By Rotimi Fasan
The Prof. Ishaq Oloyede-led Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board was until 2017 a cesspool of financial corruption. Dibu Ojerinde, also a professor, as Registrar of the Board, ran it like a personal business. This was, perhaps, also what Ojerinde’s predecessors in that office did. As we speak, Dibu Ojerinde is facing the wrath of the law. Properties worth billions of naira that were traced to him are being taken over by the state and he may yet end up in prison. But all of this would have gone unnoticed but for the appointment of Ishaq Oloyede.
This Islamic scholar and former vice chancellor of the University of Ilorin was vehemently opposed by the umbrella union of university academics after he was first appointed in 2016. The Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, embarked on a campaign to show Oloyede was not the right choice for JAMB. Oloyede, ASUU alleges, was not only corrupt and anti-ASUU, he also supervised the mass sacking of ASUU members during his time as VC in Ilorin. The fate of the so-called Ilorin 49 was sealed during Oloyede’s vice chancellorship. But one thing the Ogun State-born administrator had going for him was that he enjoyed the full support of then president, Olusegun Obasanjo. This strengthened his hold on and control of the university he superintended.
Try as ASUU might, it did not succeed in its fight against Oloyede under whom the University of Ilorin operated like an island in a sea of Nigerian academics. He could not be dislodged from his position as vice chancellor. Nor did ASUU succeed in its campaign to truncate his appointment to JAMB. One could not say it was simply because of the stiff opposition that greeted his appointment or the fact that he knew many would be looking to see him fail that Oloyede has been making a resounding success of his time at JAMB. The allegation of corruption that preceded him to JAMB has not stuck. The point, therefore, is that the man must be made of sterner stuff. His conduct so far must be a result of principled living rather than just an attempt to prove his accusers wrong. But no sooner did he assume the leadership of JAMB than he began a process that would see the apex matriculation body in Nigeria transformed.
He started by trying to plug all the gaps that enabled malpractice during matriculation examinations conducted by JAMB. Innovative security features were introduced to forestall cheating either by candidates, their parents or operators of JAMB examination centres. The duration for marking and release of results was drastically reduced and applicants no longer had to wait for long to know how they fared in the unified tertiary matriculation examinations. Officials of JAMB themselves who step out of line were and are still not spared. From one part of the country to another, examination cheats are being exposed alongside their facilitators.
JAMB under Ishaq Oloyede has continued to innovate and finetune its activities, all in a bid to ensure Nigerians have the best experience matriculating to higher institutions. It is, however, in terms of what looks like his financial wizardry and prudent management of the Board’s funds that Oloyede stands out from his predecessors, especially the man he took over from as Executive Secretary in 2016. Suddenly, a body that was barely surviving became a money-spinning agency. Ishaq Oloyede was posting between N5 billion and N7 billion on the average, giving it a profit-making complexion, where his predecessors could hardly remit a tenth of those figures. He has made so much that Nigerians are outraged to the point of wondering if JAMB is a profit-making rather than a service-delivery body. This has forced government to review downwards what JAMB charges for the purchase of forms.
And talking about Oloyede’s predecessors, there has been so much focus on Dibu Ojerinde, so much that Nigerians tend to forget he was not the first and only Registrar of JAMB before the appointment of Oloyede. Ojerinde had predecessors who did not appear to have done any better than him, but because he was the last to lead JAMB before Oloyede his alleged corrupt performance is sharply contrasted by Oloyede’s integrity. When attention turns to JAMB and how that body has been a drain on Nigeria or an inefficient body that tends to stymie rather than facilitate Nigerians’ effort at gaining higher education, this point needs to be remembered.
While Oloyede’s financial success looks so sterling, it may be no more than a result of his hard work and personal integrity rather than owning to any special knowledge of finances. Which would go to show just how much honest and transparent leadership can achieve. While his predecessor was busy acquiring landed property, establishing businesses, setting up fuel stations and real estates, Oloyede was at his desk doing an honest job. He did not have to waste time talking about probing his predecessors as our corrupt leaders or public office holders are prone to do. He lodged no complaints and made no allegations against anyone. Neither Ojerinde nor his predecessors can accuse Oloyede of any mischief against them. He simply let his work speak for him. At a time when more and more Nigerians are questioning the relevance of JAMB in higher education, his effort is helping to give that body a new lease on life.
But all of that is about being rubbished by JAMB’s attempt to dabble in the politics of the National Identity Management Commission’s National Identification Number debacle. It tried this last year and failed. But insisting now that prospective JAMB applicants must possess a NIN is a needless and unnecessary way to punish young Nigerians whose parents are themselves struggling without success to get a national identity number. In the 10 years since NIMC embarked on this corruption-riddled exercise, no headway has been made. The insensitive imposition of a December 2020 deadline that led to crowded registration centres at the height of the second wave of the COVID pandemic, is an indication of the thoughtlessness of some leaders.
This impossible deadline that has been shifted twice and is now the subject of litigation should have warned every thinking Nigerian against following the NIMC path. Granted that the JAMB NIN requirement came as a directive of the Ministry of Education, it is yet another way to put a roadblock on the path of Nigerians seeking higher education. The so-called glitch that impeded applicants’ registration last week is evidence of this. It is a sure way to dilute the record of Oloyede at JAMB, a body that has no busines functioning as the enforcer of an important policy whose implementation has not been thought through.