By Bola Bolawole
firstname.lastname@example.org 0807 552 5533
(Published on the back page of the New Telegraph newspaper of Wednesday, 2 February, 2022).
When Prof. Ishaq Oloyede ended his first five-year tenure as the Registrar of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) on July 30, 2021, many were apprehensive he might not receive the nod of the appointing authorities for a second term in office. And the reason is not far to fetch. Oloyede is not your mill-of-the-run Nigerian public officer who will lobby and fight to sit-tight in office. He finished his first term and returned home, allowing the authorities to decide one way or another. But the general public, especially the mass media that have worked closely with Oloyede, scrutinising and placing him under the searchlight, concluded that this is a rare gem of a public officer that should be utilised to the fullest for the benefit of the society. So, it was not as much as compensation to Oloyede for a job well done at JAMB that the media erupted in demands for his return but that the unending business of cleaning the Augean stable at the JAMB, which he has bravely, courageously, consistently and insistently pursued, might be carried to its logical conclusion. So, one of the “achievements” of the President, Major-General Muhammadu Buhari (retired), which his spin doctors often neglect to recall, was his re-appointment of Oloyede on Friday, August 20, 2020!
The decision was widely hailed in the media as it was joyfully celebrated by JAMB workers when Oloyede resumed duties there again on Tuesday, August 24, 2021. As you will soon see and as Oloyede himself has noticed, it cannot be everyone that was happy with the return of the hard-fighting and crime-busting JAMB Registrar. No one at the helms of JAMB affairs has been as hard on crooks intent on compromising our examinations as Oloyede. Again, it could not have been that the spike in the incidence of examination malpractices coincided with the coming of Oloyede but that the political will to fight the scourge and the rigour to stay the course had been lacking. Security experts often posit that crimes and criminals are usually one or two steps ahead of efforts to fight and contain them. With the coming of technology, especially the internet, world globalization has also meant the globalization of crime and criminal activities. It is not only information that now travels with the speed of light, crime does! Technology has become a two-edged sword! Only those who are up-and-running can catch up with criminals and their tendencies. Organisations must employ cutting-edge technology to match or outwit digital age whiz-kids taking advantage of technology to unleash crime on society.
Every JAMB cycle, Oloyede meets with media chiefs to do three things. One: Thank them for their support and solicit for more. Two: Host them to a sumptuous lunch. Three, which Oloyede himself admitted is the most important reason for such meetings: Offer juicy news items to the media chiefs sourced from private, public, social, traditional, print and electronic media and spread across the length and breadth of the country. Usually, the food is good, the camaraderie and opportunity to meet and throw banters enliven the soul but the candour of Oloyede as he reels out newsworthy information is the icing on the cake. Oloyede is as honest, forthright and down-to-earth as they come. It is the same character he demonstrates at the yearly JAMB stakeholders’ meetings with the heads of tertiary institutions. Oloyede does not hoard information, unlike many in his position who, despite the Freedom of Information Act, put information meant for public consumption under lock and key. Little wonder, then, that the JAMB Registrar is a newsman’s delight. He is humble and admits it when he is at fault without you pressing him. He points your attention to his own fault that you might not even have been aware of. When media executives gave a suggestion he was opposed to and which he reluctantly accepted, he came back to give the credit to the media when the suggestion resonated well with the public and he, Oloyede, began to be praised for it. Oloyede is jovial and makes the occasion convivial – always. I cannot remember a meeting with Oloyede where he did not make us laugh many times, even when discussing serious issues seriously. It was so again last Saturday in Lagos.
He announced that a cyber attack suffered by the Board through the irresponsible attitude of a staff member was responsible for the shift in the February date earlier announced for the 2022 UTME examinations to May 6 – May 16, 2022. The mock examination comes up on April 16. Registration is between February 12 and March 19 but candidates interested in writing the mock examination should register before February 26th. An eye-opener at the luncheon was the sordid affairs involving JUPEB (Joint Universities Preliminary Examinations Board) through which candidates gain admission into 200 Level in any university of their choice. It is another name for the Advanced Levels but, according to Oloyede, quoting investigations conducted by the ICPC (Independent Corrupt Practices Commission) and corroborated by JAMB and the universities themselves, JUPEB became a cesspool of corruption. A 761-page report from the University of Lagos (UNILAG) to the Honourable Minister of Education clearly revealed more than examination malpractice but a complete neglect of responsibility by those charged with the running of JUPEB. Ironically, UNILAG coordinates JUPEB, which is similar to the long-running IJMB (Interim Joint Matriculation Board) which is moderated and coordinated by the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. We need not allow the rot in JUPEB to detain us here; suffice it to say that the relevant authorities are doing the needful to clean up JUPEB’s Augean stable.
Another issue that revealed how compromised some of our university administrators can be is that of illegal admissions. Despite the best efforts of JAMB to streamline admissions and stop the monkey business of admissions through the back door with its CAPS (Central Admissions Processing System), many of our institutions of higher learning still carry on with business as usual, only for such universities and their illegal students to get exposed when it is time for the students to graduate and get their call-up letter for the mandatory one-year NYSC (National Youth Service Corps). From 2017 to 2020, there are about 95,000 such university “students”; over 553,000 polytechnic “students” and over 175,000 College of Education “students”, among others. Examination malpractices are hydra-headed. As you nip them in the bud here, they mutate elsewhere! It is not just an unending task; it is also a risky and thankless job! The headquarters of the examination malpractices mafia is said to be at Ibafo, Ogun state, along the Lagos-Ibadan expressway. The kingpins are said to be so powerful, influential, and wealthy that they have Mobile policemen guarding and escorting them!
To be on top of the game, JAMB has kept reviewing its operations and processes. Beginning this year, for instance, it is introducing a cashless registration system where candidates will pay the N700 registration fee to JAMB, which will now pay the CBT centres as per the number of candidates registered by each CBT. This is to prevent a situation where greedy CBT centres bite more than they can chew and, in the process, make candidates miss registration within the stipulated time. CBT centres charging above the stipulated N700 will also not be able to do so any more. JAMB is also working on having one or two additional customised USSD codes – 44019 and or 66019 – in addition to the existing 55019. A test-trial of self-serving centres is also being created at designated computers at CBT centres for candidates who can conduct their own registration unaided.
Oloyede appealed to parents not to pile undue pressure on their wards as this has led many of them to seek to cut corners. In times past, Oloyede had also advised parents not to force courses or disciplines on their wards. They should not “help” them engage in any form of examination malpractices. Two new courses – Computer Studies and Physical and Health Education – have been introduced. In five years, Computer Studies will be made compulsory like English. Oloyede was asked if he thought all the hard work he has put in at JAMB will be sustained after his exit. He expressed mixed feelings. He said he was shocked to see the way he was enthusiastically welcomed back to office by staff. He had thought they would all be happy to see the back of “this troublesome man”! He also mentioned some of the innovations he had engineered that he feels will be difficult for anyone coming after him to upturn, such as payment of staff salaries from internally-generated revenue; paying staff 13th, even 14th month salary; and serving staff at the headquarters free lunch. He thinks the staff might want to sustain these. At the same time, he said he was “confused” at certain “conflicting signals” from some of the staff, 20 of whom were recently caught engaging in examination malpractices. Were workers like those ones not just waiting for him to turn his back for them to return to business as usual?
It then boils down to the fact that another “Oloyede” will be needed to sustain and carry forward Prof. Ishaq Oloyede’s legacy at JAMB.
LAST WORD: Another strike at the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU)? No matter how justified, this is one strike too many. More on this next week!
*Former Editor of PUNCH newspapers and Chairman of its Editorial Board, Bolawole writes the “On the Lord’s Day” column in the Sunday Tribune and the”TREASURES” column in the New Telegraph newspaper. He is also a public affairs analyst on radio and television.