President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday said a former military Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon (retd.), directed all the military commanders during the nation’s Civil War to show a lot of restraint while dealing with the Biafran soldiers.
He said they were warned that the soldiers were not fighting enemies but their brothers.
Buhari, a former military officer, disclosed this during his investiture as the Grand Patron of the Nigerian Red Cross Society at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
He praised Gowon for that decision and described him as a committed Nigerian.
The President also commended the NRCS for bringing succour to victims of the war even in dangerous circumstances, noting that the pathetic pictures of war-ravaged Biafrans were always heart-rending.
He said, “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 can happen to you in the operational areas.
“The risks they faced were real and I admire their courage and commitment to helping people who were in distress and were virtually in millions. Those photographs of people from the Biafran enclave spoke a lot.
“I remember with nostalgia the performance of the Commander-in-Chief, General Gowon. Every commander was given a copy of the Commander-in-Chief’s instructions that we were not fighting enemies but that we were fighting our brothers. And thus, people were constrained to show a lot of restraint.
“The international observer teams were allowed to go as far as possible within and outside the war front and I think this was generous and very considerate of General Gowon. He is a highly committed Nigerian.”
The President promised to help the organisation to secure a permanent office accommodation in Abuja.
Buhari said, “I have taken note of your logistics especially your (request for) office here.
“I assure you that the government will do its best when you decide to build such facilities in terms of securing an area here within the Federal Capital Territory.
“To use the words of a famous Nigerian minister, I hope you will not build an elephantine headquarters which is going to be functional because we have seen your activities throughout the country.”
In his remarks, the National President of the NRCS, Chief Bolaji Anani, said the organisation had over 800,000 trained volunteers based in communities across the 774 local government areas of the federation.
He pleaded with the President to assent to the bill amending the Red Cross Act of 1960, whenever the National Assembly, which is debating it, eventually gave its approval. The Act has not been reviewed since it was passed in 1960.
“A review is long overdue. We note with pleasure that the current National Assembly is in the process of doing that. In fact, the revision has already undergone a public hearing.
“We hope that when the revised bill is passed by the National Assembly, it will be graciously assented to by Mr President,” he said.