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LEADERSHIP Person of the year 2018

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                                    Greathearted Imam Abdullahi Abubakar

It is true that heroes do often emerge from the most unlikely places. So it is with Imam Abdullahi Abubakar who resides in Yelwa Gindin Akwati village of Gashish district of Barkin Ladi council area of Plateau State. The 83-year-old Imam saved 300 Christians who ran into his mosque for sanctuary in the wake of the recent senseless killings in that part of the country. He shielded them with his own life and dared the marauders to do their worst. For this rare display of courage and humanity, for making a difference at a very difficult time  by showing fellow feeling to fellow Nigerians, Imam Abdullahi Abubakar is the LEADERSHIP Person of the Year 2018.

During one of the numerous crises and attendant killings that characterized Plateau State, marauding herdsmen raided villages while on a killing spree. During one of those moments of bestiality on June 24, 2018, some suspected killer herdsmen invaded some communities of Barkin Ladi local government area of Plateau State, and killed over 200 people. While the villagers ran for dear life, their search for safety took them to the warm embrace of the mosque of Imam Abdullahi Abubakar.

Around 3:30 pm, shortly before the commencement of the Asr prayers, some 300 distraught people, all Christians who barely managed to escape the savagery and mayhem unleashed on their communities by the killers, found themselves in Yelwa Gindin Akwati village. They ran, in multitude, towards the mosque.

Seeing that they were in distress, Imam Abubakar gladly offered them help — he accommodated them inside the mosque and took some to his small house, before their assailants stormed the village.

When the attackers came in their large numbers and, in their usual manner, shot sporadically in the air, Imam Abubakar, at the risk of being killed, vehemently defended his guests. He withstood all provocations and made sure no harm came the way of the 300 people who sought refuge in his mosque.

. He watched over the over 300 people sheltered in both the mosque and his residence for four days until security operatives arrived at the village to take them to the IDP camps.

During that reign of insanity, as the killers relished in the killing spree and continued to unleash mayhem on hapless citizens, Abubakar did what stood him out as someone who values the sanctity of human life. The octogenarian cleric said: “I hid the women in my personal house and, after that, I took the men into the mosque and hid them there.” Even when the assailants caught up with him and forcefully demanded that he release those who were Christians, Imam Abubakar stood his ground. He persuaded them and, eventually, the assailants left without hurting anybody.

Religious intolerance and the attendant killings are some of the factors continually 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 people of other faiths. It is therefore heartening to see that this aged cleric went out of his way to save people who professed another religion.

A native of Misau LGA of Bauchi State, Imam Abubakar left his native Misau community when he was 25 years old and the journey of life took him to Yelwa Gindin Akwati village of Gashish district in Barkin Ladi LGA of Plateau State where he eventually emerged Imam after the demise of his father.
Born to a father who engaged in farming and mining activities, Imam Abubakar found a second home on the Plateau where he has continued to live his life. One of Abubakar’s wives is of the Berom ethnic stock.

For his bold and courageous effort to save the lives of over 300 Christians, Abubakar deserves nothing less than commendation from all lovers of peaceful coexistence and religious tolerance. Indeed, those who work for peace do not belong to one group or another; they are not just Muslims or Christians, rich or poor, educated or illiterate; they are individuals who devote their lives to the common good of the majority.

At 83, Imam Abubakar took risks for peace, put his life on the line to protect people from other communities and faith. He taught us the hard but important lesson of protecting human beings irrespective of their tribe, religion and political differences and ultimately contribute to moving the society forward.

The inference that can be easily drawn from his action is that Imam Abdullahi Abubakar promptly put himself in the victims’ shoes and so it didn’t take long for him to see the need to shield them from the looming danger. Happily, 300 lives were saved.

The Imam has taught Nigerians the lesson of religious tolerance — that very important virtue which, unfortunately, seems to be missing in the lives of most people


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