Urhobo Historical Society
Against the background of resounding calls by discerning Nigerians to restore faith in the rule of law and follow the Constitution to the letter in the matter of a credible helmsman for the nation, Nengi Josef Ilagha, veteran speech writer, provides an insight into the life of Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, President, Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Profile of a Gentleman
Think not what your country can do for you,
but what you can do for your country. - John F. Kennedy
By His Majesty Nengi
Mingi XII, Amanyanabo of Nembe
Bayelsa State, Nigeria
N NOVEMBER 20, 1957, when a peasant farmer named Jonathan and his wife gave birth to a baby boy at their humble homestead in Otuoke, they never imagined that the boy would become famous beyond the rural confines of Ogbia kingdom. Not for once did it occur to them that this boy would one day become the first Deputy Governor of Bayelsa State rising, by dint of hard work and the intervention of fate, to become Governor.
Even so, the paternal grandmother of this jolly good chap had a vision for her grandson. She called him Azikiwe, in the hope that the illustrious name would leave a political imprint of glory on his impressionable mind, and lead him to repeat the exploits of the Great Zik of Africa. The old woman did not hope in vain. Early in life, the lad marked himself apart from his peers. He was christened Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. Today, many years after he took up chalk and slate, he holds a doctorate degree in Zoology and serves under President Umar Musa Yar’Adua as the first Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to emerge from the south-south geo-political zone in the 49-year history of Nigeria.
Young Goodluck Jonathan began his primary education at St Stephen’s Primary School (now State School, Otuoke) and later moved to St Michael’s Primary School, Oloibiri, where he completed his elementary education in 1969, at the age of 12. His leadership traits began to come up for reckoning in the course of his secondary school days. In 1973, while in form three, he was appointed class prefect and Secretary of the Food Committee, an administrative body of hostel masters and senior students. He occupied that position up to form five. As the prime prefect of Masterson House, he soon assumed the exalted office of Chairman, Committee of Prefects. Like a gold fish, he could no longer hide. Two years later, in 1975, he obtained his West African School Certificate from the famous Mater Dei High School, Imiringi, passing out with a distinction.
Afterward, Goodluck Jonathan worked as a Preventive Officer with the Department of Customs and Excise, proud of his khaki uniform, his new rank, and the official pistol by his side, stuck in its holster. In 1977, he secured admission into the Department of Zoology, a pioneer student of the newly established University of Port Harcourt. After a studious tenure there, he bagged a Bachelor of Science degree in 1981, graduating with a Second Class Honours (Upper Division).
As a corps member, Goodluck served Nigeria devotedly as a humble classroom teacher at Iresi, a community in Oyo State, now in Osun State. At the end of the NYSC programme in 1982, the young man took up appointment as a classroom teacher under the auspices of the Rivers State Civil Service Commission, and began to cultivate his independent-minded spirit. Following his exceptional performance at the interview, he was promptly upgraded to the rank of Science Inspector of Education in the Ministry of Education.
But then, Goodluck Jonathan always knew that he had a bond with the academia that he couldn’t deny. Accordingly, in November 1983, he left the mainstream civil service for the Rivers State College of Education, Port Harcourt, where he picked up his chalk again, standing before the blackboard and drawing diagrams, content with his status as a lecturer in the Department of Biological Sciences. He was elected as a Representative of Congress in the Senior Appointments and Promotions Committee of the College. He performed his duties to great acclaim until he voluntarily resigned his appointment.
Given his dogged quest for knowledge, however, he propelled himself to obtain a Masters degree in Hydro-Biology and Fisheries Biology in 1985. It is on record that from his primary school right through tertiary education, Goodluck Jonathan never failed any terminal or semester examination. Ultimately, in 1995, after a long dream of academic fulfillment, he bagged his Doctor of Philosophy degree in Zoology from the University of Port Harcourt.
With the creation of the Oil Minerals Producing Areas Development Commission, OMPADEC, in October 1992, Dr Jonathan was called to serve as Assistant Director, Ecology, in March 1993 in the Directorate of Environmental Protection and Pollution Control. He was in charge of the Environmental Protection Sub-Department of the Commission. He performed creditably in that capacity, until he voluntarily left the service of the Commission in 1998.
Simple and unassuming, humble to a fault, none of his friends, colleagues and associates ever expected Dr Goodluck Jonathan to jump into the rough waters of Nigerian politics. But that is exactly what he did. Inspired by the words of Isaac Adaka Boro, determined to advance the welfare and progress of his people on a larger scale, he ventured into politics in 1998, with a hopeful heart beating in his chest. At the dawn of the Fourth Republic, Dr Jonathan pitched tent with the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and emerged as the running mate to the party’s gubernatorial flag-bearer, Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha. The duo emerged triumphant at the polls in the 1999 governorship election, and so Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan stepped into office as the first Deputy Governor of Bayelsa State.
A cautious, disciplined and seasoned administrator, his dedication to service earned him the Best Performing Deputy Governor Award, as well as the Honourary Award for Democracy and Good Governance. Given his contributions to Environmental Management, he was decorated with the prestigious Honourary Fellowship of the Nigerian Environmental Society. A member of various professional associations around the world, he remains a Fellow of the Fisheries Society of Nigeria, FISON, Fellow of the Public Administrators of Nigeria, Fellow, International Association of Impact Assessment, IAIA, and Fellow, Institute of Corporate Affairs Management. He is also a member, Science Teachers Association of Nigeria, and Paul Harris Fellow, Rotary International.
A man of apparent honesty, an astute and dependable politician, a thought-provoking teacher, technocrat and peace maker, an achiever of no mean distinction, he remains popular amongst his people. He abides in the consciousness of his friends, associates and record keepers as a builder of unity bridges.
Indeed Goodluck Ebele Jonathan qualifies as a lover of truth, a perfect gentleman deserving of honour, a caring husband to his loving wife, Patience Faka Jonathan, and a great father and friend to his adorable children, Aruabai Jonathan and Adolphus Ariweri Jonathan. Like a tree solidly rooted in the earth, he holds an unshakeable belief in the oneness and brotherhood, not only of the Ogbia clan and his home state, Bayelsa, but of our great nation, Nigeria.
These are the invaluable personal and public testimonies that enabled him to worm a path into the heart of his friend and current boss, Alhaji Umar Musa Yar’Adua. Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, Grand Commander of the Order of Nigeria, GCON, was sworn into office as Vice President, Federal Republic of Nigeria on May 29, 2007.