President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday revealed details of his conversation with United States president, Donald Trump, last year in the White House.
Buhari said when Trump accused him of killing Christians in Nigeria he told the American president that the farmers, herders clashes had nothing to with religion or ethnicity but cultural factors.
He stated: “I don’t think I can finish this speech without one or two digressions, which is specifically to you ministers, permanent secretaries and our supporters. I believe I was about the only African among the less developed countries that the president of the United States invited.
“And when I was in his office – only he and myself – he looked at me in the face and said why are you killing Christians. If you were the one I wonder how you will react. I hope what I was feeling inside did not betray me before him, so I understood it.
“The problem between cattle rearers and stagnant farmers, which is older than me not to talk of him (President Donald Trump), because I know I am a couple of years older than him, were happening. It is climate change with population growth and the misunderstanding of the culture of the cattle rearers. If you have 50 cows and they eat grass or something, any rout to their water pond they will follow it, it doesn’t matter whose farm it was.
“The First Republic set of leaders were the most responsible leaders we’ve ever had. I asked the minister of Agriculture to get a gazette of the early 60s, which delineated the cattle routes, the grazing areas, and why they used meagre resources then to put water dams, windmills. So any cattle rearer who allowed his cattle to somebody’s farm was arrested, taken before a court. The farmer is called to submit his bill then the judge will say if the cattle rearer couldn’t pay, his cattle were sold and the farmer is paid.
“But subsequent leaders, the VIPs, encroached on the cattle routes; they took over the cattle rearing areas. There was a time I went to Bayelsa State and I saw cattle rearers there, so I suspected they were going into the Atlantic.
“So I tried and explained to him that this has got nothing to do with ethnicity or religion. It’s a cultural thing which the respective leaders should address”.
Buhari also disclosed that his administration was trying its best to deliver change to Nigerians.
He said, “The next problem I want to tell you about is how we found ourselves. When I say us I mean members of the APC. We promised three fundamental things: security, economy and fighting corruption. We repeated the same fundamental things last year, but I want the Nigerian elite to please encourage them to judge us fairly.
“When we came in 2014, please I’ll like you to check, the average production was 2.1 million barrels per day; the average cost was $100 per barrel, but when we came it collapsed to $37 and $38 per barrel and the militants were unleashed on the administration. The production went down to half a million barrels per day.
“I want you to please reflect; what was the condition of infrastructure then in spite of those earnings? The roads, the rail was dead and there was no power? Up till now, there is no power. Where did the money go?
“When we came we were faced with one thirds of the production, one thirds of the money we were getting and all these challenges; security, economy and fighting corruption. So please encourage your friends the elite to reflect on what this administration has done, what APC has done and what we have achieved.
“When people outside the country talk of Nigeria, they say it is the most corrupt country in the world. Well, I’m doing my best. God has given me two chances. The first one, when I tried I was a young man in uniform. I collected the governors, the ministers and the president, put them in Kirikiri and other prisons and said they were guilty until they could prove themselves innocent.
“Put investigations panels based on geopolitical zones, basically. Anybody who followed the constitution, declared his assets, became a minister, a governor or the president, but couldn’t explain what he had. The balance was taken and given back to the federal government or the state or the institution he led.
“In the end, I too was arrested and detained, and nobody raised a voice. So, when I came back now, I’m trying to follow the system, I’m being called “Baba Go Slow”. Please, you are the ones who should reflect and pity me because we work with you every week. I listen to you, you listen to me. I just have to concentrate. Let us do our best for our country and I know we all believe in God and God will look after us”.
President Buhari also warned that going forward his administration will not tolerate insufficient collaboration, coordination and synergy among implementing Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).
President Buhari gave the warning during his closing remarks at the first year ministerial performance review retreat at the presidential villa.
Accordingly, the president directed that essential coordination delivery unit in the office of the secretary of the government of the federation should be revived.
The president also charged his ministers to defend the policies of his administration vigorously.
He said, “The days of insufficient collaboration, coordination and synergy among implementing ministries, departments and agencies should be over.
“In this regard, I have directed that essential coordination delivery unit in the office of the secretary of the government of the federation should be revived to ensure we focus on results. The SGF is to ensure regular reports on progress submitted.
“I have charged all of you to defend the government vigorously and 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.
“Let me also reiterate that all submissions for my attention or meeting requests should be channeled through the chief of staff, while all federal Executive council matters should be coordinated through the secretary to the government of the federation”.
The president also said he has directed the minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria and all other responsible agencies to ensure speedy and timely release of funds to MDAs for implementation of the N2.3 trillion economic sustainability plan and the capital projects in the 2020 budget.
He enjoined ministers to ensure that funds released are utilized efficiently and transparently in implementing the programmes and projects under the line priorities areas of government.
Buhari charged the ministers, permanent secretaries and all heads of parastatals to be continuously conscious of their commitment and responsibilities.
“On behalf of the people of Nigeria, 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 lives of our people positively,” he said.