Goodluck Jonathan: Leader Profile

Today we look at Goodluck Jonathan, President of Nigeria. Nigeria is important to look at because:

  • Nigeria has the largest economy in Africa
  • Nigeria is the largest OPEC country in Africa relying heavily on oil revenue
  • Democratic presidential elections are to be held in March 2015 and has a risk of violence
  • The violent group, Boko Haram has operations in Northern Nigeria
  • Nigeria is around 50% larger than Afghanistan
  • Nigeria is a country with two significantly large distinct religious groups
  • The median age of Nigeria’s population is 18-19 years old
  • Nigeria has significant diasporas in Europe and the United States
  • Nigeria has a history of violent struggle, weak democratic institutions and corruption
  • China and Nigeria have a significant trading relationship under the current regime

Nigeria’s economic and demographic profile has all the ingredients for fragmentation, state fragility/failure and harbouring extremism. Should Nigeria devolve as a result of weak and failed leadership, the implications for the region and interested economic and cultural partners around the world could be significant.

Background of Nigeria

The Leader Profile

  • Name: Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan
  • Born: November 1957
  • Religion: Christian
  • Family: Wife, 2 Children
  • Languages: English, Izon, Nembe, Epie-Atissa, Ogbia and others
Goodluck Jonathan

Goodluck Jonathan








  • Canoe making
  • University of Port Harcourt Zoology B.Sc.
  • University of Port Harcourt Hydrobiology M.Sc.
  • University of Port Harcourt PhD (Incomplete)


  • Education inspector
  • Lecturer
  • Deputy Governer of Bayelsa (1999-2005)
  • Governor of Bayelsa (2005-2007)
  • Vice President (2007-2010)
  • Acting presedent (2010-2011)
  • President (2011-2015)

Extra Curricular

  • Football (Soccer)
  • Environmental protection officer
  • Canoe maker (as a child)


  • Tam David-West (Petrol subsidies)
  • Ibrahim Babangida(Former military president)
  • Northern factions within his People’s Democratic Party(PDP)
  • Henry Okah (Niger Delta guerrilla leader)
  • Mohammed Yusuf (Boko Haram leader)


  • Chinese premiership
  • African Leaders
  • Southern factions within PDP


Goodluck Jonathan is described in some sources as beleaguered, embattled, powerless and lacking confidence. Despite these descriptions, Jonathan’s party, the PDP, has enjoyed widespread popularity inside his cogoodluck J3untry and in reputable polls. He wears a hat in all of his public appearances. This is a traditional bit of symbolism employed by some African leaders to show high status and poise. It is a quietly stated crown. He will usually wear a black trilby. In his own words “You can tell the character of a man by the hat he wears, and how he wears it.”. He has also said, “I was very weak, but once I discovered the secrets of hats, I was able to transform myself into a bold and confident person.”


President Jonathan is not a natural speaker, he is soft spoken and can often be seen reading from prepared notes. When speaking interactively and formally he can sometimes display a lack clarity and will sometimes spend a lot of time speaking in general terms rather than addressing the question or point. When confronted, Jonathan will fold his arms and his eyes dart around when being firm strongly suggesting that he would always prefer to avoid conflict.

Jonathan adopts a feet-forward, leaning, slouch when being interviewed and usually has to adjust himself when he slips too far down into his seat. His face is very animated, easily displaying a range of emotions from anger and annoyance, to pleasure and confidence. He tends to gesticulate with only one had and usually within the frame of his own body.  Along with his laced fingers, these are indicative of marked introversion and ongoing internal dialogues. He shows a lot of evidence of being very intelligent and on the topics that he is comfortable with he can easily speak about with great confidence and knowledge. While his conversations are reactive in nature (rather than active) they are usually very thoughtful. His impromptu speeches are usually punctuated with the “intellectual stammer” displayed by university professors and American president, Barak Obama.

Goodluck Johnson is fond of using examples, imagery and allegory in his conversations. He communicates best with representations.

Despite many speeches promising decisive actions, Jonathan tends to be very pensive in his political life. He is collaborative in his approach, depending on alliances and consensus rather than using personal charisma to get things done. Another contradiction is that Goodluck Jonathan will not “confront” the issues head on. In interviews he appears very pained to confront interviewers. For Jonathan, Boko Haram, Corruption and the economy are best tackled with logic, systematic and consensus driven structures which will “take time”.

Jonathan-Goodluck-1Jonathan is also wary of Africa’s history of strongmen. He stresses building systems as opposed to executive action. In his words, “leadership in Africa had failed on two important counts: (1) To Institutionalise democracy so that government was run transparently and for the benefit of the people; and (2) To inculcate, by personal example, in public officials and the general public values and codes of behavior consistent with operating a modern democratic nation- state.” Statements like these shows that he has little taste for personal power and legacy building.

Like many democratic African leaders, the prospects of civil war, military dictatorship and coup-de-tat looms in the background of President Jonathan’s mind. While religious and ethnic tensions are downplayed (especially with Boko Haram) Nigeria is notably a federalized country with literally hundreds of divisions between the oil rich south and Muslim north. Jonathan is from the south but he is not from a strongman or military background. Allegiances to him are based around the traditional allegiance to the PDP rather than his Ijaw ethnicity or Christian religion.

President Goodluck Jonathan presents as an introverted intuitive thinker who tends to withhold judgement and delay on important decisions. This would make him and INTP using the Myers Briggs Type Indicator.

If correct, then Jonathan is quiet and analytical who prefers to spend long periods of time on his own or with his very close relations. He is scientifically minded and enjoyed helping the environment and people in his career. While his hat wearing is customary, the wearing of a western hat is a way of him ensuring that he stands out. Similarly while his hats are often western, he does not dress western, and tends to wear dark coloured but otherwise West African style clothing. This indicates that he is “bucking” at both trends of being “too African” or “too Western”. He will be consultative and rely on a wide variety of sources for opinions and support. He is charming and witty when among people that he gets along with. He will be very reluctant to get into a situation that he may fail at and will often seek regional and international support for any situation that he thinks is too much for him to handle.

Jonathan is very intelligent. He can grasp and convey many very complex ideas and this is tempered by how thorough he is willing to explain these complex ideas, which can be too much for the purpose of the situation. His keen observations on other international actors allows him to always give appropriate responses to situations within his country, regionally and internationally.

Jonathan lacks a bombstic and iconoclastic personality. He also suffers from the same affliction that many leaders from the African continent suffer: There is a lack of confidence to act on the international stage. There is also likely to be a complex of inferiority when addressing the former colonial, military and economically superior powers.

Jonathan comes from a strong Christian background. He will usually use religious overtones in his speeches and justifications for his actions. The only place that Jonathan is seen without his hat will be in a church. Goodluck does not use religion as a divisive tool however and seems to use it as merely an identifier. Pentecostal and protestant Christianity is a strong influence in southern Nigeria.

Themes and Quotes:

Oil and the Economy

 Nigeria is a member of OPEC and is the biggest exporter in Africa. Oil revenues accounted for around  75% of budgetary revenues and 95% of export revenues in 2013 (World Bank) and around 15% of GDP. One of Jonathan’s aims is to diversify the Nigerian economy away from oil revenue and to agriculture to feed his young and growing population. Jonathan has made tentative efforts to control corruption surrounding the oil industry which is owned and operated by multinational, American and European companies. He helped to negotiate peace talks with the Niger Delta rebels who are part of his ethnicity. His approach to stolen oil is that this is being stolen for large foreign companies who knowingly refine and profit from the proceeds of crime. In this regard, he takes a long view to solving the problem.

Nigeria has China as a significant trading partner. Nigerian polls indicate that the country has one of the most pro-Chinese populations in the world. In the past decade, China has secured oil deals and contributed to infrastructure and military developments. This relationship is an obvious threat to Western interests.

“Oil companies investing 1 billion in project and less than 100,000 in local economy.”

“focus on diversification of non oil aspects of our economy”

“Agriculture is key because it employs (people)”

“we are intervening massively in agriculture.”

“Now we have mortgage and financing”

“Ordinarily by now, Nigerians needn’t be talking about power, because most of you who have been to Nigeria, you see the volume of gas we burn every day from the oil industry activities. If we even have to convert 50 percent of the gas we burn to power, I don’t think we’ll be talking about power.”

“The international community must support Nigeria”

“The stolen crude is refined abroad”

“We have privatized….(electricity and other infrastructure)”

Boko Haram

Northern Nigeria is primarily populated by muslims. Jonathan sees the threat of Boko Haram as a terror threat and not a religious one. He sees it also as a regional and an international threat rather than a local one. He does not see the threat as one to the integrity of Nigeria or to the main part of the Nigerian population. Though he is quick to compartmentalise the problem, he continuously calls on international aid to counter the threat and seems unwilling to dedicate himself or the Nigerian Army to unilateral action. Accusations of brutality by the armed forces may also be a factor in staying his hand. Failures by “greater powers” to controlled insurgencies (references to Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, etc.) is also part of his rational for not taking a more violent approach to addressing the group.

“Boko Haram is a local terror group”

“We should not play politics with Boko Haram”

“Overall it does not effect the Nigerian Economy”

“Some are not Nigerians but most are Nigerian”

“Just criminal elements”

“It worries me”

“Issue of Terror is imported from North Africa”

“reduce the collateral damage on the population”

“We are trying, I don’t want to rate myself.”

“We have the political will to get where we are going.”

“They have violated the culture and peaceful way of life in our country which took generations to build”.

“We are committed to working with other nations, other friendly governments to make sure we contain the problem in Mali.”

“We call on the rest of the world to work with us.”



9 in 10 Nigerians suspect their government is corrupt. Faith in the electoral process is very low. Jonathan also takes a very systematic approach to corruption. He is very reluctant to go after corrupt individuals and confronting it head on. Instead he has made tactical moves in his own party and with legislation to cut off the sources of corruption. He is a big believer in making processes more transparent and recorded in order to prevent future corruption. One source of corruption was the fuel subsidy, allowing actors within Nigeria to buy cheap fuel and then sell it at full price outside of the country. Jonathan got rid of the subsidy and this proved very unpopular. Similarly, Jonathan calls on consensus and support to combat other forms of corruption (such as oil theft) and graft.

“Killing robbers don’t stop robbery. Throwing people into jail won’t stop corruption.”

“Leave us who have dead to bury our dead.”

“Main issues are corruption”

“And for now our domestic focus must be on electoral reform, delivering peace dividends to the Niger Delta and the rest of the country, and standing strong on our resolve against corruption.”

“The issues of corruption that also bother us is also human factor. In every society, it’s difficult to say you can eradicate corruption. But we’ve set up the machinery to make sure that we continue to reduce it. The war against it will be sustained and will continue.”

“…ensure progressively improved electoral process…”

“Strengthen Institutions to prevent corruption”

“Modern science will prevent corruption”



Many of Jonathan’s conversations and speeches suggest that he is taking a long view on Nigeria. He has “written off” the older generation and is creating a Nigeria in which the young population can find opportunity.  Having grown up in civil war and military dictatorships, he does not have a great deal of faith in the people of his generation. He is hoping to put the countries violent and corrupt past behind him. Perhaps drawing from the old testament, he sees himself as a post-Moses leader of the Israelites biding time in the wilderness before leading the new generation to the promised land. He is very cautious not to squander Nigeria’s petroleum based wealth on crowd pleasing gestures or unilateral adventures. His goals for Nigeria a very strategic and far beyond the headlines. Many of his promises in regards to Nigeria are purposely worded so that he makes long term goals seem like short term goals but he will almost always caveat himself with “not done overnight”.

“Nigeria must move forward”

“The young people must redefine this country”

“…..not done overnight”

President Goodluck Jonathan acts as if he is a small player in the bigger movement of his PDP party, Nigerian petroleum wealth, Nigerian development and continuing Islamic terrorism. By all accounts including his own, he is a meek and humble man, an intelligent civil servant who just happens to have executive powers over one of the largest African powers on the continent. That being said, there are many examples of Jonathan making political manoeuvres, strategic promotions and firings to achieve long term goals. Much in the same way as he was a strategic success story, he employs indirect and deliberate actions to achieve his goals.

goodluck J2









CIA World Fact Book

Fitch Ratings Agency

World Bank




CFR think tank



Bloomberg interview

Global Conversations interview

CNN interview

Al Jazeera interview

Speech to voters

Media Chat


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