As Nigerians lament the spate of senseless killings in parts of the country, one scenario that played out recently underlined the fact that fellow feeling and the ability to protect one another as well as the sanctity of human lives are still embedded in us regardless of the inanities of a few. A Cleric, Abdullahi Abubakar displayed these attributes during the recent killings in Plateau State when he saved 300 lives in a feat that has roundly been hailed as heroic.
The 83-year-old Imam of Nghar village, Gashish District in the Barkin Ladi Local Government Area of Plateau State, saved those persons on June 24 when herdsmen invaded about 15 communities in the area. On that fateful day, dare devil killer herdsmen invaded some sleepy communities of Barkin Ladi council area and killed scores.
While the killers unleashed mayhem on hapless citizens, Abubakar did what stood him out as a true Nigerian when he shielded some persons, mainly Christians, who were said to be fleeing from the massacre in a neighbouring village in his house and mosque. He confirmed it himself when he narrated what happened thus: “I hid the women in my personal house and after that, I took the men into the mosque and hid them there.” The assailants were said to have caught up with the Imam and forcefully demanded that he release those who were Christians in the mosque. But the cleric told the bandits that all those in the mosque were Muslims. He stood his ground and scores who could have been killed were saved!
Religious intolerance and the attendant killings on that basis are some of the factors pulling the nation apart. Hundreds of lives have been lost to this unfortunate scenario that has continued to force some Nigerians into living a life of scepticism and suspicion with persons of other faiths.
It is, therefore, heartening to note that what the Islamic cleric did was still possible in a situation such as the one Nigeria is passing through. Good enough, his exemplary behaviour has continued to receive commendations from Nigerians and even persons outside the shores of the country. Interestingly, President Muhammadu Buhari is reported to have invited the octogenarian to the Presidential Villa for a special handshake. As the Plateau State governor, Simon Bako Lalong noted, the cleric did what he did “for us to study and also know how to maintain peace, not only in Plateau State but in Nigeria in general”.
In our opinion, lessons derivable from his action are enormous. He is a challenge to every Nigerian to eschew bigotry and see one another as human. Through this singular action, Abdullahi Abubakar is appealing to all Nigerians regardless of their religious, ethnic or social background, to take risks for peace. By his action, he has demonstrated the need for Nigerians to show empathy to victims, not just of herdsmen’s killings, but also of other ills that constantly stare the nation starkly in the face.
But beyond this, the cleric has taught Nigerians the lesson of religious tolerance, that very important virtue which, unfortunately, is missing in the lives of most Nigerians. When it is not ethnic and tribal differences, it is religious segregation. It is obvious that from what one man did in Plateau State that saved the lives of over 300 persons of another faith, the nation needs more of Imam Abdullahi Abubakar, now more than ever before!
This newspaper joins well-meaning Nigerians and all those who cherish the sanctity of human lives to applaud the heroic exploit of the good Imam who decided to live out the cherished examples as enunciated by Prophet Mohammed (SAW). We urge the federal government to confer on him a national honour because we are convinced that by his action, he has earned it. We also strongly believe that his action deserves nothing less than a gesture that will be a source of inspiration to others. But even as we celebrate the heroic achievement of this great cleric, we enjoin Nigerians to eschew any predilection towards discrimination on the basis of faith, tribe and or political affiliation.
At 83, Imam Abubakar has set the needed standard expected of both his age and his calling as a man of God. The onus is on us, as a people, to dutifully follow this worthy example.