As President Goodluck Jonathan gets set to exit office on May 29, one fond memory many would miss his administration for is the zest his better half, Dame Patience Jonathan, brought to bear in her reign as Nigeria’s First Lady.
Like some of her predecessors, she was in the limelight as much as her husband. There were few official trips, home and abroad that she did not accompany her husband to and in those she did, she was visible.
Back home, she did enough to earn knocks as well as kudos.
For some, her mannerisms and choice of words were sometimes uncharacteristic of a President’s wife, just as she got involved in the political system, much to the chagrin of some members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
But she had also earned accolades locally and internationally for her philanthropic work and empowerment initiatives, targeted at vulnerable women, girls and children, earning her the nickname, ‘mama peace’.
Yet, what many people however were not privy to was her recent ordeal shortly before the 2015 general elections.
Though, in 2012, she was hospitalized in Germany for several days, an official statement from her office said her sojourn abroad was to afford her to take time off to rest and not for medical purposes.
Perhaps with nothing more to lose, she seized the occasion of the valedictory thanksgiving church service at the Villa Chapel, Aso Rock to reveal how she survived several surgeries for an undisclosed ailment recently.
She admitted that in January, she had to sneak out of Nigeria for a major surgery during her husband’s presidential campaign after her health deteriorated.
In her words, “That campaigning time was a trial for me. Satan came in again and those that know the former president and his wife, her corpse was carried out of this place. We thank God that I and my husband are going alive,” perhaps, making a reference to Olusegun Obasanjo, whose wife Stella died while he was in office as president.
“This campaign period, devil struck and came in again. In pains I was rushed to the hospital in January and the doctors told me, mama you have to go for major big operation now now. What again! the campaign was still going on and I wondered how were we going to explain to Nigerians”.
Her decision to conceal her predicament during the period, she said, was to prevent the media from feasting on it.
On return to Nigeria, she stepped up the gear, taking the campaign for her husband’s re-election bid to the six geo-political zones, canvassing for votes.
But shortly after the 2015 general elections, she was scheduled to make another return to Germany, this time for a major surgery.
However, shortly before she was due for the theatre, another round of checkup by the doctors showed that there was no need for a surgery anymore as there was no trace of the ailment from the check up. A further check in four different hospitals also gave her a clean bill of health.
Her miraculous healing, she said, had come only after she had moved out of the Aso Rock Villa following the defeat of her husband during the presidential poll.
Many Nigerians had opined that the First Lady, since the outcome of the elections had not been seen in public meetings nor did she make any public utterance. When she eventually spoke, she let Nigerians in on what could have remained a mystery for a life time.
Born October 25, 1957, in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, South-South Nigeria, Dame Patience Jonathan is the current First Lady of Nigeria and a former permanent secretary in Bayelsa State.