Goodluck Jonathan a fortunate leader

2014-11-11 21:13
A poster promoting Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan's 2015 re-election in 2015 in Abuja. (Ola Awoniyi, AFP)

A poster promoting Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan's 2015 re-election in 2015 in Abuja. (Ola Awoniyi, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Lagos - An incumbent president running for re-election who has lost parts of his country to Islamist rebels and whose administration has been hit by waves of massive corruption scandals arguably has reason to worry.

But Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, who launched his re-election bid on Tuesday, has repeatedly defied expectations in his rise through the country's ruthless political world.

Many have described his ascent to power as accidental - or simply a matter of luck.

The 56-year-old southern Christian, the first head of state from the oil-producing Niger Delta, was thrust into the presidency in 2010 following the death of his predecessor Umaru Musa Yar'Adua, a Muslim from the north.

The mild-mannered Jonathan is from a family of canoe makers who became a zoology professor before joining politics in 1998.

"I personally call him the accidental president. It was chance, good luck," said Adewale Maja-Pearce, a Lagos-based writer and contributing columnist for the International New York Times.

"He was plucked from obscurity because he was considered pliable."

The right place at the right time

As for his distinctive name, his late father was quoted as saying that he "called him Goodluck because although life was hard for me when he was born, I had this feeling that this boy would bring me good luck".

Fortune certainly seems to have favoured Jonathan as he grew older.

An unconfirmed report long circulated in local media that Jonathan, elected assistant senior prefect at his secondary school, grabbed the top post when the head prefect was expelled.

His rise in government was similarly fortuitous, becoming governor of his native Bayelsa state in 2005 after his predecessor was impeached over money-laundering charges in Britain.

The night he was nominated by his Peoples Democratic Party as Yar'Adua's running mate ahead of 2007 polls, most Nigerians had never heard of Jonathan.

A magazine once described the Nigerian leader as "hardly a man to set the pulse racing".

Boko Haram, corruption 

Jonathan launched his re-election campaign with Boko Haram controlling more than two dozen towns and villages in the northeast and the day after a suspected member of the Islamist group massacred nearly 50 students in a suicide bombing during morning assembly.

Analysts have said the five-year Boko Haram insurgency will likely hurt Jonathan politically in the northeast, an opposition stronghold, but doubt its electoral impact in the mostly Christian south where tribe and faith are often key factors in determining votes.

Earlier in his tenure, Jonathan won international praise for staffing his cabinet with accomplished technocrats, notably ex-World Bank vice-president Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who is his finance minister.

But there have been countless accusations of major government graft, notably from ex-central bank governor Sanusi Lamido Sanusi who said the state oil company misused nearly $20bn in public funds through 2012 and 2013.

And Jonathan has failed to connect Nigeria's masses with the nation's huge oil wealth.

Despite being Africa's top oil producer, most of the country's 170 million people live on less than $1.50 a day and only receive a paltry supply of electricity.

Read more on:    goodluck jonathan  |  nigeria  |  west africa

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.