President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria

President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria


Howard Adelman

Goodluck Jonathan visited Maiduguri , the capital of Borno State in northeastern Nigeria and the centre of the Boko Haram insurgency, twice in January. It was part of his current effort to be re-elected. He vowed that the thousands of IDPs in the city would soon be able to return to their homes and that the territories captured by the militants would soon be recovered. Since Goodluck Jonathan emerged as president of Nigeria in parallel with the rise of Boko Haram as an extremely lethal force and during President Obama’s presidency, it is helpful if his political life is summarized. On first impression, his meteoric rise seems due, not so much to his own virtues, but to the vices and illnesses of those he served and that Goodluck is not only his name. However, a closer examination suggests he may be more astute – as well as possibly more corrupt. His competence emerges as the key question.

Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan

  • Born 20 November 1957
  • Jonathan, an Ijaw, is a Christian from the Niger Delta region in the south
  • He comes from a family of artisans, more specifically, canoe makers
  • Jonathan was among the first in his family to attend university
  • Earns a B.Sc. in zoology (1981), then an M.Sc. in hydrology and fisheries (1985), followed by a Ph.D. in zoology (1995), all from the University of Port Harcourt
  • Becomes a teacher, an education inspector, lecturer and environmental-protection officer
  • 1998 enters politics at age 41 as a member of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP)
  • Elected and becomes a low-key deputy from the south
  • May 1999 elected as deputy governor for his oil-rich home state of Bayelsa
  • 1999 Olusegun Obasanjo elected president of Nigeria on an anti-corruption platform
  • Olusegun Obasanjo sets up the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC)
  • Jonathan distinguished as Deputy Governor for his loyalty and ostensible integrity though non-descript performance
  • 2005 Governor Diepreye Alameiyeseigha of Bayelsa travels to Germany for stomach reduction surgery
  • Jonathan serves as Acting Governor
  • En route back to Nigeria, the Governor is arrested in September at London’s Heathrow airport and is found to be in possession of over a million pounds in cash with an additional over a million pounds in personal bank accounts
  • Charged in Britain with money laundering
  • November 2005, Governor impeached for corruption by the Bayelsa house assembly
  • December 2005, when on bail in Britain, the Governor, dressed as a woman, returns to Nigeria
  • Governor charged in a Lagos court on 40 counts of corruption and money-laundering
  • Jonathan confirmed as Governor and serves 2005-2007
  • 11 September 2006, Mr. Osita Nwajah, spokesperson for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) public declared that $13.5 million Dollars (US) was seized from Mrs. Patience Jonathan, the wife of then Governor of Bayelsa State
  • No charges ever laid and Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, once a presidential candidate, who ran the EFCC at the time, issued the following statement: “Our attention has been drawn to a statement in the media today in which the spokesman for the Muhammadu Buhari Campaign organization regrettably sought to cast aspersions on President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan and the First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan, over a matter that was laid to rest last year.”
  • In the election of 2007, Jonathan chosen to run for Vice-President on the Umaru Yar’Adua ticket
  • Jonathan declares assets of US$1,845,652, but that does not seem to raise eyebrows
  • As Vice-President, Jonathan is given credit for negotiating an agreement with major militant groups in the Niger Delta; they agree to lay down their weapons as part of a government amnesty
  • November 2009, President Umaru Yar’Adua was taken to hospital in Saudi Arabia
  • February 2010, when Governor Yar’Adua returns, he is deemed incapable
  • Jonathan confirmed as Acting President
  • 5 May 2010, President Umaru Yar’Adua dies
  • 6 May, Jonathan sworn in as President
  • September, Jonathan announces his intention to run for president in the 2011 elections
  • Jonathan runs on an anti-corruption, but primarily electricity power reform platform through privatization of the state-owned electrical system
  • Goodluck Jonathan returned to office, but the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) weakened; still controls the national legislatures of two-thirds of the 36 states
  • 1 October 2010 Independence Day bomb attack takes place; Jonathan blames opponents
  • May 2012, in a South African court, Henry Okah, former head of the rebel group MEND in the Niger Delta, with whom Jonathan negotiated the amnesty accord, testified that Jonathan had orchestrated the bomb explosion in Abuja in 2010
  • 13 January 2011, Jonathan elected by two-thirds of the states and 59% of the vote; he defied the ruling People’s Democratic Party’s tradition of alternating presidential power between north and south after two terms of office by winning the party’s primaries.
  • 18 April 2011 declared president despite opposition claims of fraud and vote-rigging
  • 26 August 2011, UN building in Abuja bombed by Boko Haram
  • By January 2013, 400 children had died of lead poisoning and Jonathan promises lead clean-up campaign
  • In May 2013, state of emergency declared in three northeastern Nigerian states after kidnapping of 276 school girls
  • After international pressure, Jonathan reneges on deal to trade Boko Haram prisoners for the schoolgirls
  • 11 September 2013, President Jonathan sacks the creator and coordinator of the Transformation Agenda, Shamsudeen Usman, the Minister of National Planning and eight other cabinet ministers in a rift in the People’s Democratic Party (PDP)
  • January 2014, Jonathan signs the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act prohibiting gay relationships or marriages, membership and any involvement in gay societies with penalties up to 14 years in prison for gay marriages.
  • July 2014, based on evidence given in a New York court by a Russian lawyer who claimed $66 million in unpaid commissions on a transfer payment by Shell Oil and the Eni oil and gas company, of $1.1 billion to Malabu Oil and Gas set up in 1998 by Etete, a convicted felon; the U.K. police open a probe into the transfer but Eti has the highest ranking by Transparency International
  • July 2014, Jonathan drops wife from huge Nigerian delegation visiting Washington for African Leaders Summit because of the controversy caused when she initially pronounced the kidnapping of the 276 girls a big lie that was seen as responsible for the delay in the rescue effort
  • President Obama turns down Jonathan’s request for one-on-one meeting
  • 9 October 2014, the website ranked Jonathan sixth on its list, claiming his net worth was about $100m (
  • January 2015, former Governor Diepreye Alameiyeseigha of Bayelsa and convicted felon, whom Jonathan once pardoned, claims that President Goodluck did not finish his PhD, but this is denied by the university, which issued the following statement that declared that Jonathan had, “crowned his academic pursuit in the University with the Doctor of Philosophy degree in Zoology in 1995”
  • 8 January, Goodluck Jonathan claims that Henry Okah, the estranged leader of MEND, was paid to assassinate him when the 2010 bombing took place near Eagles Square in Abuja during Nigeria’s 50th anniversary celebrations
  • In today’s paper, Dr Sam Saba, Chair of the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB), stated. “As far as we are concerned, Mr President has declared his assets, though not publicly (my italics). There is no law that says that you should declare your assets publicly; it simply states that you should declare your assets.”

What happened to Jonathan’s promise to tackle the long-standing corruption and political sclerosis? This is an even more acute issue when, in 2014, oil revenues declined precipitously and revenues from oil and gas accounts for more than two-thirds of treasury income and 95 per cent of export earnings. At the same time, as you will see over the next two days, the lethality and capture of territory by Boko Haram grew exponentially during Jonathan’s rule. Pointing these issues out, allows us to get a glimpse and a possible partial answer as to why the Obama administration may have been so reluctant to supply sophisticated arms to Nigeria and keeps insisting that the forthcoming 14 February election must not be riddled with corruption.

It is interesting to see that in opinion surveys in Nigeria the question is who is perceived to be less corrupt, Goodluck Jonathan (President of the Federal Republic) or Bola Tinubu (Leader of ACN/APC). Interesting enough, Tinubu loses hands down. The Nigerian state and its institutions may be corrupt, but Jonathan emerges relatively unscathed – the exceptions were the aborted investigation into his first wife and the assets he is alleged to own. However, the CIA is bound to have much more information on this issue. Nevertheless, on Thursday 1 January during a New Year service at the Dunamis International Gospel Centre in Abuja, Jonathan renewed his pledge to eliminate corruption, a task he is highly unlikely to be able to do even if, by chance, he is not deeply corrupt himself. Though Jonathan claimed that his government was winning the war against corruption, and that the perception people has about corruption in Nigeria is exaggerated, Transparency International still ranked Nigeria as one of the most corrupt countries in the world.

Further, as Transparency International concluded, there is a strong link between corruption and insecurity. ”When a country’s institutions are weak, its security forces are not trusted and its borders are not strong, as is the case in Nigeria, giving terrorist organisations room to flourish.” Musa Idris’ 25 January 2013 study, “Corruption and Insecurity in Nigeria” (Public Administration 2:1) revealed that there exists, “a perfect correlation between corruption and insecurity in Nigeria and that greed by insurgent groups and corruption by public officials caused deprivation, alienation, conflict and insecurity in Nigeria.” Confidence in Jonathan’s integrity and determination to wipe out corruption was certainly undermined when in 2013 he pardoned Diepreye Alameiyeseigha, the Governor he previously served in Bayelsa and succeeded when the governor was impeached and subsequently sent to jail.

Wikileaks revelations in December certainly pointed out the beliefs of the U.S. embassy in the corruption of the opposition politicians, Maj. General Muhammadu Buhari and Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. However, American documentation points to Jonathan’s favouring his own ethnic group, but no definitive evidence of corruption. In addition to questions about his ethnic partisanship and integrity, the major question is over his competence. In answer to a journalist’s query, Jonathan once replied, “I was not chosen to be Vice President because I had good political experience… “I did not. There were a lot more qualified people around to be Vice President, but that does not mean I am not my own man.” Jonathan further declared that he was “not a politician” and had “very limited experience as an administrator.”

The most important issue is not integrity or sectarianism but Jonathan’s ability to destroy Boko Haram.

Tomorrow: The Threat of Boko Haram

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