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Who is Baba Paul Gindiri ?

he was
popularly known in northern Nigeria, was a confrontational
preacher from his conversion to his death in 1996. He saw himself
as an Apostle Paul to his generation. As such, he hardly used his
surname, Gindiri, the name of his hometown, or his native name,
Gofo, given to him by a Fulani neighbor. He was not given to
diplomacy in his preaching and attacked both Muslims and bad
political leaders in Nigeria, a country he saw as a battleground
between Christians and Muslims. When a Muslim governor gave
Muslims a space in the public motor park along Bauchi Road in
Jos, Paul Gindiri demanded that Christians also be given a piece
of land in the same area to build a church. The governor gave a
comparable piece of land to the Christians who built a church
there. Even though no one worships in the building (2004), Paul
Gindiri had made his point: what is good for the goose is good for
the gander. Paul Gindiri was one of the greatest Christian
revivalists of all times in northern Nigeria. His revivalism came at
an auspicious time. The Gindiri spiritual revivals of the 1970s
spread like wildfire on the Plateau and throughout central Nigeria.
The churches were hungry for the Word and huge crowds gathered
at Paul Gindiri’s crusades. Many Christians in northern Nigeria
owe their spiritual renewal to these crusades. Paul Gunen Gindiri
was born to Gunen Saidu Sedet and Magajiya Naru on March 3,
1935 in Punbush (Kasuwan Ali), a village near Gindiri among the
Pyem of Mangu Local Government area of Plateau State in central
Nigeria. Magajiya Naru was Sedet’s second wife. Paul Gindiri was
the second son among fourteen children (seven boys and seven
girls). Both parents were traditionalists. The Pyem (or Fyem) are
proud of their history. They consider themselves immigrants from
Gobir in Sokoto emirate in the northwest of Nigeria. They
emigrated from there and settled in Bauchi but then the jihad
spearheaded by Usman dan Fodio in the early nineteenth century
pushed them out of Bauchi. They then settled in Pyangiji and
dispersed to various other locations. One of their principal
settlements is Gindiri where the SUM missionaries began to settle
in 1934. In the pre-colonial period, the Pyem were middlemen in
the slave trade between their immediate neighbours, especially the
Maghavul and the Ron, and the Hausa/ Fulani of the Bauchi
emirate. Paul Gindiri’s father and his siblings had Maghavul
names because their ancestors had moved out of Gindiri and
settled among the Maghavul in Kumbun. Later some of Paul
Gindiri’s clan returned to Gindiri while the others stayed back and
were assimilated into the Maghavul ethnic group. Before Paul was
born, his father had moved from Gindiri and resettled in Punbush.
Paul Gindiri probably heard the gospel from the first Pyem
converts, Akila Wantu Nachunga and Mallam Tagwai. He enrolled
in the mission primary school where he studied for only four years
because his father refused to continue to pay his school fees,
preferring that he stay at home and help him on the farm. After
Paul dropped out of school he took an appointment in the mission
compound as an apprentice mason. Richard Bruce has shown how
the Pyem converted to Islam or Christianity through social
contacts in colonial times. We are not certain if Paul Gindiri
became a Christian through his apprenticeship in Gindiri but, in
any case, permanent spiritual transformation took place later. Not
satisfied with his apprenticeship, Paul confided to his mother that
he was going to the city to learn driving. He arrived in Jos in 1949.
With no money to pay for driving tutorials, Paul took a mining job
in the Amalgamated Tin Mines of Nigeria (ATMN). While working
there he enrolled in the driving school and not only learned driving
but also automobile mechanics, skills which were invaluable
assets to him later on. He got his driving certificate in 1951. As a
motor mechanic/driver, it was not difficult for him to get a job. He
worked for big organizations such as the National Institute of
Trypanosomiasis at Vom, a few kilometres southwest of Jos, and
later the Tin Mining Association, a tin mining camp southwest of
Jos with headquarters in Barikin Ladi,. Paul Gindiri was a good
mixer; he soon got involved with non-Christians, especially Hausa/
Fulani Muslim youths. His association with these Hausa youths
helped him to improve his Hausa, which he spoke more fluently
than his mother tongue. He probably became a Muslim himself,
though probably only a nominal one because he also became a
heavy drinker. Paul also had problems with womanizing, smoking,
and occult practices. In 1960, Paul decided to marry Lami, his
fiancée, whom he had courted for six months. He brought Lami to
Jos. Lami had been raised in a strong Christian home, so as soon
as she realised that her husband was not a Christian, she started
to pray for him intensely. Paul Gindiri did not attend church, but
Lami began to attend the Evangelical Church of West Africa
(ECWA), the first ECWA church in Jos called “Bishara 1” (in
Hausa) which was close to their home. Eventually Lami was
baptized in the church and became very active in the women’s
fellowship. Every fellowship period, Lami would ask the other
women to support her in prayer for her husband. The turning point
in Paul Gindiri’s life occurred when he was working with British
Engineering West African Company (BEWAC) as a driver and a
salesman. He had gone to Minna, one of the major towns in
northwestern Nigeria. The first night in a hotel in Minna, Paul
Gindiri, under the influence of alcohol, almost killed a rival over a
prostitute by smashing his head with a bottle. Luckily, the man did
not die otherwise Paul might have spent the rest of his life in jail.
When he returned to Jos, Paul Gindiri vowed not to drink. The
resolution was perhaps strengthened by a dream he had one night.
In the dream he saw Jesus who told him, Listen. I am Jesus. I had
earlier appeared to you and called you to become mine. Now I am
appearing to you for the second time. I was the one who brought
to life the man you hit to unconsciousness in order to give you a
chance to repent. From today onward, you should never again
drink alcohol beverages. All the sins you have been committing
must be stopped forthwith. Failure to repent will make me appear
a third time and I will take your life and cast you into hell fire. Paul
Gindiri took the message of this dream very seriously, and his life
never was the same after that. After the dream, Paul Gindiri
bought two Hausa Bibles and two Hausa hymn books, for his wife
and himself. ECWA Bishara 1 had a revival service and Lami
invited her husband. The preacher that day seemed to speak
directly to Paul who thought Lami had gone and talked to the
preacher about him. The next Sunday another preacher said
similar things that convicted him. He could hardly wait for the
altar call and was the first and only one who raised his hand in
response. After his conversion, Rev. Kure Nitte, the pastor of the
church, discipled him. To show his conversion was genuine, Paul
Gindiri publicly confessed his involvement in occult practices. One
particular Sunday, Paul Gindiri brought all the objects he had used
in his occult practices and they were burned on the church
premises. Turning to Muslim passers-by who had stopped to
watch the fire, Paul Gindiri roared at them, “It is your religion that
has cheated me and led me into all these evil deeds. Your religion
has no truth and unless you repent, you are bound for hell fire!”
Paul Gindiri was subsequently baptized into the ECWA Bishara 1 in
1962. He became an elder in the church ten years later and acted
most of the time as treasurer until his death. Later Paul Gindiri
enrolled for private tutoring in evangelism under Rev. J. A.
Jacobson, an SIM missionary. He was trained in basic Arabic. With
this basic training, he began to preach in the streets of Jos
specifically to Muslims. On weekends, Paul Gindiri would preach in
Muslim communities and in the Jos market where there were
many Muslim traders. He was glad to learn that there was an SIM
missionary, Dr. Andrew Stirrett, whose passion was the conversion
of Muslims and who had made the Jos market his preaching
center from the 1920s until his death in 1948. Paul Gindiri also
found the newly established New Life For All (NLFA) suitable for
his type of ministry to Muslims. The NLFA was founded by the
Rev. Gerald Swank, another SIM missionary, for mobilisation of all
church members in the churches in northern Nigeria for
evangelism, especially to Muslims. Paul Gindiri founded the
Gospel Team as a branch NLFA and which was under his control.
NLFA became synonymous with Paul Gindiri to such an extent that
he was called Sabaon Rai (i.e. New Life). A song was created and
sung at all preaching sessions. This song became Paul Gindiri’s
favourite. In Hausa Rai domin kowa… Ku zo ku karbi Sabon Rai
Kaka ni ma zan yi domin Nima in sami Sabon Rai Idan ka mutu ka
kare Ina zaka? Gidan wuta Ni na tuba zan bi Yesu Yesu bani
Sabaon Rai English translation Life for all Come and receive New
Life What shall I do To receive this New Life If you die, you are
gone Where would you be? Hell fire I have repented I’m following
Jesus Jesus, give me New Life Paul Gindiri was so full of zeal to
preach the gospel to everyone, especially to Muslims, that he
resigned from his job with BEWAC and began his own private
transportation business. The transportation business was so
successful that it gave a birth to a stone crushing company, which
developed into a multi-million naira venture. This self employment
gave Paul Gindiri the opportunity to preach whenever he wanted
rather than just on weekends. The business also provided him with
the financial resources to fund the activities of the Gospel Team.
For instance, virtually all the motor vehicles used by the Gospel
Team for outreach were bought by Paul Gindiri. Paul Gindiri was a
polemicist. Whenever he preached to Muslims, he had the Bible in
one hand and the Qur’an in the other, trying to prove to them that
Islam was a false religion. Sometimes Muslims would listen to him
in silence, sometimes they would react violently. Paul Gindiri was
always happy when he was “prosecuted” by Muslims because that
made him a modern apostle Paul. Like the Paul of the Bible, Paul
Gindiri would triumphantly list the number of times Muslims had
persecuted and stoned him. Most of the time when he was in
Muslim dominated cities, Paul Gindiri would ask permission to
preach on the premises of the emir’s palace. His requests were
often granted, but soon his confrontational preaching would invite
violent attacks from Muslim extremists. Many Christian leaders
opposed Paul Gindiri’s method of evangelism which they felt was
not diplomatic or tactful. But in spite of his tactless preaching,
Paul Gindiri had Muslim converts, one of them Mohammed Davou
Riyom, who wrote Paul’s biography. Most Muslims in Jos and
elsewhere in northern Nigeria might have disliked Paul Gindiri’s
manner of preaching but they admired his honesty, his
transparency in business, and his high moral integrity. Christian
leaders also disagreed with Paul Gindiri’s refusal to obey the
government’s ban on public preaching made to curb inter-religious
violence. According to Paul Gindiri no government could stop the
preaching of the gospel of Christ. He further argued that if any
preachers needed to be banned, it was the Muslim preachers,
especially the members of the Izala sect, who instigate trouble
while preaching. Paul Gindiri could be called the architect of the
theology of Christian self-defence in Nigeria. In the 1980s,
Christians fled whenever they were attacked by Muslim fanatics
and hoodlums and even stood helplessly by while hoodlums
burned their churches. Some lost their lives in road accidents
while fleeing. Paul Gindiri re-interpreted Matthew 5:39, where
Jesus said, “But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If
someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other
also.” Paul Gindiri argued that Christians in Nigeria, especially
those in northern Nigeria had given Muslims both the right and the
left cheeks, and did not have a third to give. So Christians had to
stand and defend themselves and their churches. In one of his
sermons, Paul Gindiri declared, Only Christian self-defence is our
solution to this aggressive pursuit by Muslims. The Christian
community is tired of being pursued by evil men. Right from 1960,
we have been running, but in 1991, we have stopped running. We
have been pressed to the wall and there is no other option but to
turn and face our enemies. Paul Gindiri’s theology is contextual
beyond what the missions had taught him. This theology is well
rooted in the minds of Christian youths in northern Nigeria today,
and explains their militancy in periods of religious
misunderstanding and conflict. This theology attracted wide
acceptance as it was adopted by the Christian Association of
Nigeria (CAN), an ecumenical group that embraces almost all
churches in Nigeria. Paul Gindiri was also a critic of inept
governments and institutions in Nigeria, especially the military. He
was fearless in his attacks against corruption in government and in
the church. He was agitated by what he saw as the government’s
manipulation of religious sentiments to create tension and by the
plans by Muslim military leaders to turn the country into an
Islamic state. So his messages to Muslims always oscillated
between their depravity and need for salvation through Jesus and
a condemnation of evil government machinations to Islamicize
Nigeria. His fearless attacks on falsehood and dishonesty in
government and the church earned him respect and admiration
from many, Christians and Muslims alike. Paul Gindiri and Lami
had seven children named Musa, Iliya, Dauda, Yakubu, Joshua,
Victoria, and Wudeama. Their only daughter, Victoria, was killed in
a motor accident while traveling with her father to one of his
preaching outreaches in November 1990. Musa, Paul Gindiri’s first
son, has not only taken over the family’s business, he is also an
evangelist (2004). Paul Gindiri enjoyed good health until March
31, 1993 when he had a stroke which paralyzed him. He recovered
but while he was undergoing physiotherapy he was diagnosed with
prostate cancer that led to his death on April 8, 1996. At his
funeral, Nigeria’s Head of State was represented by the second
most powerful person in government, Lieutenant General Jeremiah
T. Useni, among other top government functionaries. Lami Paul
Gindiri also had a stroke on April 6, 1999 and died April 27.
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