Mrs. Anthonia Eno Ibana, popularly known and addressed as ‘First Lady’ within the Board, was a public servant par excellence. Mrs. Ibana, who had a blissful public service career in the Board, was the first staff member of the Board and a female one for that matter.
The ‘First Lady’ had spent her youthful age in the service of the Board. She had also served in different capacities before retiring as a Director in one of the Departments.
In a telephone interview with JAMBulletin in Abuja , the Akwa Ibom State-born administrator, who served under four substantive and two acting Registrars, shared her experiences on the conception and evolution of JAMB, why she is addressed as the ‘First Lady’ as well as the efforts of the Oloyede-led administration to realise the dreams, hopes and aspirations of the founding fathers of JAMB and other sundry issues.
Mrs. Ibana told our reporter that she joined the Board at inception. Her words: “I joined the Board at its inception. The then Federal Commissioner of Education, Col. Ahmadu Ali, drafted me to set up JAMB. We started the journey from Ikoyi, Lagos State, before moving to Abuja.”
Continuing, she said, “I remain a lucky woman because it is a privilege to serve and be part of the success story of such a successful agency like JAMB.” Still going down memory lane, the test expert said, “My youthful years in JAMB were very interesting as we did everything humanly possible to ensure that the admission process was seamless more so that the pioneer Registrar, Uncle Michael Angulu, had laid a foundation for a solid institution.”
She noted that JAMB was a child of necessity as it was created to address the various challenges confronting the nation as well as access to tertiary education in the country. It was a product of foresight as the founding fathers were propelled to avoid a repeat of the divisions that led to the Civil War, hence their determination to create institutions that would foster unity and eliminate divisive tendencies. She added that issues like centrality of admissions, elimination of multiple admissions, as were then the case, were secondary.
According to Ibana, the creation of JAMB was greeted with jubilation adding that she was elated that the fortunes of the 41- year old body have continued to soar despite some seeming challenges. She said, “Today, there is no case of multiple admissions as many of the innovations wrought by the Board like the Central Admissions Processing System (CAPS), among others, have holistically addressed this challenge which was rampant before the Board was set up. I must credit the strict adherence to admissions criteria and other rules as being responsible for the successes recorded by the Board. It’s also important to point out that certain retrogressive practices in the tertiary education system are eroding these gains that would have gone a long way in solidifying the ship of nationhood.
“For instance, a situation whereby we have come to accept the localization of appointments to the position of heads of tertiary institutions is very unfortunate. Today, a Sokoto man cannot aspire to be Vice Chancellor of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, no matter how competent he is. This tendency should be discouraged if the gains of JAMB in the management of admissions, national cohesion and the promotion of quality control are to be felt in the nation.”
Mrs. Ibana similarly stated, “I look back and I see much transformation, the Board has transited from a regime of printing its question papers abroad, flying these papers to Nigeria and the adoption of OMR sheets for answers during the paper pencil test days. From marking our scripts abroad to scanning these OMR sheets locally and now conducting the entire examination using the Computer-Based Test mode. When we started, we were examining less than 100,000 candidates but today, the Board is examining close to two million candidates, and the whole system is being managed well. No nation has such a success story of testing such a large number on CBT mode, and as such, JAMB has become a role model to other examining bodies globally.”
Mrs. Ibana worked closely with Late Pa Michael Saidu Angulu, the pioneer Registrar between 1977 to 1986; Dr. Mohammed Abdulrahman (1986 to 1996); Prof. Bello Ahmed Salim (1996 to 2006) and the immediate past Registrar, Prof. Dibu Ojerinde, briefly before retiring in 2009. She pointed out that the Board has witnessed tremendous transformations occasioned by the various innovations brought to bear by the various Chief Executives.
She said, “I’m happy that the Board is not only alive but also waxing stronger and stronger under the leadership of Prof. Oloyede. This is because of the unprecedented deployment of technology under the present dispensation which has brought sanity and credibility to the administration of examinations and the processing of the end products. To this end, examination cheats are looking at other fields to ply their trade as the Board continues to send fraudsters to jail. The convictions secured have seriously sent the right signals to others, who may want to indulge in examination misconduct and other unwholesome practices, to have a rethink.”
The Awka Ibom-born technocrat also commended Prof. Oloyede for the great strides and uncommon achievements he had recorded so far. She cited physical infrastructure especially the remodeled National Headquarters of the Board to give staff a befitting and dignified work environment, the brand-new General Services Department building, mega CBT centres nationwide and above all, the remittances to the federal coffers.
She said, “Any time I hear about remittances, I feel like it’s a joke. In fact, when I meet Prof. Oloyede, I will ask him how he is doing it as the same charges, same income are obtained but there is much remittance now. I could recall a time when we were borrowing to complete certain operational imperatives and today, without increase in charges, the Board is remitting billions borne out of prudent management, enhanced internal capacity, among others. This is awesome.”
Other areas, according to the retired Director, included the surgical operations on the admission process through the introduction of the Central Admission Processing System (CAPS) which has provided a common automated platform for the nation’s tertiary institutions Mrs. Ibana said these landmark gestures are in conformity with the ideals of integrity and service to the nation which formed the bedrock on which the foundation of the Board was laid.
On why she is addressed as the First lady of JAMB, she said, “I attained the status of a ‘First Lady of JAMB’ because I was not only the first female pioneer staff but also the first woman to conduct peaceful examination all over the country. In addition, I also recorded many firsts as I came first in the promotion examination for directorship conducted by external consultants. I was similarly the first person to be seventeen and half years on the Deputy Directorship position and lastly, the first Director to be honoured with a grand send-off party by the entire Headquarters staff.”
Mrs. Ibana pointed out that the journey was not without hiccups but added that in spite of the trials and tribulations, God saw her through everything and, as such, she would always give God the glory and adoration. Her words, “I am very proud to have worked with JAMB. It was a beautiful experience. I worked with the former Commissioner of Education, Dr. Ahmadu Ali, at the Federal Ministry of Education where he noti ced my talent and nominated me to set up JAMB in 1978.”
On her life after retirement, she said that had been very wonderful and she was grateful to God for all His blessings, most especially for allowing her to spend her youthful years working for JAMB.
She observed that her story would not be complete without mentioning Michael Angulu, the pioneer Registrar of JAMB, who made her truly the ‘First Lady’ of JAMB.
She said, “Uncle Angulu was a great man and we worked as a family. May his soul rest in peace. Amen. I am also grateful to the immediate past Registrar, Prof. Dibu Ojerinde, for paving the way for me to become a Director.” “My advice to staff is to give their best because to whom much is given much is expected. Although, we are outside the system but we receive with joy the good news of the various welfare packages introduced by the present management.”
She admonished staff to adhere to the virtues of humility, loyalty and dedication to the services of the Board. She urged staff to cultivate the culture of doing the right thing at the right time. And, above all to be prayerful and be thankful to Almighty God for His infinite mercies.