The United States Embassy, on Friday, honored a 83-year-old Muslim cleric, Abdullahi Abubakar, who saved many Christians during an attack in Yelwan Gindi Akwati, Swei and Nghar villages in Barkin Ladi Local Government Area of Plateau State
The U.S. government awarded Mr Abubakar the Ambassador’s Peacemaker Award for Heroism in an interfaith dialogue at the U.S. Embassy Consular, Abuja.
Mr Abubakar is now widely celebrated as a hero and peace-builder, together with his deputy, Nghar Yelwa. They both saved over 200 Christian neighbours on June 23, 2018.
PREMIUM TIMES reported how the vice president, Yemi Osinbajo, received the clergy at the Presidential Villa, on Thursday, describing him as a hero and deserving of honor.
Mr Osinbajo also urged politicians to avoid using religion and tribal sentiments to cause havoc and division among the people.
In his remarks, the American Ambassador, Stuart Symington, said the people of Barkin Ladi got protection from the mosque which was built on the piece of land they voluntary donated.
”Years ago the people of a village in Plateau gave a piece of land freely to the Muslims to build a mosque,
”They planted in their love that moment a seed, and that seed grew into a tree and in the arms of that tree, when the winds blew and when the storm came, the people had a shed.
The U.S Ambassador said the lesson learned from the clergy is for all mankind.
”The lesson from this Imam the people is not just for Nigeria, but for all mankind. One family, one race and love,” he added.
The U.S. Deputy Chief of Mission, David Young, who announced the end of his three years service in Nigeria, urged Nigerians to turn peace to reality and translate peace from words to action.
”There are things to learn from the story, that peace should be turned to reality and also translate peace from words to action.”
In his remarks at the reception with Mr Osinbajo, Mr Abubakar, who spoke through an interpreter, Sani Muhammed, thanked the vice president, noting that he did not want it publicised.
He added that God chose him to do what he did.
His interpreter narrated what happened on that day.
“‘It happened on a Saturday, after the mid-afternoon prayers at about 4 pmthat was when the attack occurred.
”After the prayers, we started hearing some gunshots, we encouraged people to come in, women men and children to all come in, we closed the doors so everyone can come in, we then opened just one door.
”The attackers surrounded the mosques, they were trying to force the door open, we then overheard them (attackers) saying there are Berom and Christians who were in the mosque.
”After we heard the attackers were targetting the Berom’s and Christians in the community, we came out of the window and asked why do they want to harm the people who kept refuge in the house of God.
”Soon we heard some of the attackers had gone to the imam’s house; trying to gain access to his home because some people were also taking refuge at that time, the Imam told his son to guard the mosque.
”And when I got to the Imam’s home, I met him, trying to protect his home from being attacked by the perpetrators, I saw him fall on the ground – it had rained during the day and the ground was muddy
”The Imam risked his life. He told the attackers at some point that they had to kill him first before harming his ‘guests’ and it went on for about four hours – we also informed them not go ahead and destroy the people’s crops.
‘The attackers asked all the women to come out, that they did not want to harm them, but the Imam said ”No”. The ploy was to know who was a Muslim and who was a Christian.
”The wives then donated their clothes and hijab to the people, saying if it comes to that, we would all go (die) with them. When that did not work, they said they were going to set the house ablaze that was when the Imam went down and said kill me first.
”Those that were in the mosque had to stay there for five days, they were fed and taken care of.”
Mr Muhammed said when officials of the U.S. mission visited the home of the Imam, they interviewed his wives, who corrobated the account.