Buhari: How Gowon Restrained Nigerian Troops from Crushing Biafra

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Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari Monday in Abuja revealed how former Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon’s timely warning to federal forces restrained them from descending heavily on Biafran forces during the civil war.

Speaking while receiving officials of the Nigerian Red Cross Society (NRCS) led by its National President, Mr. Bolaji Anani, at the Presidential Villa, Buhari said Gowon promptly instructed Nigerian troops that they were not fighting enemies but their brothers.

According to him, this timely instruction constrained the Nigerian troops from unleashing terror on the Biafran forces, describing Gowon as a considerate and committed Nigerian whom he said also allowed international observers to be both in front and middle of the battle.

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 front and I think this was generous and very considerate of General Gowon. He is a highly committed Nigerian.”
Buhari who was decorated as the Grand Patron of the NRCS said he appreciated the honour bestowed on him by the appointment and thanked the organisation for its humanitarian services in the North-east.

Assuring the body that the federal government would look into its challenges, including non-possession of a permanent office accommodation in Abuja, the president expressed further appreciation to members of the group for their humanitarian services to the country during the civil war and other emergency situations.

“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 and we hope you will not do the Nigerian ways of doing things.
“To use the words of 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.

“I have taken note of your logistics especially your office here since we returned to Abuja from Lagos. I assure you that the government will do its best when you decide to build such facilities in terms of securing an area,” he said
In his submission, Anani said NRCS was registered as an independent national society in 1961 and had over 800,000 trained volunteers that are based in various communities across the 774 local government areas of Nigeria.

He said the group had intervened in cases of disasters, disease outbreaks and displacements of persons and had equally provided succour and psycho-social support to victims of dehumanisation.
He also expressed hope that the investiture of Buhari as the Grand Patron of the organisation would enhance their goals of providing succour to mankind and boosting the morale of the staff.