Profile: Goodluck Jonathan, Nigeria's new leader
Until November 2009, he was serving out his time as a low-key deputy to a low-key president.
But then, President Umaru Yar'Adua was taken to hospital in Saudi Arabia and was not seen in public until he died on 5 May 2010.
Step forward, Mr Jonathan. After months of political wrangling, Nigeria's elite finally accepted him as acting leader in February when the ailing president returned home, but remained too ill to govern.
Barely 12 hours after Mr Yar'Adua's death, Goodluck Jonathan was sworn in as the new president and commander-in-chief of the armed forces of Africa's most populous nation - one of its most fractious democracies.
Not bad for a man who has never been elected to major public office in his own right.
Born in 1957 in the oil-rich Niger Delta region, Mr Jonathan is a Christian from the Ijaw ethnic group.
His family's trade was canoe-making, but he studied zoology at university.
Just as his rapid rise to power in the federal government owed a lot to luck, so too did his promotion to state governor.
Elected as deputy governor for his home state, Bayelsa, in 1999, he was once again serving his time without particular distinction.
Until, that is, his boss was impeached on corruption charges.
Mr Jonathan took over as governor and two years later was hand-picked by former President Olusegun Obasanjo to run on the ruling PDP's ticket as vice-presidential candidate in 2007.
The BBC's Fidelis Mbah says insiders regard him as a politician without a political base - and more of an administrator than a leader.
It has been suggested that Nigeria's many groups of power-brokers agreed to let him formally become acting president only because he was not seen as a threat - and crucially would not seek to contest the election due in 2011.
But there can be no doubting the speed and relative smoothness of his assumption of power.
"There has not been any rise that's been so meteoric in Nigeria," analyst Charles Dokubo said in February.
On the relevance of the acting president's name, he said: "What is luck? Luck is when you can take advantage