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How I came back from land of the dead, says Okoh

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Former Primate Nicholas Okoh (left) and wife, Mrs. Nkasiobi Okoh, during the thanksgiving service

All through the period he was Primate for 10 years, as well as Bishop of Abuja, Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), the Most Rev. Nicholas Okoh, was never sick, much less thinking of going abroad for medical treatment. Unfortunately, after he retired from active service on March 25, 2020 as the fourth Primate of the church, a life-threatening illness came calling, thereby confining the once agile and hardworking immediate past Primate to a sick bed in the hospital. Primate Okoh could have died in that sickness, but God showed him mercy and reversed the curse. As he came back to life, the Church of Nigeria under the primacy of the Most Rev’d Henry Ndukuba felt they should organise a thanksgiving service for him and use the opportunity to thank the Most High for His benevolence.

At the Cathedral Church of the Advent Abuja, last Sunday, where the service, tagged: “Thanksgiving Service For The Recovery of His Grace, The Most Rev’d (Dr.) Nicholas Okoh” was held for him, the church auditorium was filled to capacity with different dignitaries in attendance.

An elated Okoh, accompanied by his wife and friends, was so happy to testify God’s goodness and mercy.

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He said: “Praise ye the Lord. I travelled to the land of the dead and the Lord brought me back. I want to use this opportunity to thank Almighty God, Who is the Father of us all for the wonderful things He has done for me, that I did not retire unto death.”

Recalling that none of his predecessors suffered such sickness, Okoh prayed to God, saying, “At a point, I was counting it. I said former primates, including Olufosoye did not retire to death, Adetiloye did not retire to death and Akinola did not retire to death. So, I will not start it. I am very grateful to God. I want to thank our Primate Henry Ndukuba in a special way, for the initiative to handle this thanksgiving in a special way. It wasn’t my idea. What I thought was that I should come to church quietly do my thanksgiving, but he persuaded me that this is the way, we should do it and I think his idea is better, so we thank you very much.

He continued: “I want to thank my wife and children because it got to a point when we did not know what to do. Some suggested I should go to the United Kingdom. Actually, we made arrangement to go and fortunately, we found one hospital that accepted us, and that is where Primate’s brother works. But later, they said because of COVID-19 I shouldn’t come again. I was downcast, but then, there was quickly another initiative, which I would call John Opara’s initiative. My friend arranged that I should be taken to Dubai quickly, but that one also started to develop problem. I said maybe this was going to be the end. I said no problem, that we would face it. Then, they said if we could not go to Dubai, we should go to Abu Dhabi, but that place is very hot. Again, that one failed because I couldn’t see myself staying in that hot place, especially with my health condition.

“Then another plan surfaced that I should go to South Africa, but that was where the negotiations broke down. I have been to South Africa before, but my spirit did not want to go there, just like from the beginning. I ruled out going to India. So, the children now said if you don’t want to go to South Africa, and you don’t want to go to India, where else do you want to go, you want to die? I said no. Let us be praying and those people warned me that I was losing time very fast. I said okay and instead of going to South Africa, as they are black people like us, let me go to Nigeria and face it.”

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Because of how severe the sickness was, there were suggestions that he should be taken to hospitals outside the country, but he objected to those suggestions and settled for Nigeria.

“One consolation I had for choosing Nigeria was that if I died, my wife and children would see me live; they would see my body and everything. They didn’t have to put me in a cargo to bring me back,” he said. “So, we settled it that way and I decided to go and face it. We were admitted and after one week of admission, I developed a robust confidence that the Nigerian hospital would be able to do it.”

Explaining that not everybody in the church knew about his sickness, he appealed to members, saying: “I am very sorry that many of you didn’t know, even the clergy because the hospital said they would not like to control church members in the hospital because of COVID-19. They said too many people going and coming would not be helpful. So, I think about three or four clergy, and of course the Primate, were visiting, although they saw me through the glass. They didn’t come in initially, to show you how serious it was. They were only able to speak to me through phone, but thank God I can speak to them directly now.

“I am grateful to my Governor, His Excellency Ifeanyi Okowa and his wife, Dame Evangelist Edith Okowa. They were there from the beginning, calling every day and every night to know my condition. They even persuaded me to go abroad, but together, we were all trying the United Kingdom (UK) axis and it didn’t work out. So, they all agreed with me that I should face it here with prayers. I thank them for this decision. For one thing, you know that in this country, if anything happens to you, people will say witch has killed him or her and I said I cannot be a Primate and witch will come and kill me. If I die I will die naturally.

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“I called prominent leaders in my community and told them, “If I die, they should not disturb my wife. She is not the one who killed me because the usual thing is to start pointing accusing fingers at your wife, saying, ‘she’s the one that killed him.’ No! Maybe as I retire from primacy I also retire from this world. However, we thank God it didn’t happen that way.”

Appreciating what God has done for him, Okoh said: “God helped us, the governor, his wife, Godson and all of them by putting their hands together to ensure nobody generated any tension about my ill-health. I want to say that John Opara has shown me friendship. We worked together for almost 10 years at NCPC, and I enjoyed that period. He is an honest young man, a diligent worker and I’m sure wherever he works, he will succeed, just as he is succeeding where he is now. John, thank you very much! The clergymen who came were strictly warned not to pass the information because it could have a bandwagon effect. So, I am not saying that those of you who didn’t come aren’t my friends. You are my friends for not disobeying hospital orders.

“Those who came twice or thrice, we were able to manage their presence, even though the hospital staff wondered why were going and coming in, but I told them I needed people. So, we thank you, we are very grateful. We don’t know how to thank you, but for the Primate, the clergy, the choristers, the men and women in the church of God, we say thank you and thank you again.”

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