Goodluck Jonathan – Biography And Life Of The 14th President Of Nigeria

Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan GCFRGCON (born 20 November 1957)is a Nigerian politician who served as the President of Nigeria from 2010 to 2015. He lost the 2015 presidential election to former military head of state General Muhammadu Buhari, marking the first time in the history of Nigeria that an incumbent president lost re-election and conceded defeat. Prior to that, he served as Vice President of Nigeria from 2007 to 2010; and in oil-rich Bayelsa State as Governor of Bayelsa State from 2005 to 2007.

Early life

Jonathan was born on 20 November 1957 in Ogbia to a Christian family of canoe makers, from the Ijaw minority ethnic group. He received a bachelor degree in zoology (second-class honours), a masters degree in hydrobiology and fisheries biology; and a doctorate in zoology from the University of Port Harcourt.

Political career

Deputy Governor And Governor

Goodluck began his political career in 1998 when he was chosen by Diepreye Alaimeyesiegha as running mate. Diepreye was the gubernatorial candidate of the People’s Democratic Party, Bayelsa State. The duo won the election and they were sworn in on May 29, 1999.

Luckily, they were also re-elected in 2004. Jonathan was recognised as the most hardworking deputy governor in Nigeria as a result of his support for Diepreye.

Jonathan continued in his service as the deputy governor until December 12, 2005 when he was sworn in as governor. This was because of the impeachment of Governor Diepreye by the National Assembly for money laundering in United Kingdom.

Before his entry into politics in 1998, he worked as an education inspector, a lecturer and an environmental-protection officer

Vice President of Nigeria

As a vice-president, Jonathan took a very low profile. While recognising the constitutional limits of the vice-president’s office, he participated in cabinet meetings and, by statute, was a member of the National Security Council, the National Defence Council, the Federal Executive Council, and was the Chairman of National Economic Council.

Goodluck Jonathan was instrumental in negotiating an agreement with many of the major militant groups in the Niger Delta, to lay down their weapons and stop fighting as part of a government amnesty.[10]


Main article: Presidency of Goodluck Jonathan

On 9 February 2010, following a controversial doctrine of necessity from the Nigerian Senate, Goodluck Jonathan was named acting President due to President Yar’Adua’s trip to Saudi Arabia in November 2009 for medical treatment. On 10 February 2010, during his first day as acting president, Jonathan announced a minor cabinet reshuffle.

Order of succession

In accordance with the order of succession in the Nigerian constitution following President Umaru Yar’Adua‘s death on 5 May 2010, acting President Goodluck Jonathan was sworn in as the substantive President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on 6 May 2010. A year later, on 29 May 2011 he was sworn in as President, Commander-in Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria, becoming Nigeria’s 14th Head of State. He gave his inauguration address where he declared his government was to focus on a Transformation Agenda. He cited anti-corruption, power and electoral reforms as focuses of his administration. He stated that he came to office under “very sad and unusual circumstances”. On 18 May 2010, the National Assembly approved Jonathan’s nomination of Kaduna State governorNamadi Sambo, to replace him as Vice President.

2011 presidential elections

Further information: 2011 Nigerian presidential election

On 15 September 2010, Jonathan announced on Facebook that he had decided to run for public office on his own for the first time, in the race for the presidency of Nigeria in 2011.

In the contest for the Peoples Democratic Party nomination, Goodluck Jonathan was up against the former vice-president Atiku Abubakar and Mrs. Sarah Jubril. On 13 January 2011 the primary election results was announced in Eagle Square, Abuja. Jonathan was declared winner with a victory in two-thirds of the states of the Federation counted. For the general election in 2011, Jonathan and Vice-President Sambo attended political events and travelled the country to campaign for the nation’s highest office. Jonathan won the general election against General Muhammadu Buhari and his running mate Pastor Tunde Bakare with 59% of the votes. On 18 April 2011, Jonathan was declared the winner of the election.

National issues

2010 Nigerian lead poisoning incident

In January 2013, Jonathan reportedly promised $4 million to assist in cleaning up villages that have been affected by a lead poisoning incident. Over 400 children died and Human Rights Watch said that releasing the funds “could be lifesaving for countless children.”

2012 Occupy Nigeria protests

Main article: Occupy Nigeria

On 1 January 2012, the Jonathan administration announced the start of a controversial plan to end fuel subsidies. Following the Nigeria Labour Congress’ warning that the country faces many strikes, the country unions followed up with strikes that were matched with civil protests from 9–13 January 2012.Protesters and groups called for Jonathan to resign over the removal of fuel subsidies. After five days of national protests and strikes, on 16 January, Jonathan announced that the pump price of petroleum would be 97 naira per litre compared with a post-subsidy level of 147 naira.

The government followed the advice of international experts that claimed the fuel subsidy ($8 billion per year, or 25% of the government annual budget) was not sustainable. Brookings Institution, a think tank, praised the government’s move, arguing that the subsidy crowds out other development spending, like education, and that it discourages investment in the country’s economic lifeblood, the oil sector. In his book, “My Transition Hours, Goodluck Jonathan said that subsidy was consuming too much of our revenues and the public believed that the sector was highly corrupt. He mentioned that the Minister of Finance Ngozi Okonjo Iweala briefed him about the corrupt practices that a technical committee she had put together discovered. He said that he was alarmed that billions of naira was being lost by the nation through the subsidy regime.

Many prominent Nigerians spoke out against the removal of the subsidy. Former Petroleum Minister Professor Tam David-West spoke out and expressed concern that the planned removal of the fuel subsidy will squeeze the economy, increase inflation, and hurt both businesses and the public. A former military Head of State and a former Minister for Petroleum & Natural Resources, General Buhari, urged Jonathan not to remove the fuel subsidy and to tackle corruption. Yakubu Gowon, another former military Head of State, warned the government that the country’s infrastructure should be revived before fuel subsidy removal steps were taken. Former military president Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, joined millions of Nigerians protesting against the removal of the fuel subsidy by the Jonathan administration, saying that the action is ill-timed.

2014 National Conference

Further information: 2014 National Conference

In March 2014, President Jonathan inaugurated the 2014 National Conference. The conference the first of its kind since the 2005 political reform conference, had 492 delegates that debated on key socio-political national issues impeding national development.

2014 Ebola outbreak

Further information: Ebola in Nigeria

On 20 July 2014, Patrick Sawyer, a Liberian-American, flew from Monrovia to Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos, with a stopover at Lomé in Togo. He was subsequently described as having appeared to be “terribly ill” when he left Monrovia. Sawyer became violently ill upon arriving at the airport and died five days later. In response, the Nigerian government observed all of Sawyer’s contacts for signs of infection and increased surveillance at all entry points to the country.

On 6 August 2014, the Nigerian health minister told reporters, “Yesterday the first known Nigerian to die of Ebola was recorded. This was one of the nurses that attended to the Liberian. The other five newly confirmed cases are being treated at an isolation ward.” The doctor who treated Sawyer, Ameyo Adadevoh, subsequently also died of Ebola.On 22 September 2014, the Nigeria health ministry announced, “As of today, there is no case of Ebola in Nigeria. All listed contacts who were under surveillance have been followed up for 21 days. “According to the WHO, 20 cases and 8 deaths had been confirmed, along with the imported case, who also died. Four of the dead were health care workers who had cared for Sawyer. In all, 529 contacts had been followed and of that date they had all completed a 21-day mandatory period of surveillance.

2014 Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act

In January 2014, Jonathan signed into law the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act after it was passed by the Senate and House of Representatives.

 The law prohibits gay relationships, membership and other involvement in gay societies and organisations and gay marriages. The bill comes after international polls showed that 98% of Nigerians did not think homosexuality should be accepted by society, the highest percentage of any country surveyed. Penalties can be up to 14 years in prison for gay marriages and up to 10 years for other violations of the law. Within a short period, the federal police department compiled a list of 168 gay people who would subsequently be jailed. Within days 38 lesbian and gay people had been jailed, with arrests beginning during Christmas. The anti-LGBT bill stipulates that those who withhold the details of LGBT individuals face prison terms of up to five years. His decision and the law itself have been described as controversial, but according to a poll, 92% of Nigerians supported the ban.

Security issues

Jonathan’s administration was heavily criticized for its failure to tackle insecurity. The first major challenge was the October 2010 Independence Day bombing. Okah told the court that President Jonathan and his aides organised the attacks in Abuja in a desperate political strategy to demonise political opponents, including former military head of state General Ibrahim Babangida, and to win popular sympathy ahead of the elections.


On 29 May 2011, a few hours after Goodluck Jonathan was sworn in as president, several bombings purportedly by Boko Haram killed 15 and injured 55. On 16 June 2011, Boko Haram claimed to have conducted the Abuja police headquarters bombing, the first known suicide attack in Nigeria. Two months later the United Nations building in Abuja was bombed, signifying the first time that Boko Haram attacked an international organisation. In December 2011, it carried out attacks in Damaturu killing over a hundred people, subsequently clashing with security forces in December, resulting in at least 68 deaths. Two days later on Christmas Day, Boko Haram attacked several Christian churches with bomb blasts and shootings.


Between 3 and 7 January 2015, Boko Haram attacked the town of Baga and killed up to 2,000 people, perhaps the largest massacre by Boko Haram. On 10 January 2015, a bomb attack took place at the Monday Market in Maiduguri, killing 19 people. The city is considered to be at the heart of the Boko Haram insurgency. In the early hours of 25 January 2015, Boko Haram launched a major assault on the city. On 26 January 2015 CNN reported that the attack on Maiduguri by “hundreds of gunmen” had been repelled, but the nearby town of Monguno was captured by Boko Haram. The Nigerian Army claimed to have successfully repelled another attack on Maiduguri on 31 January 2015. Starting in late January 2015, a coalition of military forces from Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, and Niger began a counter-insurgency campaign against Boko Haram. On 4 February 2015, the Chad Army killed over 200 Boko Haram militants. Soon afterwards, Boko Haram launched an attack on the Cameroonian town of Fotokol, killing 81 civilians, 13 Chadian soldiers and 6 Cameroonian soldiers.

On 17 February 2015 the Nigerian military retook Monguno in a coordinated air and ground assault. On 7 March 2015, Boko Haram’s leader Abubakar Shekau pledged allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) via an audio message posted on the organisation’s Twitter account. Nigerian army spokesperson Sami Usman Kukasheka said the pledge was a sign of weakness and that Shekau was like a “drowning man”. That same day, five suicide bomb blasts left 54 dead and 143 wounded. On 12 March 2015, ISIL’s spokesman Abu Mohammad al-Adnani released an audiotape in which he welcomed the pledge of allegiance, and described it as an expansion of the group’s caliphate to West Africa. Following its declaration of loyalty to ISIL, Boko Haram was designated as the group’s “West Africa Province” (Islamic State West Africa Province, or ISWAP) while Shekau was appointed as its first vali (governor). Furthermore, ISIL started to support Boko Haram, but also began to interfere in its internal matters. For example, ISIL’s central leadership attempted to reduce Boko Haram’s brutality toward civilians and internal critics, as Shekau’s ideology was “too extreme even for the Islamic State”.

On 24 March 2015, residents of Damasak, Nigeria said that Boko Haram had taken more than 400 women and children from the town as they fled from coalition forces. On 27 March 2015 the Nigerian army captured Gwoza, which was believed to be the location of Boko Haram headquarters.On Election Day, 28 March 2015, Boko Haram extremists killed 41 people, including a legislator, to discourage hundreds from voting. Niger Army soldiers during counter-insurgency operations against Boko Haram in March 2015. In March 2015, Boko Haram lost control of the Northern Nigerian towns of Bama and Gwoza (believed to be their headquarters) to the Nigerian army. The Nigerian authorities said that they had taken back 11 of the 14 districts previously controlled by Boko Haram. In April 2016, four Boko Haram camps in the Sambisa Forest were overrun by the Nigerian military who freed nearly 300 females. Boko Haram forces were believed to have retreated to the Mandara Mountains, along the Cameroon–Nigeria border. On 16 March 2015, the Nigerian army said that it had recaptured Bama. On 27 March 2015, the day before the Nigerian presidential election, the Nigerian Army announced that it had recaptured the town of Gwoza from Boko Haram.

By April 2015, the Nigerian military was reported to have retaken most of the areas previously controlled by Boko Haram in Northeastern Nigeria, except for the Sambisa Forest. In May 2015, the Nigerian military announced that they had released about 700 women from camps in Sambisa Forest.

Foreign policy

Jonathan and President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama in 2014

Under President Goodluck Jonathan, Nigeria’s foreign policy was reviewed to reflect a “citizen-focused” approach, designed to “accord this vision of defending the dignity of humanity the highest priority” and connect foreign policy to domestic policy, while placing a greater emphasis on economic diplomacy.


Under the Goodluck Jonathan administration, Nigeria rebased its GDP for the first time in over a decade to become the largest economy in Africa- overtaking South Africa and Egypt in the process. Jonathan promised to continue implementing the seven-point agenda policy framework of President Umaru Musa Yar’adua.


In 2012, upon the partial removal of petrol subsidies, the Jonathan administration instituted a subsidy re-investment programme designed to spend the money saved from partial petrol price deregulation on physical infrastructure such as roads, bridges, etc., across the country. The Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Program (SURE-P) was also intended to improve maternal health and reduce maternal mortality.

Oil revenue

The Jonathan administration accrued over US$454 billion while in office. the luckiest of the leader is the former president Goodluck Johnathan, whose administration in five years, between 2010 and 2015, earned about N51 trillion from petroleum resources.


The Jonathan administration oversaw the construction of new railways in the country, including the Abuja-Kaduna railway, Lagos-Ibadan railway and conceptualised high speed rail projects. Construction and beautification of many federal roads in the country, including the Lagos-Benin expressway, Abuja-Lokoja expressway, Enugu-Abakiliki expressway, Onitsha-Owerri highway and most parts of the Enugu-Port Harcourt expressway. Also, construction of the second Niger Bridge between Onitsha and Asaba to relieve the pressure on the old Niger Bridge which was completed in December 1965. Construction of airports across the country. The Akanu Ibiam Airport in Enugu was upgradede into an international airport, directly connecting the South-East region of the country to the outside world for the first time since independence.

Power sector privatisation

On 2 August 2010, Jonathan launched his ‘Roadmap for Power Sector Reform‘. Its primary goal was to achieve stable electricity supply in Nigeria. Historically, the Nigerian Power Sector has been plagued by blackouts. Economists estimate that power outages have cost Nigeria, Africa’s biggest economy, billions of dollars in imported diesel for generators and lost output. In a study conducted by the World Bank, a lack of access to financing and electricity were cited as Nigeria’s main obstacles to development, surpassing corruption. President Jonathan has overseen the privatisation of Nigeria’s power sector with the end goal being the establishment of an efficient and reliable power supply infrastructure for the Nigerian population. The Power Holding Company of Nigeria, which acted as the nation’s electricity provider, has been broken up into 15 firms, with Nigeria handing over control of state electricity assets to 15 private bidding companies. The Nigerian government contracted for the services of CPCS Transcom Limited, a Canada-based consulting firm specialising in transportation and energy infrastructure projects, to act as the transaction adviser for the handover of state electricity assets.

2015 presidential election

Outgoing President Jonathan in handshake with newly sworn-in President Muhammadu Buhari at Eagle Square in Abuja, Nigeria, on May 29, 2015.

Jonathan believed the APC’s popularity was inflated, having made his view clear in an interview with The Cable, Nigeria’s Independent Online Newspaper in 2015—just two days to the general elections. Jonathan said “I don’t think Nigerians will make the mistake of voting for Buhari. Gen. Buhari, with due respect, is not the right option for Nigeria at this time. It is a gamble that is not worth taking. I may not be perfect as nobody is perfect. But I believe that come Saturday, the majority of Nigerian voters will choose me as the best candidate to lead the nation forward.”

On 31 March 2015, Jonathan conceded the election to challenger Muhammadu Buhari, who was sworn in to succeed him on 29 May 2015. Jonathan said in a statement he issued on 31 March 2015 that “Nobody’s ambition is worth the blood of any Nigerian.”


Since leaving office, Jonathan has continued to defend his administration. In 2019, he was appointed as the honorary Special Adviser to the Bayelsa Education Trust Fund Board. In June 2019, Goodluck Jonathan emerged as chairperson of the newly inaugurated International Summit Council for Peace (ISCP). In July 2020, Jonathan was appointed Special Envoy of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS); to lead mediation talks during the 2020 Malian protests.

Personal life


Jonathan and his wife, Dame Jonathan Patience, have two children, Ariwera (Son) and Aruabai (daughter).


In 2007, Jonathan declared his assets worth a total of 295,304,420 (then equivalent to US$8,569,662).


National honours

Foreign honours

Other honours

  • In 2013, Dr. Jonathan was awarded the chieftaincy title of the Se lolia I of Wakirike Bese. His wife, Dame Patience, also received a title of her own during the same ceremony.

Presidential Accomplishments

Goodluck Jonathan launched the power sector reformation on August 2, 2010 with the aim of achieving a stable electricity supply in Nigeria. He oversaw the privatization of the Nigeria’s power sector by breaking the Power Holding Company of Nigeria into 15 firms. He then contracted the service of a Canada-based consulting firm, CPCS Transcom Limited to act as the transaction adviser for the handing over of state electricity assets.

Also, he launched the Youth Enterprise with Innovation in Nigeria (YoUWiN) on October 11, 2011. YouWin is a national business plan competition that harnesses the creative energies of young people and help their businesses grow. It is for small business owners whose enterprise can create employment for other youths.

Goodluck created the transformation agenda with a summary of the Federal Government plans on how to deliver projects, programs and key priority policies. With this, he promoted social advancement through gender inclusion and equity.

He also expanded access to education through the establishments of tertiary institution and primary schools. In addition, he worked on agriculture, industrial production and creative industries.

Lastly, he displayed his love for peace and democracy after he lost the 2015 election to Major General Muhammadu Buhari. He called the then president elect and congratulated him. It was first in the history of the country.

Goodluck Jonathan Foundation

Jonathan is the founder and CEO of the Goodluck Jonathan Foundation. He believes that peace and harmony is a prerequisite for a nation’s economic growth and poverty reduction. As a lover of peace, he established the foundation in order to raise civic awareness, promote political transition and increase political participation across Africa.

GEJ Foundation is interested in the nation’s sustainable prosperity. So, it supports youth and women enterprises by giving them access to skills acquisition, and training opportunities that enhances their income earning capabilities.

Recently, the foundation organised a one-day conference on peaceful elections, and national development in Abuja on February, 7, 2019.

Goodluck Jonathan Awards

  • Platinum Award, Glo-Caf Awards, 2013
  • Primatial Award, Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion, 2014.
  • Peace Loving Global Citizen Award, Universal Peace Federation (UPF), for accepting the 2015 presidential poll result, 2015.
  • President’s Award, Southern Christian Leadership Conference, SCLC, in recognition of his leadership in human rights, social justice and the universal fight for freedom. 2016
  • Leadership Person of the Year, Leadership Newspaper Awards, 2016
  • Personality of the Year, Vanguard, 2016
  • International Person of the Year, The African Sun Times, 2016
  • Icon of Democracy Awards, Ignatius Ajuru University of Education, Rivers, 2018
  • Grand Award as the Ijaw Man For All Season, Ijaw Republican Assembly, 2018

Goodluck Jonathan Quotes

“The stronger the boat (of democracy), the more it is able to meet the challenges of its voyage and deliver on its promise to citizens.”

“Any society or country that closes the vital valves of its democratic space cannot develop at a reasonable pace.”

“Nobody’s ambition is worth the blood of any Nigerian.”

“Where there is no opportunity for one man one vote, there will be no accountability and no responsibility.”

“Democracy is a journey that every nation mindful of advancing the liberty of its citizens must undertake.”

“No matter your political interest, you must place your country first. You must show some kind of patriotism.

“The most important thing is the nation that belongs to all of us.”

“It is the supreme task of this generation to give hope to the hopeless, strength to the weak and protection to the defenseless.”

“Somebody must sacrifice and work for the next generation otherwise, your children’s children will suffer the same predicaments as you have.”

“We must develop a democratic culture in which the will of the people will be treated as sacred and be immune to subversion by anti-democratic elements.”

“As we strive to advance our democratic development, there will be times when our will shall be tested, our patience provoked and our belief questioned.”

“The beauty of democracy is that its practice is never final and always has room for improvement no matter how old a democratic society may be.”

Life is a journey, in it are many roads, intersections and stops.”

“Where we falter, we must not fail. When we are weak, we must not surrender.”

Entrepreneurial Lessons from the Life of Goodluck Jonathan

Failure is not the end. After Jonathan conceded defeat in the election, he has gained both local and international recognition. This has also made him to be more prominent than he was even in the office. A lesson to entrepreneurs; failure is not the end. A successful person is the one that stands up after failing.

Don’t be afraid to climb the ladder from the bottom. Jonathan started as a deputy governor, little did he know he was going to be the president of Nigeria. As entrepreneurs, don’t despise the days of your little beginnings. Stay focused and you will be amazed at how things will turn out in the end.

Be loyal and work hard. One of the hidden qualifications of this icon of democracy is that he is loyal and hard-working. No wonder he was the best deputy governor in Nigeria during his time.

His loyalty was what earned him the recommendations for higher political positions. As aspiring entrepreneurs who have a 9-5, you have to be committed and loyal to what you are doing. The rewards are always worth it in the end.

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