Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan GCFR, GCON (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 ruler Muhammadu Buhari, becoming the first incumbent president to concede electoral defeat. Prior to that, he served as Vice President of Nigeria from 2007 to 2010 and as Governor of Bayelsa State from 2005 to 2007.
Family and personal life
Early life and education
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.
Jonathan is married to his wife, Dame Jonathan Patience and has 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).
Before his entry into politics in 1998, he worked as an education inspector, a lecturer and an environmental-protection officer.
Deputy Governor of Bayelsa
On 29 May 1999, Jonathan was sworn in as Deputy Governor of Bayelsa alongside Diepreye Alamieyeseigha who came in as the governor of the state on the platform of PDP. Jonathan served as Deputy Governor until December 2005.
Governor of Bayelsa
On 9 December 2005, Jonathan, who was the deputy governor at the time, was sworn in as the governor of Bayelsa State upon the impeachment of the current Governor Diepreye Alamieyeseigha by the Bayelsa State Assembly after being charged with money laundering in the United Kingdom.
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.
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 governor, Namadi 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
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 organizations 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.
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.
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.
Following the January 2012 Northern Nigeria attacks, which left over hundreds of casualties, Abubakar Shekau, a former deputy of Mohammed Yusuf, appeared in a video posted on YouTube. According to Reuters, Shekau took control of the group after Yusuf’s death in 2009. Authorities had previously believed that Shekau died during the violence in 2009. By early 2012, the group was responsible for over 900 deaths. On 8 March 2012, a small Special Boat Service team and the Nigerian Army attempted to rescue two hostages, Chris McManus and Franco Lamolinara, being held in Nigeria by members of the Boko Haram terrorist organisation loyal to al-Qaeda. The two hostages were killed before or during the rescue attempt. All the hostage takers were reportedly killed.
On 18 March, a bus station was bombed in Kano, with several Christian casualties. In May 2013, Nigerian government forces launched an offensive in the Borno region in an attempt to dislodge Boko Haram fighters after a state of emergency was called on 14 May 2013. The state of emergency, applied to the states of Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa in northeastern Nigeria. The offensive had initial success, but the Boko Haram rebels were able to regain their strength. Although initially offering amnesty, by June 2013 he ordered a 20-year jail term for anyone found to be in support of Boko Haram. In July 2013, Boko Haram massacred 42 students in Yobe, bringing the school year to an early end in the state. On 5 August 2013 Boko Haram launched dual attacks on Bama and Malam Fatori, leaving 35 dead.
On 16 January 2014, it was reported that Jonathan had sacked his military high command in response to their inability to end the Islamist-led insurgency in Northern Nigeria. On 14 April, over 200 schoolgirls were kidnapped. A few weeks later in May, a terrorist offensive was launched against the military Chibok (the same town the schoolgirls were abducted) was captured. Many demonstrations called for the government to be more responsive; Jonathan asked that demonstrators focus on blaming Boko Haram itself for the abductions. Jonathan initially denied that there had been any abduction at all, but then later signaled his government would do a prisoner release in exchange for the kidnapped girls. Discussions then took place in Paris with foreign ministers from France, Britain, the United States and Israel, where he agreed no deals should be struck with terrorists. He then called off the exchange at the last minute on 24 May 2014. This reportedly enraged Boko Haram leaders.
In May 2014, two bombs exploded in Jos, resulting in the deaths of at least 118 people and the injury of more than 56 others. During the June 2014 Northern Nigeria attacks, a plaza in the capital city was bombed and hundreds of villagers attacked in a two-day killing spree in Kaduna. In November, Boko Haram bombed the city of Kano, attempting to assassinate the Emir Muhammadu Sanusi II. Starting in late 2014, Boko Haram militants attacked several Nigerian towns in the North and captured them. This prompted the Nigerian government to launch an offensive, and with the help of Chad, Niger, and Cameroon, they have recaptured many areas that were formerly under the control of Boko Haram. In late 2014, Boko Haram seized control of Bama, according to the town’s residents. In December 2014, it was reported that “people too elderly to flee Gwoza Local Government Area were being rounded up and taken to two schools where the militants opened fire on them. ”Over 50 elderly people in Bama were killed. A “gory” video was released of insurgents shooting over a hundred civilians in a school dormitory in the town of Bama.
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.
Under the Goodluck Jonathan administration, Nigeria rebased it’s 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.
The Jonathan administration accrued over US$454 billion while in office.
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.
Jonathan’s government has largely been described as corrupt. According to The Economist, corruption flourished under the Jonathan administration, “who let politicians and their cronies fill their pockets with impunity.” Large sums of money have been used improperly multiple times, with ₦3.98 trillion (US$20 billion) allegedly going missing and ₦398 billion ($2 billion) of military funds allegedly dispersed amongst high-ranking officials. In 2006, reports released by Wikileaks claimed that Jonathan’s wife, Patience, was indicted for money-laundering by Nigeria’s anti-crime agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
In addition, Jonathan was alleged to have personally ordered over ₦3 trillion ($15 billion) from the Central Bank of Nigeria to support his election and other self-seeking projects under the guise of an intervention fund for national security. Charles Soludo, a professor of economics and former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, equated Jonathan’s financial recklessness to that of former Ugandan president Idi Amin. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, an economist and former Finance Minister of Nigeria, pegged Jonathan’s administration as the main cause of Nigeria’s economic woes in a lecture at George Washington University, although she later denied it. None of the corruption allegations against Jonathan have been proven in any law court.
Since May 2015, the Muhammadu Buhari administration reportedly has been fighting corruption that was perpetrated under Jonathan. Some of the former political office holders and appointees that served under Jonathan, as well as party members, have been arrested on various corruption charges. It is alleged that some, including former Finance Minister Nenadi Usman, have returned part of the money they stole. None of these politicians have however been convicted of the alleged crimes. It remains unclear whether or not Jonathan, who is believed to have either masterminded or condoned the corruption, will be arrested.
2015 presidential election
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 on 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 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.