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The Oloyede years: What next for ‘Prof. Integrity’ that has changed the JAMB narrative?

Unless his appointment is revalidated by President Muhammadu Buhari, Prof. Ishaq Oloyede will bow out as registrar/chief executive of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) come August 1. He assumed duties on August 1, 2016, for a five-year tenure in the first instance.

At the time of his appointment, his mandate was clear: change the old order. This mandate was indication of government’s dissatisfaction with the state of affairs in the board, despite the fact that it had always been somewhat fortunate to have successive chief registrars who had always built on their predecessor’s achievements. But Prof. Oloyede’s five-year stint has been spectacular. Given his accomplishments in just five years, he has not disappointed.

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Indeed, if JAMB were to be a lady, she would be wondering why it took successive Nigeria’s governments the long time it took them to identify a soul-mate like Oloyede for her. She would be wondering why the governments had left her to be abused and serially raped before bringing an Oloyede to her rescue. JAMB, lest we forget, was founded in 1978 for the primary purpose of conducting examinations for candidates seeking admission into tertiary institutions in the country and offering admission to those suitably qualified. Like most other establishments, it must have had its teething challenges. But, apart from making provision for such periods, there can be no justification for the kind of abysmal performance that the board recorded for the most parts of the years before the coming of Oloyede. To say that JAMB was not up and doing before the Oloyede years, is to put what had become the board’s lot in the better part of the pre-Oloyede years, mildly.

It was not until Oloyede came that government knew that JAMB could be a money spinner, at least in its own right. It used to be a money guzzler, living, like most government’s establishments, on government subventions. It had, in the last four years turned in about N28billion to the Federal Government’s coffers, despite reducing some of its charges. This excludes what the board would turn in for the current year.

Until 2016, business had continued as usual. Indeed, we had all accepted our fate – candidates, parents, and all – that commotion was part of what made the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) tick. We seemed to have resigned to fate that our children must always go through stress to sit for the life-defining examination. Virtually everyone knew that UTME was going on whenever the examination was taking place. It was like our election periods when movement has to be restricted and all manner of other restrictions are put in place for a thing that is done elsewhere without disruption to their socio-economic activities.

All that has become history. Just as the global system for mobile (GSM) communication has revolutionised the way we do so many things, Oloyede has revolutionised the way JAMB examinations are conducted. He has revolutionised the administrative and financial processes even as he has done so much to entrench accountability and transparency in the system in a way no other chief executive ever did.

For the Professor of Arabics, it was technology to the rescue. He devoted substantial time and energy to examination malpractice which was the bane of UTME at the time. Convinced that examination malpractice starts with the registration processes, Oloyede introduced profile creation during registration with the use of USSD to strengthen the registration processes. He also scrapped the use of scratch cards for pin vending, as well as the capturing of 10 fingers for capturing. He did away with expensive and corrupt VSAT for the telcos, thus saving the nation about N2 billion. He introduced live coverage of the examination centres during examination times and even after, with the aid of CCTV cameras.

The board’s primary responsibility was not left out as it also witnessed tremendous changes. The Central Admissions Processing System (CAPS), an automated system that eliminates human interferences and biases and also provides candidates the opportunity to interact with the board such that they can even raise queries when shortchanged was also introduced. It is significant that candidates and other clients have been taking advantage of the complaint platform – the ticketing- for live interaction, with prompt response within 24 hours.

Part of Oloyede’s dream is to make UTME so credible such that universities would be persuaded that there is no need for post-UTME again, except if they want it for the purpose of raising funds. This is doable and, in fact, indications are that things are looking up in this direction.

Indeed, JAMB’s rising profile in the conduct of its examinations in the last five years has endeared it to some organisations that have been taking advantage of its increasing credibility to conduct their recruitment and promotional examinations. As a matter of fact, the fear now is whether the board’s primary responsibility would not be impaired the way these organisations are seeking its services.

There are so many other achievements too numerous to mention within these five years. We can go on and on.

Expectedly, at a time, Oloyede’s measures became unbearable for people who had been exploiting the loopholes of the past to fleece the system and even the candidates and their parents. They cried out to stop the reforms but mercifully, no one listened to them.

Even if Oloyede’s appointment as JAMB registrar/chief executive was fortuitous, we must still commend the President Buhari administration for locating a man like him to direct the board’s affairs when it did. This credit must be given because if Oloyede had performed otherwise, we would still have posted the debit into the administration’s accounts. We would have said he merely represents a typical emblem of the Buhari government. At any rate, we might not even have known that something better could have come from JAMB if Oloyede had been contended with mere average performance. We probably would be clapping for him by now if al? he has done was to follow tradition or rock the boat a little. Indeed, he too would, (like the lizard that fell from a wall and nods its head in acknowledgment of the feat it has performed, since human beings are not ready to do that), be beating his chest that he has done a Yeoman’s job. Since we do not have any proof to the contrary given his predecessors’ antecedents, we would not have known whether we have been conned or shortchanged as usual, or both.

What is not in dispute today is that it took an Oloyede to rewrite the JAMB story; to change the narrative.

However, whatever I have said so far should not be misconstrued to mean that all of Oloyede’s predecessors at JAMB were corrupt or incompetent. Indeed, Oloyede himself is likely to feel uncomfortable celebrating his achievements, especially the one having to do with the board’s humongous yearly remittances to the Federal Government since he became the JAMB helmsman because the immediate question to ask is ; so, what has been happening to these monies now being remitted by Oloyede? In truth, he respects some of his predecessors, and this is obvious from the way he interacts with them whenever they attend the board’s functions. It is obvious that, for some of them, the problem could just have been sheer incompetence. For others, it could be lack of imagination. Still, for some, the problem could have been seeing their appointment as mere routine and all they did was follow the tradition. Oloyede possessed none of these negative tendencies. What he has done in JAMB in five years clearly suggests a man prepared for the job. Not only that, he was determined to make a difference.

JAMB’s progress, at least in the last five years, is indication that there is still hope for Ñigeria. It shows something good can still come from Nigeria. What we just need are round pegs in round holes. It is indication of the importance of the head in any institution. A proverb says that a fish starts to rot from the head. In like manner, good things also come from the top, from where they percolate. Although Oloyede alone could not have logged the achievements in JAMB all alone. He needs the buy-in of the management and staff of the board. But he must provide the leadership; he must point the way forward. It is significant that he has recorded the tremendous achievements with substantially the same workers who were part of the ‘ancien regime’ in JAMB. Yes, some members of the staff of the organisation who could not fit into the new order, including the one who alleged that a snake swallowed N36million belonging to the board, were shown the door, there has not been any ‘Tsunami’ in terms of retrenchment in JAMB since 2016.

No less important is the cooperation that Oloyede’s team has been able to get from the board. The kind of reforms that Oloyede has brought to JAMB is such that could trigger in-fighting between the board and the management if they were not on the same page on anti-corruption and matters of integrity. We have many institutions where internal wrangling between both bodies has truncated the otherwise noble aspirations of either the management or the board, to the country’s disadvantage.

Born on October 10, 1954, Is-haq Olarewaju Oloyede is both an academic and a public servant. He hails from Abeokuta South Local Government Area of Ogun State. The question now is, what next for this former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ilorin, who has transformed one of the country’s most despised public institutions in ways that could not have been envisaged six years ago? The reward for good work, as they often say, is more work. If that is the case, will Oloyede be given another opportunity to continue his good works in JAMB since he has the legal backing for such continuity?

Is he going to be promoted to more relevance so he could replicate what he has done in JAMB elsewhere? Or, will he be promoted to ‘Siberia’ to reverse the progress so far made in JAMB, as punishment for the powerful toes he must have stepped on in the course of transforming the board?

The ball is in President Buhari’s court.

Source: The Nation

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