Saratu was the first woman leader in the Evangelical Church of West Africa (ECWA) in Gbagyi District. The Gbagyi people (also called the “Gwari” by the Hausa) are one of the largest ethnic groups in Central Nigeria. They are found in at least five states, Kaduna, Nassarawa, Niger, Kebbi and the capital territory of Abuja.
Saratu was born in 1928 to Mr. Akunya and his wife Bebwiye who lived in Dikko, northwest of Abuja, the political capital of Nigeria in what was then known as Niger Province. Dikko was one of Sudan Interior Mission stations opened by Rev. and Mrs. Magill in 1929. Saratu was the sixth of Bebwiye’s children who were all girls. Unfortunately she lost her mother when she was ten. Her parents were not Christians so she was raised following traditional religion. However, before her death, her mother told her children to embrace the new religion the white men had brought. So that same year, Saratu accepted Christ as her personal savior and was baptized later in 1953 by the Reverend Auta Ija. At the time it was generally believed that because Saratu was a girl, it was not worth sending her to school. Nevertheless, she started attending the SIM Primary School, Dikko, but since no one would pay her school fees she dropped out after one year. The only other option for young Saratu was marriage.
Saratu’s native name, Yamitolon, had been given to her by her mother as a lament on Saratu’s situation because it means “I have no one to depend on” since she had no brothers. Saratu married Anyibo Mudu in 1949 at the age of twenty-one. She was fortunate enough to marry a Christian because there were not many Christian young men at that time. Anyibo was a very dedicated Christian and after he was baptized he felt called to work as an evangelist. The young couple enrolled in the SIM Bible College at Karu in 1951 and finished Bible training a year later. Like her mother, Saratu had three girls, Rhoda (now deceased), Laiatu, and Suzie. While still in Karu, Anyibo became sick and they had to return to Dikko where Anyibo went to be with the Lord on April 24, 1954.
Saratu then married Daudu Yasnayi Dutsepe in 1956. In this second marriage, Saratu gave birth to five girls and one boy. Not only was Daudu a Christian, he was also interested in Christian service. After their training in SIM Bible College, Karu, in 1958, Daudu and Saratu were sent to Dutsepe (Daudu’s hometown) in Abuja Province to pastor a church there. Before they moved to Dutsepe, Saratu taught at the Girls’ Bible School for one year. At Dutsepe Saratu established an extramural school which was held in the local church in the evenings. She taught in Hausa and Gbagyi, the local language.
The Daudus were transferred to Dikko. There Saratu’s efforts at educating her people were recognized by the local government authorities and she was appointed to teach Bible Knowledge in the primary schools. She also tried her hand at sewing. With the support of the missionaries she made clothes for orphans; that is why she was called the “Dorcas of Gbagyi land.” She adopted some of the orphans and raised them to become important people in society.
Daudu was interested in evangelizing the Fulani. Most of the Fulani around Dikko were nomadic and conversion was slow but at times the Fulani would allow the Daudus to take their children to train. These Fulani children would join the number of children they had adopted. These children were not only raised as Christians but some became pastors and evangelists.
Saratu played a major role in contributing to the development of the Evangelical Church of West Africa (ECWA) women’s fellowship in Nigeria. Her association with lady missionaries in Dikko led to the formation of the women’s fellowship of which she became the leader. In that capacity she represented Gbagyi women in national ECWA women’s conferences. In one of the conferences in Kwoi in 1956, she was elected leader of all the ECWA women in Gbagyi District. 
Training women and shaping the ECWA Women’s Fellowship took a large amount of Saratu’s time. The women liked and respected her so much that they called her yaya meaning “elder sister.” She taught the women self-sufficiency and began domestic and home management training, teaching them how to make bags, slippers, chairs, vaseline, soda soap, and how to keep their homes clean. She also taught them how to show respect to their husbands as the Bible commands and how to bring up their children in the fear of the Lord. As there was no maternity clinic in Dikko, Saratu served as a midwife and was also given the name Ngozuma (which means “woman birth attendant”).
The success of the women’s fellowship in Dikko led to the formation of women’s fellowships in all the churches in the district. Since Saratu’s district was one of the largest in the ECWA, she was invited to attend the ECWA General Church Council meetings in Jos as an observer. This opportunity was a great privilege as the council was composed entirely of men. Saratu elected to be relieved as leader of the ECWA Women’s Fellowship, Gbagyi District, in 1970 after serving in that capacity for fourteen years.
One of her daughters, Laiatu, says Saratu works very hard sometimes at the expense of her family responsibilities, and has no tolerance for lazy people at all. She has had a positive influence on her children, and her daughter Suzie (Saratu’s third daughter by her first marriage) is now the leader of the ECWA Women’s Fellowship, Niger District.
Musa A. B. Gaiya and Florence Suzie Iliya Tumaka
- Today this district has been split into ten districts.
Florence Suzie Iliya Tumak, “A Biography of Mrs. Saratu Yamitolon Daudu,” a seminar paper for the Masters in Church History, University of Jos, 2006.
Interviews with Saratu Daudu, June 29-July 1, 2005; Bmazhinyi Gata, July 29, 2005; Laiatu Danladi, July 30, 2005; Lois Shehu, August 1, 2005; Esther Sinyada, August 3, 2005; Yajesin Dnamwya, September 2, 2005.
This article, received in 2006, was researched and written by Ms. Florence Suzie Iliya Tumaka, Masters student, and Dr. Musa A. B. Gaiya, Senior Lecturer in Church History at the University of Jos Department of Religious Studies, Jos, Nigeria, and DACBProject Luke fellow in Fall 2003 and Fall 2006.