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”.