By: Nkechi Odoma
Every man fights, at least, a battle once in his life time. He either wins or loses. But African allegories are replete with great warriors who are famed for conquering all forces anytime they step out on the battlefield. They are venerated each time the call of duty beckons. And those determined to render honest leadership in Nigeria face a battle-like situation against retrogressive forces.
The current Registrar of Joint Matriculation and Admissions Board (JAMB), Professor Is-haq Oloyede strikes like one such Nigerian-African. He does not belong to the clan of the traditional sword brandishers, but to the ilk of academic and administrative warriors. His missile never misses a target; he is conqueror and a bulldozer of a rare and extraordinary breed. He is a man who sets his mind and eyes on success anywhere fate has ordained him to serve, and he delivers accordingly.
His admirers recall his inherited animosity with ASUU when he became the Vice Chancellor (VC), University of Ilorin (Uni-lorin). ASUU fruitlessly tried to prematurely terminate his tenure as VC for hardening to their voice the sacked Uni-lorin ASUU members. Thereafter, they resorted to witch-hunting and glaring attempts to frustrate the exercise of his academic prowess on university campuses in Nigeria.
In further pursuit of this agenda, ASUU mounted a baseless, but stiff opposition against his appointment as JAMB Registrar and backed it up with the near criminal blackmail of the federal government to reverse it or face industrial action. And now, there have been mounting antagonisms by some stakeholders in the education sector against his determination to sanitize JAMB of exam malpractices and other irregularities to bestow credibility on the exam body.
In all instances and at every point, Professor Oloyede has proved his mettle as a true African hero, who cannot be obstructed by diversionary and unprogressive forces. He bestrode every area of national assignment confidently, deflating all missiles against him and depositing awful footprints. No place has the current JAMB boss ever worked that the walls are not etched with his positive shadows in reforms, innovations and accomplishments. He makes deafening conscious efforts to succeed anywhere he serves his fatherland.
But the forces of darkness do not easily give up a fight. They do not surrender even when defeated, lest they be branded effeminate. So, they have continued to push forward plots to frustrate, obstruct and distort Oloyede’s graph to sanitize the exam body. But as usual, he is beating them in their tracks.
Professor Oloyede’s latest battle is his insistence to entrench the Computer-Based Test (CBT) style of examinations for candidates sitting for the 2017 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME). Antagonists’ cried foul and unreasonably described the online registration for the 2017 UTME as a failure, when fraudsters invaded some registration centers in some states. But the JAMB boss moved swiftly to solve the problem, as security agents apprehended the fraudsters’.
One could not fathom why the detractors had to describe as a failure, an exercise, which had successfully registered over a million candidates for the 2017 UTME out of the anticipated 1,500 candidates in the first three weeks. This happened in a country, which has certified problems of logistics, such as lack of electricity, poor internet services and other inadequacies. But the JAMB boss and his team worked tirelessly, sometimes, spending the night in the office to ensure the online registration does not become a fiasco.
Professor Oloyede’s innovations introduced trial or mock exams for the prospective candidates to test the workability of the CBT system and readiness of the examinees. The stakeholders in the education sector in Nigeria never gave him the benefit of doubt to do it. They only sighted failure; while Professor Oloyede sensed success and the benefits to candidates and the educational system in Nigeria.
These are stakeholders who have vowed that nothing good would ever come out of Nigeria again and they vehemently kicked against it. But the JAMB boss insisted and the mock exams held successfully nation-wide, with a perfection that beats the imagination. And the candidates have been better armed for the actual examinations.
That the JAMB boss dared the odds to hold the mock exams, with such resounding success is indication of the worth of Oloyede’s administrative acumen. It advertises him as a persona with a strong and unyielding character to be trusted with the most difficult of assignments, but he would not disappoint his superiors.
This singular innovation, which is unique in the West African sub-region is celebrated around the world too, as the rating of Nigeria’s JAMB today has soared incredibly. With the CBT for the 2017 UTME successfully and conveniently conducted, Prof. Oloyede has etched a niche for the board as conducting one of the best examinations in the history of Nigeria. There are numerous such exam bodies in Nigeria still struggling to understand the basics of conducting a credible exam. Such bodies should emulate this exemplary, focused, innovative and result-oriented leadership.
Quite unfortunately, when opponents failed to nail the JAMB boss over the mock exams, some of them prayed fervently it drooped. Hence the vile propaganda was practically dismantled by the board, opponents again embarked on another leg of campaigns’. Very disingenuously, thoughtlessly and laughably, they claimed candidates for 2017 UTME would not receive examination centers because of imagined “loopholes” or “shortcomings” the attackers of the reforms in JAMB eerily sighted in the online registration of candidates.
Again, the JAMB headed by Oloyede disappointed them, as candidates confirmed receiving their examination centres as promised by the exams body, days before the date of exams through SMS, e-mails and other channels.
And for each of the CBT centers approved by JAMB for the 2017 CBT-UTME, there were reserve computers to take care of unseen circumstances like system failure while exams were in progress.
Adhering to his principle of success in all his endeavours, the JAMB Registrar succeeded in registering 1, 736, 571 candidates for the 2017 UTME for 624 centres nationwide, who would sit for the exams in batches. He exceeded the estimated number of candidates’ by nearly 250, 000 candidates, who all successfully wrote the examination last Saturday, May 13, 2017 hitch -free.
An administrator who goes the extra mile to grab success deserves accolades, because in the bid of Nigeria to go digital in government or public business, there have been a lot of hiccups. The normal and peculiarly Nigerian situation would have seen poor electricity supply or outright power outage and faulty machines taking the shine off this maiden attempt by Professor Oloyede to adopt CBT for UTME as the new norm for JAMB candidates.
Banks, INEC’s e-voting, GSM companies, internet service providers have suffered these setbacks at different times. But these repulsive threats could not hold back the JAMB boss and determined for success now as never before, he treaded where devils dreaded and came out triumphantly.
So, Oloyede has proven that he is an academic and administrator who does not believe in living by chance or happenstance, but a man who consistently lives by choice; the conscious and deliberate choice of working to succeed and defining new limits of excellence for himself and institutions’ he has led in the educational sector.
Thus far, the skeptics could go ahead with their doubts; the antagonists can continue with the blackmail; the black sheeps in the system can continue with their intrigues and plots to scuttle his reformations in JAMB and his target of purifying the entry exams into Nigerian higher institutions. But Professor Oloyede has never been defeated in such battles. Another opportunity has offered it and him to proven his critics dead wrong.
With this maiden, but successful implementation of CBT for UTME, Nigerians genuinely concerned with the fallen standards of education are contemplating honouring him as Nigeria’s Ambassador of free and fair examinations, devoid of malpractices. So, the JAMB boss has already silenced critics and opponents alike to the salvation of the educational sector and the glory or prosperity of Nigeria.
Odoma, is President, Africa Arise for Change Network and writes from Abuja.
By: Nkechi Odoma