By Lateef Adewole
It was a great delight watching the budget defence of the Ministry of Education on Tuesday, when they came to do so before the Joint Committee of Senate on Tertiary Education and Services. The Honourable Minister, Mr. Adamu Adamu led the delegation. He did the major defence.
Then, it was the turn of Professor Ishaq Oloyede, the Registrar of the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB). He made his defence, which blew everyone away. He got what is equivalent of a “standing ovation”, in praises. The committee members, Senators and Honourable members could not stop eulogising him. He was appreciated and showered with encomium.
The more interesting part was that, they were not the usual “sycophantic or political” praises as we are used to, especially when they come from one arm of government to another among politicians. They were sincere and based on substance. They were based on the professor’s unprecedented performance in a very short time, just about 3 years since he was appointed to that office.
Indeed, Professor Oloyede has continued to distinguish himself in public service, displays exceptional leadership capacity, competence, integrity and he represents the leadership of our dreams for our country, Nigeria. His activities since taken over the leadership of JAMB, a critical examination body to attaining higher education in Nigeria, which shapes the future of the youths, have been nothing but revolutionary. It is ingenious to us, to our country.
His appointment was followed with scathing criticisms, majorly based on religious jingoism, as it is usual with us in Nigeria. Some people accused the president of furthering his “Islamisation agenda” with that, considering that Professor Oloyede is an Islamic scholar and a professor of Islamic and Arabic studies for that matter. He is also the current Secretary General, National Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, a position he has occupied since May 2013. However, many forgot or deliberately overlooked the fact that he was once the former Vice Chancellor of the University of Ilorin.
Some even derided him as being not suitable to head such a “sensitive and technical” body, being not an expert in that field (technocrat). That he is an “alfa”. He is also fully “home grown”, with all his major academics from Certificate in Arabic and Islamic studies from the University of Ibadan in 1976/77, to the professorial level (UNILORIN), all achieved within the supposed “dysfunctional” education system in Nigeria. Not Havard, not Cambridge, Not Oxford, not Yate! All from Nigeria. Yet, he has proven his detractors wrong.
He has shown all of us, friends and foes alike, that tribalism or religious inclinations have no bearing on competence. He has been exemplary and phenomenon. He is one of the best appointees of President Buhari since his first term. We hope those who criticised his appointment will be humble enough to apologise to him, or in the least, show appreciation of the works he has been doing in JAMB since his appointment.
But, what has he done to deserve all these accolades? At that Tuesday budget defence, he revealed “uncommon” strides in Nigeria. He shocked everyone present when he told the public that the body is now fully self-funded, with all their capital expenditures and overheads completely taken care of by the body without collecting a kobo from the federal allocations. Despite that, they are remitting 3 billion naira to federation account, apart from another 2 billion naira, which the FG has approved for their capital projects, all from their internally generated revenues of 2019 only. Also, that was in spite of the reduction in the cost of the JAMB registration by 30% for the same year 2019.
That may not be a “new” news. The biggest shock happened after he conducted the 2017 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME), following his new appointment in October 2016. The results were released in an unprecedented record time of within few days (less than one week) of conducting the exams. This was a departure from the past when candidates had to wait like forever, just to know their scores. He then went ahead to declare a surplus money in excess of 5.1 billion naira! From just one examination?
This was 10,000% (ten thousand percent- not a mistake please!) increase over what the same JAMB declared for previous 7 years (2010 to 2016), which showed about ridiculous 50 million naira only (according to records). Seven years fah! How come? And those at the helms during those years are still walking around free. That is still being investigated. No wonder snakes, rats, lions and all kinds of animals, ate millions of naira in JAMB offices, as seen in the revelation from Benue JAMB office last year.
The following year 2018, he remitted 7.1 billion naira to the federation account after conducting the 2017 UTME. Several innovations have been introduced to curb the menace of cheating in the exams. It is now fully computer based test. He has said the candidates for 2020 exams must provide their National Identity Number (NIN), which is unique to individuals. This is to check the cases of double registrations and impersonations. Most of the whole processes have been computerised and automated for ease of administration. The system has continously been upgraded as well to protect it from cyber-attack. There is more efficiency now in the system.
I took time to x-ray all of these to exemplify what competent leadership can achieve. But how was he able to do all of these in the spate of 3 years? These are lessons we can all learn from there, especially many political office holders at all levels; federal, state and local government.
Is it not shocking to know that majority of the staff who were there in those “locust” years are still the same people who are running the organisation, with exception of some changes and the reorganisational postings? Then, what made all the difference? It is the leadership provided by Professor Oloyede! He made his personality and character to bear on the organisation he heads. The same old staff members realised that a “new sheriff” is truly in town, not a “pretender”.
While he faced the fight against corruption in the system head-on, he has been doing it “sincerely and holistically”, not punishing some people, while shielding others, based on their tribes, religion, nepotism or closeness to him. He does his fight without fear or favor. That is why it will be difficult to fault him in that respect. He recommends appropriate rewards and punishments based on the merits of each person’s case.
Inclusiveness in administration. While the rots discovered, and still being revealed, are enough to have him labelled the staff he met on resumption as corrupt, alienate himself from them or even mistreat them, he never did. All he showed them was that, things will no longer be business as usual. Those who shaped up, continued to enjoy robust relationship with him. Those who are recalcitrant are expected to be shipped out. He carried everybody along. This made those of his staff, who have no skeleton in their cupboard, to trust him.
Capacity. You cannot give what you don’t have, as they say. With a career in academics and various management positions in public and private sectors, that spanned almost four decades, he sure has what it takes to make things happen. However, that is not a given. His “personal” abilities and character made all the difference. His period as the VC of Unilorin was a testament. As Senator Egwu said at the budget defence, he turned around the administration of that institution. His legacies there endure till date. He also graduated with a First-Class in his first degree.
Self-discipline. A critical attribute that is lacking in many of us, especially our leaders, is self-discipline. They often forget the “temporariness” of power and office. They live and act recklessly many times, without a care in this world. When a leader cannot discipline himself or herself, he or she has no moral right to demand same from his or her subordinates or followers. But in Nigeria, that is not applicable. We, too many times, see cups calling the kettles black. Leadership should be by example rather than precept.
Focus. In spite of all the “shades” thrown at him after his appointment, Professor Ishaq Oloyede never got distracted. He has his mind set on his goals and he pursued them vigorously with all his might and being. Those working with him had no choice but to rise up to the occasion. That is the result of which we are seeing. He did not abandon his current responsibility and begin to blame all the past registrars of the body for everything that is wrong there. He simply moved on and faced his job squarely.
Shared commendation. I have listened to Professor Oloyede’s interviews a few times. While everyone talks about him and his achievements, he never missed any opportunity to publicly acknowledge the contributions, supports and dedication of all the members of staff of the organisation. Likewise his board members. He never took the accolades alone. This encourages his staff continue to do more.
In all of these, while it looks so bleak like Nigeria may never move forward, the time of Professor Ishaq Oloyede at the JAMB leadership shows that, if we resolve to make changes for better, Nigeria can actually move forward, even beyond our imaginations. All that we all need is the collective will to do the right things, and eschew hatred, tribalism, cronyism, nepotism and religious divisiveness. And it all starts by always doing our best to put our best foot forward, whether for elective or appointive positions.
President Buhari got this one very right. God bless him for that. And we can only wish and hope that he will be guided while making many more appointments, going forward. The JAMB should be a case study and a temple for him. Many of his appointees were disappointment, while he continues to retain them or reappointed them for another term, more at the expense of the wellbeing of Nigeria and Nigerians. Current security situation in Nigeria comes to mind.
Professor Ishaq Oloyede is not without his own flaws, just like any normal human being, but, where those flaws are dwarfed by his good sides, the result will be positive. Many nigerians are very proud of him and we wish him greater success as he move JAMB to the “next level”!
May God continue to guide us aright.
God Bless Nigeria.