In June 23, 2018, an invading terrorist group invaded some villages in Barkin Ladi Local Government Area of Plateau State. There were on a mission to kill Christians.
Some Christians ran for safety in a Mosque at Nghar village which was headed by Imam Abubakar Abdullahi. The Imam also hid some of the victimized Christians in his house not knowing the invaders were on their trail.
When the attackers got to the mosque, Imam Abdullahi who already knew their mission stood along with his deputy Imam at the entrance pleading with attackers to spare their lives.
The 83-year-old Muslim cleric risked his own life to save 262 Christians in his village. In 2018 interview conducted by the U.S Embassy in Nigeria, he narrated how he saved the lives of his Christian brothers and sisters who were about to be killed by Muslim herdsmen.
The action of the Imam Abdullahi got domestic and global attention
How Abdullahi Abubakar started as an Imam
I was born in Akwiam, Bauchi State. I studied in Quranic schools in Potiskum and in Gombe before I came to Gindin Akwati in Barkin Ladi Local Government Area of Plateau State, where I stayed with my father’s elder brother.
At that time, I think, I wanted to join the army to fight in the Nigerian Civil War but my father objected to my plan because he was very old and weak.
He was the imam at that time and I was the closest help he had. So, when he died, I was appointed as his successor.
“I cannot remember the date but I think it could be about 30 years ago; since my father died. I am not sure. It’s been a long time and I can’t remember,” he said in the U.S Embassy interview.
How he saved the lives of 262 Christians from being killed by Muslim herders
According to him: At about 3.30 p.m., shortly after the mid-afternoon prayer, worshippers were still in the mosque when we started hearing gunshots from Gindin Akwati area, some distance from our village.
The intensity of the attack increased as we heard more gunshots from Soi, a community that is closer to our village. Soon, there was pandemonium everywhere in our villages as people ran from invading attackers.
Since the mosque was open, I beckoned everyone fleeing, both Muslims and Christians, to come in there for protection.
My deputy and I took charge in directing people into the mosque and my home for shelter. We asked everyone to lie down on the floor of the mosque to avoid being hit by flying bullets.
We also locked the mosque and my home and stayed guard outside to ward off the attackers. We pleaded with them to spare the lives of those being sheltered in the mosque and my home.
It was a tense moment. But I did not give up or allow them to harm my guests as they scattered in different directions trying to gain access to the mosque and my home. I tried to make calls but the phone lines were dead. I couldn’t get through to anyone.
A quintessential HERO!
Plateau State’s Imam Abubakar Abdullahi, is one of the recipients of the first-ever USA’s International Religious Freedom Award. He’s awarded for saving 250+ Nigerians from a deadly attack in June 2018. He was first awarded by the Nigerian Gov’t last year. pic.twitter.com/k1Qg769thg
— Bashir Ahmad (@BashirAhmaad) July 19, 2019
Why he saved their lives
The main reason I did what I did was because I had been living in peace and harmony with these people as neighbours. We had never had any problems with one another.
We had lived in peace until suddenly these attackers came to destroy the village and kill people.
I won’t let that happen, so I asked the people fleeing from the attackers to take shelter in the mosque and in my home.
Who were the attackers?
We could not identify any of the attackers because they had their faces covered. We just kept pleading that in the name of God, they should not harm anyone.
I prostrated in front of the armed men, pleading for the lives of those being sheltered. I even began to cry, wailing and rolling on the ground, asking them to leave and after a while, they left.
Watch the U.S. Embassy’s interview with Imam Abdullahi Abubakar, the heroic imam who helped save over 300 people’s lives in Plateau state in late June this year.
Posted by U.S. Embassy Nigeria on Sunday, 19 August 2018
Embassy: What do you do with Christians at Christmas time and Sallah?
Abubakar: During Sallah, we celebrate together. And when it is time for Christmas, we celebrate together as well. We exchange food and gifts. Boys and girls get together and party during these festivities. We the elders exchange visits between us, Muslims and Christians. We never experienced any problems between us until this attack.
Imam Abdullahi’s message to fellow Muslims
We should all reflect on the fact that God created us, some as whites, others as blacks, some, tall and others, fat, and so on. God had a reason for creating us as diverse humans.
No one has a reason to question the existence of the other. If God had wanted otherwise, He would have created us the same.
We must embrace the diversity that God has created and strive to live in peace with one another everywhere in the world.
If God had wanted us to be the same, He would have done so but He brought us all together, mixed us together, I don’t know how to explain it, but, you know, He brought us together to create harmony so that we can live in peace together.
God wants us to live together in peace. If He had wanted, we would just be the same and there would be no difference. My message to the entire world and to everyone is that we should all respect one another, follow the rules and be selfless advocates for peace.
Imam Abubakar Abdullahi of #Nigeria selflessly risked his own life to save members of another religious community, who would have likely been killed without his intervention. #IRFAwards @USEmbassyAbuja pic.twitter.com/pObSlkvgFU
— Department of State (@StateDept) July 17, 2019
We have conflicts because people are greedy and self-centred. If people are not selfish, I would not even bother to hide my money. I would just carry it on my head and walk around. I would not even need to protect myself anyhow.
Award for his sterling and courageous action
The US government has honoured the 83-year-old along with four religious leaders from Sudan, Iraq, Brazil and Cyprus,
He was among the recipients of 2019 the International Religious Freedom Award, which is given to advocates of religious freedom.