The 83-year-old Imam of Nghar village, Gashish District in Barkin Ladi Local Government Area of Plateau State, Alhaji Abdullahi Abubakar, is to get a national honour for saving over 300 Christians fleeing the crisis in the state.
The development was made known by the Plateau State Governor, Simon Lalong, who said President Muhammadu Buhari has instructed him to bring Abubakar to Abuja for “a handshake and national honour”.
Abubakar had on June 24 hid the Christians who were fleeing when suspected Fulani herdsmen invaded about 15 communities in Barkin Ladi LGA, killing over 200 persons.
He said: “I hid the women in my personal house and after that, I took the men into the mosque and hid them there.”
When the assailants arrived and demanded for those in the house and mosque, he told them they were Muslim, forcing them to move on to other targets.
Lalong, who spoke in Jos on Monday during the opening ceremony of a three-day peace and security conference, with the theme: “The resurgence of violence in Plateau State: Towards a multi-stakeholder partnership for peace and security,” said: “The President has told me to bring Imam Abdullahi Abubakar for a hand shake, which will be followed by a national honour.
“I was also preparing what to do for this man.
“Although he is already in his old age, God knows why he did it at that age for us to study and also know how to maintain peace, not only in Plateau 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 country because 300 lives is not a small number.
“So, Alhaji Abdullahi Abubakar, only God will reward you for what you have done.
“We are waiting for that process of meeting the President for a handshake and national honour.
“Having a handshake with Mr. President at the age of 83, I think the man will be happy, even if he is going to his grave, that something has happened in his life.”
The governor, at the conference organised by the Plateau State Peace Building Agency in collaboration with the United States Institute for Peace, Justice and Security and financed by the US Embassy in Nigeria, also expressed happiness that the Imam’s gesture happened during his tenure as governor of Plateau State.
The Deputy Chief of Mission and Charge de Affaires, US Embassy in Nigeria, David Young, extolled the virtues of the Imam, describing his action as heroic.
Young said: “Those who work for peace 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.
“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 also said the killing of innocent people was unacceptable whether in Plateau, Zamfara, Benue, Borno, Delta or Taraba States.
He called on the law enforcement agents to “arrest and prosecute criminal actors that do evil,” adding that it was absolutely essential that those arrested be made to properly face charges in court.
He said bringing a criminal action to justice remained the first step to stop the violence.
The Gbong Gwom Jos, Jacob Gyang Buba, called on Plateau State stakeholders to be very sincere because of the genuineness of the need for peace, “otherwise we will not be able to develop, but will remain a very backward community.”
The Speaker, Plateau State House of Assembly, Joshua Izang Madaki, represented by his Deputy, Yitmong Shehu Saleh, regretted that the peace that had been enjoyed in the state had been punctured by the recent crisis.