By Myke Uzendu and Ralph Christopher
President Muhammadu Buhari, has revealed his responses to the US President, Donald Trump, on the concerns he raised on the alleged killing of Nigerian Christians when he visited the White House in April 2018.
President Buhari said he regarded it was awkward sitting alone with the US President when he honoured his invitation to the White House, only for Trump to accuse him of the crimes against Christians in Nigeria.
While making his closing remarks at the end of the two-day Ministerial Performance Review Retreat at the Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa, Abuja, said he told the American leader that the problems were caused by successive Nigerian leaderships, which had failed the country.
Applauding the First Republic leaders who he described as “the best the country has ever had”, he accused subsequent administrations of encroaching on cattle routes, blaming the violence on difficulty by herdsmen to access pasture for feeding their cattle.
President Buhari said: “I believe I was about the only African among the less developed countries, the President of United States invited, and when I was in his office only myself and himself, only God is my witness, he looked at me in the face, he said ‘why are you killing Christians?’
“I wonder if you were the person how you will react. I hope what I was feeling inside did not betray my emotion.
“So, I told him that the problem between the cattle rearers and stagnant farmers I know, is older than me not to talk of him (Trump). I think I am a couple of years older than him.
“With climate change and population growth and the culture of the cattle rearers, if you have 50 cows and they eat grass, any root to your water point, they will follow it, it doesn’t matter whose farm it was”.
On the Nigerian growth and development issues, he continued: “The First Republic set of leadership was the most responsible leadership we ever had.
“I asked the Minister of Agriculture to get a gazette of the early 60s which delineated the cattle routes where they used meagre resources then to put earth dams, windmills even sanitary department.
“So, any cattle rearer that allowed his cattle to go to somebody’s farm is arrested, taken before the court, the farmer is called to submit his bill and if he can’t pay, the cattle are sold.
“But subsequent leaders, VVIPs (very very important persons), encroached on the cattle routes; they took over the cattle rearing areas.
“So, I tried and explained to him (Trump), this has nothing to do with ethnicity or religion. It is a cultural thing which the respective leadership was failing the nation.”
Speaking on his administration’s achievements so far, Buhari said he had done his best, and urged the elites to judge him fairly.
He said: “The next problem I want to tell you is how we found ourselves. When I say us, I mean members of the APC, when we promised three things – security, economy and fighting corruption. We repeated the same thing last year.
“But, I want the Nigeria elite please, encourage us and judge us fairly.
“Between 1999 and 2014, I will like you to please check the average (crude oil) production was 2.1m barrels per day, the average cost was $100 per barrel.
“When we came, it collapsed to $37 to $38 per barrel, and the militants were unleashed on the administration, the production went down.
“I want you to please reflect on the condition of the infrastructure then in spite of the earnings – the roads; there was no power and up to now, there is no power. Where did the money go?
“Please encourage your friends, the elite, to reflect on what this administration has done; what APC has done, and what we have achieved. I am doing my best, God has given me two opportunities.”
The President during the address charged the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), to go on the offensive and defend the achievements of his administration, and not allow political opponents spread what he called “falsehood”.
“Do not allow any irresponsible and politically-motivated statements to keep spreading falsehoods about this government.
“Information to the public should be better packaged. Go on the offensive. We are proud of our achievements and we should blow our own trumpets,” he stressed.
He reiterated his earlier directive that meeting/requests should be made through the Chief of Staff, while all cabinet matters should be channelled through the Secretary to the Government of the Federation.
He also ordered the speedy release of N2.3 trillion Stimulus Funds by the Ministry of Finance, Budget and National planning to the MDAs and for capital projects.
He said: “I have directed the minister, the Governor of the Central Bank and all other responsible agencies to ensure speedy and timely release of funds to MDAs for implementation of the N2.3 trillion ESP and the capital projects in the 2020 budget.
“I also enjoin ministers to ensure that funds released are utilized efficiently and transparently in implementing the programmes and projects under the line priorities areas of government.
“I hereby charge the ministers, permanent secretaries and all heads of parastatals to be continuously conscious of their commitment and responsibilities.
“I demand uttermost levels of performance, deliverables and results. I look forward to a result orientated year with tremendous benefits that will continue to change the lives of our people positively.”
The President also warned that the days of insufficient collaboration, coordination and synergy among implementing ministries, departments and agencies are over, adding: “I have directed that Essential Coordination Delivery Unit in the Office of the SGF should be revived to ensure we focus on results. The SGF is to ensure regular reports on progress.”
While calling on the Nigerian elites to judge his administration with fairness, President Buhari said “I am doing my best to fight corruption by trying to follow the system. Now, I am being called ‘baba go slow’,” he regretted.