President Muhammadu Buhari has said that the former military head of state, General Yakubu Gowon, restrained the federal troops from killing the Igbo during the civil war fought between the 1967-1970.
Speaking in Abuja when he was decorated as the grand patron of the Nigerian Red Cross Society (NCRS), Buhari said he said was among the front-line commanders who received specific orders to treat the Igbo as brothers.
He said the order made the people to show a lot of restraint adding that Gowon had reasoned that the Igbo 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.
“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 said.
Thereafter, Buhari extolled the NRCS and emphasised that the sacrifices made by the organisation, especially during the civil war could not 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.
Besides, Buhari commended the organisation for its roles in emergencies, particularly to the distraught internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the North East.
The president assured that his administration would provide a permanent office accommodation and other logistics assistance for the organisation in Abuja.
NRCS, which was registered as an independent national society in 1961, has over 800,000 trained volunteers in communities across all the 774 local government areas of Nigeria.