Nigeria's first lady Dame Patience Jonathan yesterday stunned the entire congregation at the Aso Villa Chapel with a revelation that she actually died and resurrected after seven days, during her eight-week sojourn in a German hospital last year.
Dame Jonathan's confession is a sharp contrast to her statement at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, when she was received on October 7, 2012, by a crowd of well wishers on her return to the country after several weeks of absence.
She had strongly refuted stories in the media claiming she had been undergoing treatment for food poisoning, with some reports even claiming she had died. She had attributed the stories to mischief-makers and those who bore her ill-will.
The first lady had told reporters on arrival at the airport: "I did not have a terminal illness or cosmetic surgery.I thank God Almighty for bringing me back... God has a plan for all of us."
But speaking yesterday at the thanksgiving service held to mark her survival, Dame Patience likened her experience to that of the biblical Lazarus, disclosing that her tummy was burst open, a situation which led her to undergo nine surgical operations within a period of one month. Unlike most people who dread surgical operation, she started begging for it after the third one, she said.
She further stated that some of her associates whom she trusted and relied heavily on leaked the information that she was dead, adding that some of the traitors even started selling off her belongings in the belief that would never return to the country alive.
She said: "It was not an easy experience for me. I actually died -- I passed out for more than a week. My intestine and tummy were opened. I am not Lazarus but my experience was similar to his. My doctors said all hope was lost. A black doctor in London who is with us in this service was flown in when the situation became critical. It was God himself in His infinite mercy that said I would return to Nigeria. God woke me up after seven days.
"I know that some people somehow leaked the information that I was dead. They are people that I trusted and relied on; to them, I was dead and I would never return to the country alive. Some of them even sold my things off.
I won't say everything here. It is the Lord's doing that I returned alive. When God says yes, nobody can say no.
"People are always afraid of operation (surgery) but, in my own case, while my travail lasted, I was begging for it (surgery) after the third operation because I was going to the theatre every day. It was God who saw me through. I did eight or nine operations within one month. It was not an easy one."
Recalling how former first lady Mrs Stella Obasanjo died as an occupant of Aso Rock in a circumstance similar to hers, Patience Jonathan said were it not for God, her fate would have been a replay of what befell her predecessor: "I remember when Chief Obasanjo was the president of the country; I was close to his late wife, Stella. We worshipped together in this chapel. It was a painful moment for me that time when she died and her corpse was brought here. That was how my corpse would have been brought here.
"The day I came back, I said, 'God, I have nothing to say; I offer myself to you. I will be doing things that will touch the lives of the less privileged'. God gave me a second chance because I reached there. He knew I had not completed the assignments He gave me; that was why I was sent back."
Speaking further at a thanksgiving reception at the Banquet Hall of the presidential villa after the church service, the first lady said she "emerged from a situation that can be said to defy logic and even challenged medical science", adding that " God proved his words in Lamentations 3: 37".
She noted that her experience was another confirmation that Nigerians are truly connected to heaven, adding that prayers said by Nigerians and the support given to her husband encouraged her and gave her hope to live.
"We must continue to regard Aso Rock Villa properly as our nation's centre of power and authority and not the devil's playground. It is our spiritual duty to sanctify and declare it the city of God where only the will of God shall prevail. Calamity will not occur here again or anywhere near our leaders in all areas of government and society, in Jesus' glorious name."
The first lady further stated: "Even while I was away, I received daily reports of the passionate intercessions of this family. While some were fasting, others were observing night vigils. My fathers in the Lord, brothers and sisters, thank you all in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ for your spiritual and labour of love. My special thanks also go to the Muslim Ummah of our nation. I was duly informed of your constant prayer and concern during this challenging period. Let me assure you that I equally felt your impact. Please accept my sincere gratitude.
"Mr. President, fellow Nigerians, you will recall that I declared upon my arrival in the country on Wednesday, the 17th of October, 2012, that I had come with fresh determination to rededicate myself to the service of God -- the Nigerian women, youths, children, the less privileged, the vulnerable, the poor and the disadvantaged. I therefore offer myself, not as your first lady but as your friend, sister, mother and daughter so that, together, we can build and enjoy a nation of peace and prosperity."
The first lady continued: "My beloved husband and soul mate, His Excellency President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, was particularly wonderful. Again, he showed that he is not only my pillar of support, but also my best friend. My beloved husband, you gave me the reason to live, you gave me the opportunity to love you and our children. God willing, we shall live to declare God's goodness and mercies.
"I wish to place on record my mother-in-law who abandoned her own bed and continued to sleep by my bedside while I was ill and until I travelled. I am equally indebted to my mother (Mama Sisi), brothers and sisters, whose commitment to my wellbeing is still being applauded. And, of course, my very dear children -- Faoth, Arubai -- but with special reference to my son Ariwera, also known as Abobo, who is constantly by my side and pays special attention to my progress."
She also thanked the vice president, the senate president and governors for always sending their wives to see her as well as giving generously for her tending.
The thanksgiving organised by a special committee chaired by the executive secretary of the National Christian Pilgrims Commission, Mr. John Kennedy Okpara, was a multi-million-naira event that attracted both the high and mighty in the country.
Hundreds of security personnel deployed to the presidential villa had a hectic day controlling the heavy traffic and massive crowd that turned out for the event. The multi-capacity Banquet Hall of the State House was filled to the brim.
Those in attendance included former UN secretary-general Koffi Anan, National Assembly leaders, governors, ministers, directors-general of MDAs, members of the diplomatic corps and a host of Christian and Muslim leaders.
My wife's recovery, end to leaders- spouses' death in Aso Rock - Jonathan
Also, President Goodluck Jonathan declared yesterday that the recovery of his wife, Dame Patience, from the life threatening ailment that landed her in a German hospital marked the end of the cycle of deaths of leaders or their spouses at the presidential villa.
Speaking at the thanksgiving reception for the first lady yesterday, President Jonathan pointed out that the day was a special one for him and the first family. He also appreciated the large presence of dignitaries at the function.
Jonathan recalled that while he was deputy governor in Bayelsa State, his cousin had died and one of his mentors had lamented how people he knew suddenly died when they were on the verge of becoming successful.
He said the man had looked in his direction and he (Jonathan) had quickly interjected spontaneously by saying, "I will not die," and, afterwards, the church prayed for him.
He further noted that the same spectre of death hung around him when he became president, with many predictions about him or his wife dying.
"Thank God for keeping the life of my wife. If anything had happened to her, there would have been many stories. The fake prophets would have had their predictions fulfilled," the president said.
Jonathan implored Nigerians not to relent in prayers for the good of the country. "If you love this country, you will not talk about divisions. God willing, we will begin to turn things around," he said.