President Muhammadu Buhari has asked Governor Simon Lalong to bring the 83-year-old Imam of Nghar village, Gashish District in the Barkin Ladi Local Government Area of Plateau State, Alhaji Abdullahi Abubakar, who had saved 300 Christians from rampaging killer herdsmen to Abuja for a handshake and national honour.
Mr. Lalong disclosed this 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.”
The event was 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.
The governor said the President took the decision following reports about how the Imam saved about 300 persons on June 24 when suspected Fulani herdsmen invaded about 15 communities in the Barkin Ladi LGA, killing over 200 persons.
The people, mainly Christians, were reportedly fleeing from a neighbouring village in the Barkin Ladi LGA when the Imam hid them in his house and mosque.
“I hid the women in my personal house and after that, I took the men into the mosque and hid them there,” Imam Abubakar had said.
According to reports, the killers had forcefully demanded from the Imam that he release those who were Christians in the mosque.
But the cleric deceived the bandits that all those in the mosque were Muslims, which may them leave.
Lalong 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 Deputy Chief of Mission and Charge de Affaires, US Embassy in Nigeria, David Young, at the event, hailed 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.”
He again re-emphasised that the killing of innocent people was unacceptable whether in Plateau, Zamfara, Benue, Borno, Delta or Taraba and called on the law enforcement agents to “arrest and prosecute criminal actors that do evil.”