By Charles Ampitan
For 19 grueling days, not a few Nigerians had waited with bated breath over who takes over from Is-haq Oloyede, a professor and former Vice Chancellor of the University of Ilorin, who had successfully and diligently superintended over the affairs of the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board, JAMB, as registrar since August 1, 2016.
On August 2, a day before the expiry of his first term of office, Oloyede had handed over to the leadership baton at the examination body to Fabian Okoro, the director of information technology services, even before directive came from the Ministry of Education to do so. Such was his candour in the last five years.
Within two weeks after he handed over, the question on most lips not only at JAMB but nationwide was not whether Nigeria with a population of 200 million people has other qualified persons who could replace him but that should President Muhammadu Buhari who was in faraway London, first on state functions and later for personal medical reasons, change a winning team’s leader?
At JAMB headquarters in Bwari, Abuja, discerning visitors could notice the anxiety among staff that had become used to Oloyede’s revolution within five years. Within this period, the 66-year-old varsity don had stamped his probity mark on the 44-year-old agency of the Federal Ministry of Education. Contrary to old practices and expectations, he had generated and remitted over N30billion to the federal purse, an amount far above what was generated by the Board in its history. This was aside from unprecedented innovations he brought into the examination body’s administrative architecture. Among these were a sharp reduction of the fee for Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination, UTME, forms from N5,000 to N3,500 in 2017; deployment of technology to block revenue leakages through corrupt officials.
But to those who are versed in President Buhari’s commitment to education, the return of one of the poster boys of the current administration would not be long in coming. Thus, when the commander-in-chief announced his re-appointment as JAMB’s Registrar on August 20, 2021, for another five-year term, everybody in Bwari and indeed across Nigeria, heaved a sigh of relief. They were happy that President Buhari had returned a round peg into a round hole to continue the good work he started beyond the tenure of this administration which ends in 2023.
Yet many people felt his reappointment for another term of five years was not really a surprise, given the great revolution he had set in motion at JAMB since August 1, 2016.
The president’s commitment to education not only informed Oloyede’s re-appointment, he also re-appointed other performing chief executive officers of other agencies under the ministry. These were executive secretary of the National Universities Commission (NUC) and the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), Professor Abubakar Rasheed and Dr. Hamid Bobboyi, Ifeoma Isiugo-Abanihe as registrar and chief executive officer of the National Business and Technical Examinations Board (NABTEB); Promise Mebine, a professor, for the National Mathematical Centre for a tenure of five years.
A statement issued by the ministry of education, noted that all the reappointments were based on the recommendation of Adamu Adamu, the minister of education.
The statement reads: “President Muhammadu Buhari, has, upon the recommendation of Education Minister, Adamu Adamu, approved the reappointment of the Registrar of the Joint Admissions and Matriculations Board (JAMB), Prof. Ishaq Olanrewaju Oloyede and the Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission (NUC), Prof. Abubakar Adamu Rasheed.
“The two appointments are for a tenure of five (5) years each, with effect from 1st August, 2021.
“Also reappointed is Dr. Hamid Bobboyi as Executive Secretary of the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) for a second and final tenure of four (4) years with effect from 1st August, 2021.
“It will be recalled that Mr. President had earlier approved the reappointment of Prof. Ifeoma Isiugo-Abanihe as Registrar/CEO of the National Business and Technical Examinations Board (NABTEB) for a second term of four (4) years to sustain the efforts at sensitizing Nigerians on the critical role of Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) and business subjects in the new knowledge economy.
“To give further impetus to mathematics education, approval was also granted for the appointment of Prof. Promise Mebine as the Director/Chief Executive of the National Mathematical Centre for an initial tenure of five (5) years with effect from 17th August, 2021.”
Notably, many Nigerians had called for re-appointment of Oloyede and Rasheed. One of such, Professor Peter Okebukola, former executive secretary of NUC, had premised his suggestion for the reappointment of the two public servants on “their massive impacts on the nation’s education sector, and integrity.”
Expectedly, Oloyede has again hit the ground running. At Bwari last week, a flurry of activities had begun. Ecstatic staff could be seen running around to keep pace with the academic-turned-administrator. By Sunday, barely two days after he was re-appointed, the soft-spoken professor had visited the office to assess the situation. He ordered the new security system he began shortly before handing over to start duties.
The return of ‘Professor of Integrity’ has since been electrifying. Although sanity has not departed the organisation during his three week absence, Oloyede’s impressive style has created frenzy in all workers. His turnaround of the physical environment of the agency into a befitting one is legendary. Those who visited JAMB six years ago would lose their beacon today. Oloyede has reconstructed or renovated every structure to the admiration of staff and visitors.
Instructively, staff welfare has been paramount on Oloyede’s agenda even as he ensured he met revenue targets like other agencies such as the Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, Nigeria Ports Authority, NPA, and Federal Inland Revenue Service, FIRS. Today, in his second coming, the Egba-born academic is praised by staff for providing free lunch for his workers within JAMB’s premises. Hitherto, workers always trooped out to roadside food vendors in the rustic Bwari environment with its attendant risks. And there is a plan to make it free at JAMB offices nationwide immediately.
Now, irrespective of your status in the 44-year-old agency, once you work at the headquarters in Bwari, you can saunter into an ultra-modern restaurant Oloyede built with a ticket for a free sumptuous meal.
Beyond this, critical decisions pending at JAMB will be tackled soon. The first is to hold the 2021 admission policy meeting of the agency which the minister had fixed for August 31. It will be chaired by the education minister. This meeting is an annual gathering of stakeholders within the nation’s education sector who are involved in the admission processes of candidates to Nigeria’s tertiary institutions including universities, polytechnics, monotechnics and colleges of education.
Those who must attend the meeting are heads of tertiary institutions, admission officers, registrars and other critical stakeholders who will fix the benchmarks for the cut-off marks for the 2021/2022 admission into the institutions.
As days roll into weeks, Nigerians will begin to see a perfection of what Oloyede started five years ago. The process has not ended. He needs to continue to fine tune the administrative and financial processes. He cannot and won’t rest on his oars. He must deepen the accountability and transparency he entrenched in his first term. This way, he would have etched his name in gold forever.
Ampitan, a company CEO, writes from Abuja