First Lady Patience Jonathan yesterday opened up for the first time on her controversial medical trip last year, admitting that at a time she was terribly down and was close to dying.
Mrs Jonathan, who spoke at a special thanksgiving service at the Aso Rock Chapel, said she underwent up to nine surgeries in one month and at some point, her doctors lost hope after she “passed out for more than a week.”
She said she was ferried to the operation theatre almost on daily basis.
“It was not an easy experience for me,” Mrs Jonathan told the congregation which included senior government officials. “I actually died. I passed out for more than a week. My intestine and tummy were opened.”
Mrs Jonathan said while she lay dying in the German hospital, friends and associates who hoped she would not return to Nigeria alive, scrambled for her properties, “selling those they could.” She accused some undisclosed people she trusted of leaking information to the public that she had passed on.
“I know that some people somehow leaked the information that I was dead. They are people that I trust and rely on. To them, I was dead and I would never return to the country alive,” she said. “Some of them even sold my things off...I won’t say everything here.” Mrs Jonathan was admitted at the Horst Schmidt Klinik in Germany for an undisclosed ailment, but some reports suggested she was treated for lungs and abdominal problems. The presidency ensured that the public was kept in the dark about her condition.
Narrating her ordeal at the church service, she said, “I am not Lazarus but my experience was similar to his. My doctors said all hope was lost. It was God himself in His infinite mercy that said I will return to Nigeria. God woke me up after seven days,” she said.
President Goodluck Jonathan, ministers and top government functionaries attended the event yesterday, where the First Lady narrated how she went through “hell” while in hospital and said she has dedicated her life to serving the needy.
She said: “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 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.”
The First Lady said she believed God gave her a second chance because she had not completed her assignment in this world. “He knew I had not completed the assignments He gave me that was why I was sent back,” she said.
“It was not an easy one. 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 privilege. God gave me a second chance because I reached there,” she said.
The wife of the president recalled the death of Chief Stella Obasanjo, spouse of former President Olusegun Obasanjo who died while in office and how the incident had left a painful memory with her in view of her close friendship with the late former First Lady.
She said: “I remember when Chief Obasanjo was the pPresident 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,” she said.
Speaking at the occasion President Jonathan said the recovery of his wife, from a life-threatening illness ends the mystery of death of a leader or spouse at the Presidential Villa.
Jonathan said that the insinuation of the mystery of death at the seat of power in Aso Rock was rife during his wife’s illness.
He expressed gratitude to God for keeping the life of his wife, saying, “If anything had happened, there would have been different stories from different people, false prophets and many other things would have followed.
“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 will prevail,’’ the president said. Those in attendance include past presidents, Gen. Yakubu Gowon and Chief Ernest Shonekan. Others include the former President of Ghana John Kuffour, John Cardinal Onaiyekan, Hajiya Maryam Abacha, Justice Alooma Mukhtar and Alhaji Bamanga Tukur.