President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday disclosed how the then Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon restrained the federal troops from killing Igbo during the civil war.
He gave the insight into what transpired during the three-year civil war, after he was decorated as the Grand Patron of the Nigerian Red Cross Society.
His investiture took place at the Presidential villa, Abuja.
Buhari said he was among the commanders in the frontline who received specific orders to treat the Igbos as brothers.
According to the president, Gowon had reasoned that the Igbos “were our brothers” and did not deserve to be visited with federal might and treated as enemies.
“I remember with nostalgia the performance of the Commander-in-Chief, General Gowon that: “Every commander was given a copy of his instructions that we were not fighting enemies, but our brothers.”
He said the order made the people to show a lot of restraint.
Buhari added that the “international observer teams were allowed to go as far as possible within and outside the front. This was generous and very considerate of Gowon, who is a highly committed Nigerian.”
He paid tribute to the Red Cross Society’s frontline role, especially during emergencies in Nigeria.
He added that the organisation’s sacrifices for the country, especially during the civil war couldn’t be quantified.
“Earlier in my profession during the civil war, I know how much sacrifice members of the Nigerian Red Cross and their international counterparts did, both in the real front of operations and at the rear, on both sides.
“I think it is a lot of sacrifices because anything could happen to you in the operational areas. The risks they faced were real and I admired their courage and commitment to helping people who were in distress,” he said.
He added they were virtually in millions, as those photographs of people from the Biafra enclave spoke a lot.
Buhari has also pledged his administration’s readiness to provide a permanent office accommodation and other logistics assistance for the organisation in Abuja.
He also commended them for their roles in emergencies, particularly to the distraught internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the North East region of the country.
The National President of the Society, Bolaji Anani, said the society, which was registered as an independent national society in 1961, had over 800,000 trained volunteers based in communities across all the 774 local government areas of Nigeria.
He said its interventions included responses to disaster cases, disease outbreaks, displacements and providing succor and psychosocial support to victims of dehumanisation.