For some days now the traditional and social media have been awash with reports of an Imam in Plateau State who saved 300 Christians when herders attacked about 15 communities in Barkin Ladi Local Government Area in June. Over 200 persons were killed during the said attack.
The 83-year-old Imam of Nghar village, Gashish District in Barkin Ladi Local Government, Alhaji Abdullahi Abubakar, took in people, mostly Christians who were fleeing a village in the area, and hid them in his house and mosque. When the pursuers arrived and asked him to release the Christians, he said all the people with him were Muslims.
Since news of the act broke, encomiums have been poured on the Imam. United State Embassy in Nigeria hailed the cleric, describing his action as heroic. It 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…Would you put your life on the line to protect people from other communities?”
President Muhammadu Buhari also pledged to honour the Imam. Governor of Plateau State Simon Lalong, who spoke at 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 handshake 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 or Plateau State but I think the whole of this country because 300 is not a small number.”
We commend Imam Abubakar for his exemplary deed and we support the president on his plan to honour him. Plateau State has been a hot-bed of crises, ranging from communal to farmers/herders clashes, with “reprisals” which lead to more losses of several lives, so every Nigerian will appreciate the Imam’s gesture. Ordinarily, this action shouldn’t make the news as kindness to fellow humans in times of need should be the norm, but that is not the situation in Nigeria. The comments that have trailed the Imam’s action on social media and other platforms show that indeed, as a country we have deviated from what we used to be-our brothers’ keeper.
Today, in the country, there is mutual suspicion between followers of the two major religions, Islam and Christianity, therefore a member of one offering help to a member/members of the other is a big deal and must be celebrated. The sanctity of human life is preached by the two major religions but often times, in the face of crises, the behaviour of adherents of these religions is a clear departure from those teachings, maybe due to lack of adequate knowledge. Therefore for an Imam who is versed in the knowledge of his religion to act the way he did amidst fear of possible attacks should teach each and every one of us a lesson and rekindle the milk of human kindness in us.
Many other persons have done similar acts during crises in the past without publicity for fear of possible attacks from people who may feel betrayed. Imam Abubakar’s exhibited uncommon courage and broadmindedness should be emulated by all and sundry. If we all see each other as one and understand that what touches one affects the other, there will be peace across the country. Like the Imam, our religious leaders should not just preach about peaceful co-existence, they should live it since deeds speak louder than words.