President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday recounted his dramatic encounter with American President Trump, who he said pointedly accused him of killing Christians in Nigeria.
The incident happened when he met Trump in Washington in April 2018.
Speaking while closing a two-day ministerial retreat at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, Buhari recalled that although he was jolted by the allegation, he promptly defended himself with a summary of the causes of the clashes between farmers and herders in the country.
He argued that the killings and mayhem had no religious or ethnic undertones, but have been exacerbated by past administrations which tampered with established grazing routes.
Addressing the audience which included cabinet members and senior government officials, 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 route to your water point, they will follow it, it doesn’t matter whose farm it was.
“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, wind mills 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) they encroached on the cattle routes, they took over the cattle rearing areas.
“So, I tried and explained to him this has got nothing to do with ethnicity or religion. It is a cultural thing which the respective leadership was failing the nation.”