, Church of Christ in Nigeria, COCIN: Birth and Growth (Jos: COCIN, 1998).
Sonni Gwanle Tyoden, The Middle Belt in Nigerian Politics (Jos: AHA Publishing House Ltd, 1993).
Christine Cheal, The Story of Daniel Lot: His Workmanship (Jos: EKAS/SUM, n.d.).
Ugbana Okpu, Ethnic Minority Problems in Nigerian Politics: 1960-1965 (Stockholm: Almqvist and Wiksell International, 1977).
Solomon Ewuga, Biography of Rev. David Obadiah Vrengkat Lot (privately printed, nd.).
Anonymous, “Tarihin Kafawar Panyam (Piyania)”, unpublished local history of Panyam, nd.
This article, received in 2003, 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 2003-2004 Project Luke fellow.