Goodluck Jonathan made headlines by becoming re-elected to the presidency of Nigeria. For the many Westerners unfamiliar with President Jonathan, the first question they have about him is his strange name.
Jonathan is easy enough to answer. He, being a Christian Ijaw from the Bayelsa State, is likely the descendant of a man who was proselytized and colonized by Christian Europeans in the 19th century and then took on the Christian name of Jonathan.
Jonathan, which was probably the man’s first name, later became the family name of his descendants.
The usual first name of Goodluck is a more interesting story. Nigerians have a rich tradition having names that convey the circumstances of the births or the characteristics of the newborns. (Contrastingly, the Western world uses mostly uses standard, historic names.)
The name of Goodluck is meant to simply convey “good luck,” or good fortune. When asked why President Jonathan received such a name, his father said: “I instinctively realized that this child has that element of fortune. I just said to myself, 'this boy is lucky.’ So I decided to call him Goodluck,” according to Time.
Jonathan’s wife is named Patience, so her father probably thought she was going to possess the virtue of patience.
Some Nigeria names, however, are far more practical than the virtue of patience or the blessings of good luck. Sunday, for example, is a popular name for a child born on Sunday.