John Kudzar Madu was born in 1937 in Bizingu, a little village in north eastern Nigeria, among a people called the Ngwaba. In colonial records they are referred to as the Gombi and their major town was named Little Gombi to distinguish it from Gombe, another town in north eastern Nigeria with a similar name. He was named Dazardiyu (corrupted to Kudzar) which means “I have tested,” a plea to the ancestors to spare the little boy from death after losing many others before him. His father Madu and his mother Adama practiced traditional religion. Kudzar remembered always wearing the fetish amulets and charms which his father got for him from the most powerful witch doctor to protect him from death. His mother Adama was a Kilba which was a warring neighboring ethnic group. She was born in the king’s palace in Hong, the principal town of the Kilba. In addition to Adama, Madu had four other wives.
In 1950 the Madus moved from Bizingu to Dzangola. When it was time for young Kudzar to begin school, he was sent to the primary school opened by the Church of the Brethren in 1951 where he spent two years because the school had only two grades. For the senior grades, Kudzar was sent to Garkida, the headquarters of the Church of the Brethren Mission in Nigeria. Here Kudzar clearly heard the gospel message. When Kudzar decided to become a Christian it was not easy to tell his father of his desire because it was believed he would lose the protection of the ancestors and might die like his other siblings. But Adama supported Kudzar, believing his future would be brighter working with the missionaries. She persuaded her husband to let Kudzar continue in the new way. Consequently, Kudzar joined the Covenant Class, also called the Catechism Class. He was baptized and christened John on July 11, 1957. Eli’mina, a girl two years younger than Kudzar, baptized the same day, later became his wife. They were married in 1958. The marriage was blessed with eight children–six daughters and two sons.
The couple was accepted as evangelists and worked in Gudumiya from 1959 to 1960. Then they were admitted into Kulp Bible School in 1960 and Kudzar graduated with a Basic Certificate in Christian Ministry in 1962. Kudzar served the church for five more years as an evangelist in Husbira, Dzangola, and Askira. He was again admitted to Kulp Bible School for a one-year advanced course in Christian ministry and was ordained in 1970. Shortly after his ordination, Kudzar was appointed pastor of the Church of the Brethren in Muvir with the additional responsibility of overseeing five smaller churches or “preaching points” as the Brethren call them. He worked in Muvir for a year. In 1971 he went to the Theological College of Northern Nigeria (TCNN) which is located in Bukuru near Jos and was founded in 1959 by Sudan United Mission. He graduated with a diploma in theology in 1974. After returning from TCNN he was posted to the church in the leprosarium at Virgwi where he ministered to the lepers from 1974 to 1981. From there he created five preaching points which grew to become local churches. While in Virgwi, Kudzar was appointed chairman of the pastors of Garkida District in 1975 and in 1978 he was appointed Acting General Secretary of the Church of the Brethren. Between 1981 and 1983, Kudzar was appointed by the Gombi local government authorities to serve as supervisor of Christian Religious Knowledge in the local government area.
Kudzar returned to the church in 1983 when he was elected chairman of the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria, becoming the first full-time chairman of the church. This was a heavy responsibility with many challenges. The major challenge was ethnic tension in the church. At that time the Bura, the Higi, and the Margi, the major ethnic groups, were at loggerheads. He also strove to address other challenges such as the need to develop manpower, evangelism, and rural development. By 1991, when he stepped down as the leader of the church and retired from active service, the Church of the Brethren was more united, more pastors had been trained in Nigeria or abroad, and the gospel had reached areas of stiff resistance. Before his retirement, Kudzar introduced a controversial subject within Brethren circles: the conversion of Muslim polygamists. He had said it was biblical to baptize a Muslim polygamist.
In the last years of his life, Kudzar tried his hand at politics. The political horizon was opened with his appointment as chairman of the Christian Pilgrim Board of Adamawa State, in north eastern Nigeria from 1996 to 2001. While he was serving in this capacity he decided to run for an elected position. His first attempt was in 1997 when he ran for the position of local government chairman and lost to a Muslim. But later he was elected as one of the leaders of the People’s Democratic Party in 1999. Kudzar gave the reasons for his political involvement, saying that he saw the need to “liberate his people from Fulani Muslim domination my area.” Anyone familiar with the politics of this area of Central Nigeria knows about the struggle for supremacy between the Christian elites and their Muslim counterparts. Almost all the Christian elites were mission-trained, including members of the clergy. Niels Kastfelt, a historian of Adamawa Province in northern Nigeria, says that although many Christians and their Western missionary mentors considered politics “dirty,” they however felt it necessary to get involved in order to protect Christian interests. Another reason was obedience to Jesus Christ’s injunction for Christians to be the salt of the earth. Kastfelt quotes one of these Christian politicians who summarized these concerns saying, “From such words we see that it is right for a Christian to become a politician in order to save the Christian church and people in general from a bad rule, which brings nothing good, and in order to talk against injustice.”
On October 7, 2001, Kudzar collapsed and died as he was about to step into the Church of the Brethren, Little Gombi, for an early Sunday morning service. He had earlier complained of a slight headache but did not think it was anything serious. He was buried three days later. Many distinguished Nigerians and friends of the church abroad spoke of his good virtues.
Musa A. B. Gaiya
Fabiya Luka Ndrambari, “The Biography of Pa John Kudzar Madu and His Contribution to the Development of the Ekklisiyar Yan’uwa a Nijeriya (Church of the Brethren in Nigeria),” MTh thesis (TCNN, Bukuru, 2002).
Niels Kastflet, “Christianity, Colonial Legitimacy and the Rise of Nationalist Politics in Northern Nigeria,” in Terence O. Ranger and Olufemi Vaughan (eds.) Legitimacy and the State in Twentieth-Century Africa: Essays in Honour of A. H. M. Kirk-Green (London: Macmillan, 1993).
Zazwal Pwary Nyaharkha, “The Role of Longuda Evangelists in the Development of the Lutheran Church in Nigeria, 1922-1967,” M.A. thesis (Department of Religious Studies, University of Jos, 1999).
This article, received in 2005, 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, as well as Project Luke fellow in Fall 2003 and Fall 2006.