Alh. Abdullahi Abubakar, an 83-year-old imam of Nghar village, Gashish District in the Barkin Ladi Local Government Area of Plateau State came to the national and international limelight last year for saving over 300 Christians from suspected Fulani herdsmen killers on raids. At his age and level of education and exposure, this man has set an example of respect and tolerance for others that the well learned and highly exposed politicians are yet being persuaded to follow.
That singular act has spoken more volumes in the minds of both Christians and Muslims than can ever be written on paper. Good deeds, no doubt, attract attention. Abubakar earned a national honour for his act from President Muhammadu Buhari.
The state governor, Mr. Simon Lalong described his action as a lesson on how to maintain peace, not only in the state but in Nigeria in general.“What he did, not only saved the people of Barkin Ladi LGA, not only Plateau State but I think the whole of this countrybecause 300 lives is not a small number”, he said at a three-day peace and security conference in Jos in July 2018.
Abubakar has also received international recognition for his good work of saving lives. The US Embassy in Nigeria has awarded him the Nigerian Star, “in recognition of achievement and service to Nigeria and Nigerians”. The Embassy described the cleric as a “peace builder” who put his “faith into action” by securing the lives of people of other religions.
Mr. David Young, deputy chief of mission and charge de affaires, US Embassy in Nigeria, saw in the cleric a hero in Nigeria and in the world for taking a risk for peace.“This man is a challenge to all of us; think about what you do every day. Do you take risks for peace? Would you put your life on the line to protect people from other communities? Think about what that means to us, to your country and to our world”, Young said.
Young defined the characteristics of those who work for peace and found them in Abubakar. “They do not belong to one group or another, they are not just Muslims or Christians; they are individuals who give up their lives for goodness and fight evil”, he said.
The event was a three-day peace and security conference in Jos last year organized to seek a multi-stakeholder partnership for peace and security in the light of resurgence of violence in Plateau State. It turned out that Abubakar became a model of the multi-stakeholder partnership that the organizers of the conference were seeking.
Plateau State is exposed to the circle of violent attacks, reprisals and counter-reprisals that continue to take horrific tolls on the people of the state in which both Muslims and Christians are the losers. In the attack in June last year in which Abubakar saved over 300 Christians, more than 200 persons were killed in 15 communities, according to reports.
People, mainly Christians, were said to be fleeing from the attackers in a neighboring village in the Barkin Ladi local government area when the imam guided them into safety in his house and in a mosque. “I hid the women in my personal house and after that, I took the men into the mosque and hid them there,” Abubakar stated.
The imam risked his own life while seeking to protect others. The assailants did catch up with him and strongly suspecting that he was shielding Christians, demanded that he should surrender them for slaughter.
Abubakar refused them entry, against the risk of them burning down the mosque and his house. Through prostrating himself on the floor in front of the radicals, crying and wailing, he managed to convince the attackers that there were no Christians in the mosque.