Mrs. Patience Jonathan
Ike Abonyi, Muhammad Bello and Sunday Aghaeze
After 54 days of absence, Nigeria’s First Lady, Mrs. Patience Jonathan, arrived in the country Wednesday to a rousing reception from a crowd that included ministers, wives of governors and presidential aides.
The presidential jet, which brought her from Germany, where she had reportedly received treatment for an undisclosed illness, touched down at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja just before 4 pm.
The first lady was also received by female ministers and other presidential aides at the airport, with the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, saying, “We thank God she is back and she is well.”
On sighting her as she disembarked from the plane, the crowd became frenetic and burst into various songs to welcome her back while some of them kept chanting “mummy welcome.”
The crowd, comprising mostly women, youth groups and traditional dancers, dressed in different colourful outfits, sang and danced, thanking God for her safe arrival.
The carnival-like atmosphere overwhelmed the first lady who shunned attempts by protocol officials to shepherd her into a waiting car as she joined the crowd, hugging the people and dancing.
Dressed in a multi-coloured bou-bou with a scarf to match, Mrs. Jonathan, in an interview with the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), thanked Nigerians for their prayers, and the warm reception accorded her.
She dismissed report that she had cosmetic surgery or had received treatments at the Horst Schmidt Klinic in Wiesbaden, Germany.
After about 25 minutes of the reception at the airport, she was driven to the State House where she arrived into the warm embrace of her husband, President Goodluck Jonathan, their children, her mother-in-law, Mrs. Eunice Jonathan, and her domestic staff at about 5 pm.
She took up her critics who insinuated that she might die in the State House like former military Head of State, Gen. Sani Abacha; former First Lady, Mrs. Stella Obasanjo; and President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua.
She said: “Thank God Almighty for bringing me back safely to Nigeria. Wherever there are good people, there are also bad ones.
“There are few Nigerians that were saying whatever they liked; not what God planned because God has a plan for all of us. And God has said it all that where two or three are gathered in His name that, He will be with them.
“Nigerians gathered and prayed for me and God listened and heard their prayers, so I thank God for that.”
She added: “At the same time, I will use this opportunity to tell those few ones that are saying that anybody that goes to the Villa or Aso Rock will die.
“They mentioned Abacha; they mentioned Stella Obasanjo; they mentioned Yar'Adua and other people. But why did those people not mention those who went there with their families and succeeded and they still came out alive?
“We should remember that Aso Rock is the seat of power and that is where God has ordained for us Nigerians that our leaders should rule from and to rule us right. God is wonderful and His infinite mercy endures.”
She said that she had read media reports that said she was in the hospital, but dismissed them, stating “God Almighty knows I have never been to that hospital; I don't even know the hospital they mentioned.
“I have to explain what God has done for me. I do not have a terminal illness, neither did I do any cosmetic surgery talk more or less of tummy tuck.
“My husband loves me as I am and I am pleased with how God created me; I cannot add anything.
“But at the same time, I will use this opportunity to thank my beloved husband and my children and my staff in general and all Nigerians for standing by me during my trying times.
“God has given me a second chance to come and work with the women of Nigeria, children and the less privileged. I have come to serve Nigeria; I have come to work with Nigerians, I am here for them. Once more, I am pleased to be back. I love Nigerians, they are my family.”
Earlier, on her arrival at the State House, members of her staff welcomed her with songs in Ijaw dialect, clapping and dancing. The song translated means, “Thank you God. You have done us good. Thank God. Lord, you have done us good. Thank you.”
They turned out in T-shirts emblazoned with her pictures and with inscriptions: “We love you”, “We miss you”, “Welcome back, “May you live long.”
Some of the other dignitaries at the State House to welcome her were the Bayelsa State Governor, Hon. Seriake Dickson; Minister of State for Education, Mr. Nyesom Wike, Chief Personal Physician to the president and other senior political aides.
THISDAY gathered that the first lady left the German hospital around 11 am and was taken to an undisclosed location by senior officials of the Nigerian Embassy in Germany.
Indications that the first lady would certainly return yesterday unlike on previous occasions when it had been rumoured that she would return, emerged when some uniformed and plain-clothes security operatives started mounting sentries at strategic routes along the route leading to the airport as early as 9 am Wednesday.
Also, at the usually serene presidential wing of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, an extraordinary security cordon was noticed as early as 8 am.
Visitors also started besieging the airport from noon when buses carrying women in different groups took over the better part of the presidential wing.
Prior to her arrival, a retinue of wives of state governors, politicians, officials of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), female ministers and other well-wishers had thronged the airport dressed in different uniforms.
It was gathered that Mrs. Jonathan, who was hospitalised for an undisclosed ailment, had requested that she should be discharged after her husband visited her about a week ago.
In August, various news sites had reported that she was first treated for food poisoning, which she contacted during a trip to Dubai and subsequently underwent an operation for a ruptured appendix.