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Profile: Goodluck Jonathan
Nigeria's first president from the southern Niger Delta oil region, has risen to power largely by accident.
Last Modified: 24 Feb 2010 09:34

 

Goodluck Jonathan has risen to power largely through default, rather than by design [EPA]

Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, the country's first head of state from the southern Niger Delta oil region, has enjoyed a meteoric rise to power largely through being in the right place at the right time.

He has managed to live up to his name, bestowed by parents who had high expectations, and also gave him a middle name that means "God's wish".

Born in the Niger Delta in November 1957, the year after oil was discovered in the region, Jonathan did not follow in the footsteps of his family, who were canoemakers, but went and studied zoology. He later became an education inspector, lecturer and environmental protection officer.

In 1998 he began a career in politics after joining the People's Democratic Party (PDP), and a year later was elected as deputy governor of Bayelsa, one of three main states in the Niger Delta.

Six years later, Jonathan found himself catapulted to high office after his boss was impeached, leaving the deputy to be sworn in as governor in the oil-producing state.

'Underwhelming personality'

In 2007, just two years later, he was picked to run as a vice-presidential candidate in the 2007 elections, after other more influential politicians from the region were tainted by an anti-corruption investigation.

His selection to run alongside Umaru Yar'Adua, who became president that year, was also about regional politics, with the ruling party keen to find a solution to the conflict in the oil-producing delta.

It was also hoped that he could provide a balancing act between the Muslim north and the Christian south in Nigeria, two sides which the presidency traditionally switches between every eight years.

Yar'Adua is from the Muslim north and Jonathan from the Christian south.

But when Yar'Adua died in May 2010, leaving Jonathan to once again take the reigns by default, it meant a southerner was taking the role that should technically have been filled by a candidate from the Muslim north.

His candidacy in this election is therefore controversial as it flies in the face of the pact made in the PDP.

Since his time in office, Jonathan has vowed to fight corruption and promised to push through electoral reforms, although there has been little progress and cases against politicians remain unprosecuted.

However unlike some previous leaders, Jonathan has not been directly accused of corruption himself.

In August 2010, he announced his biggest policy drive; a multi-billion dollar strategy to end chronic power shortages by privatising the domestic energy sector.

Jonathan, who is usually dressed in a trademark fedora, is seen as lacking the charisma of previous Nigerian leaders.

A former US ambassador described him  as having an "underwhelming personality" before he assumed the country's highest office, according to diplomatic cables obtained by WikiLeaks.

Source:
Agencies
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