By Lateef Adewole
Let me use this opportunity to express my appreciation to many people who reached out to me through visitations, calls and text messages, while I recuperate from my bedrest. Your empathy was heart-warming. It lifted my spirit and catalysed my recovery more quickly. It’s evident that love health when shared. I feel loved. Thank you all. God bless you. May we continue to be hale and hearty.
Even in my state, the news of some important things going on in the country couldn’t pass me by, as much as I avoided them deliberately in these past weeks. In fact, what a senior friend, who is an ardent reader of my weekly articles said immediately he read last week’s publication was that I must have had lowered immunity due to my excessive worry about Nigeria. Anyone who knows me or has been following my writings wouldn’t disagree with him. I completely agree with him too.
In times past, every now and then, I have tried various ways to rid myself of excessively worrying about the country or at least, limit the depth of it. I have abstained from watching television news and programmes for weeks at some points. I stopped following news analysis online and offline, stopped reading posts on social media, and many other similar actions. All these often gave temporary relief. They never solved the problem. How won’t anyone, who genuinely loves this country, be concerned about Nigeria?
Will such persons not eat or buy foodstuffs from the market? Will they not buy fuel at the filling stations? Will they not send children to schools and pay exorbitant school fees? Won’t they fall sick and experience the difficulties accessing reasonable healthcare services at government hospitals or pay through their noses at private ones? Will such people not experience darkness when the “almighty DisCos” take their power? The worst is the insecurity. Won’t such people move around without looking over their shoulders, travel from one place to another, without their hearts in their mouths?
All these are more than enough challenges for one person to face. Why won’t I be worried when I experience all of these one way or another, directly or indirectly, at one time or another. Being alive alone is a serious task in Nigeria today. It’s work! I met a person yesterday who told me his friend was kidnapped two day earlier. The kidnappers have demanded for 30 million naira ransom, which all his friends and families are still battling what to do about. How will someone not be worried?
So, it’s in the midst of my recovery that the news of the bowing out of our quintessential, enigmatic Registrar of the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB), Professor Ishaq Oloyede, filtered into my ears. I began to see series of posts about him and his work at JAMB. Some people who knew him personally down to his family level even wrote about his background and why they were not surprised about many things he did that shocked many of us about him as the JAMB Registrar. He even referred to him as “Alfa Isiaka”.
One particular narrative revealed an incident some decades ago, while he was a lecturer at UNILORIN. It stated how the professor was so strict that to give him an ordinary hamper alone as gift was a trouble. He never accepted any gifts whatsoever and however small, just to avoid being compromised. He was said to give a standing order to that effect at his home too. The story was how the acceptance of an “innocent hamper” from a close person to the Professor by his son landed the boy in a big trouble with him when he returned. Such was the extent of his discipline. When I read that and many others, I understood better.
So, when I read that his tenure ended last week and he was handing over, I was shocked. Not because I didn’t expect an end to his tenure but that he has not been reappointed. I have monitored various news channels and put my ears to the ground since then but there was no glimpse of any such. In fact, I read that another person he handed over to is already functioning in acting capacity. I couldn’t believe my ears. What’s wrong with us as a country? How could that be?
Yes, it’s not a must that he be reappointed. Doing so is at the discretion of President Buhari. But, why won’t he do so? Why would any president want to change a “winning team”, moreover when he has the constitutional power to do so? If there is any one appointment that majority of Nigerians were unanimous as being outstanding among all the President Buhari’s appointments, it’s Professor Oloyede’s, as the Registrar of JAMB. Friends and foes alike. Many might have their differences with him or his style but most agreed he did excellently well.
Just like yesterday when he was appointed in 2016 which raised dust and generated controversies. Despite all that, he went ahead to do his job so diligently and with incredible honesty. It was after then, one to two years down the line, that everyone began to be awed by his performances. In 2019, three years into his JAMB leadership, I wrote an article about his exploits. The title was: “Oloyede and JAMB Leadership: A Metaphor for Possible Nigeria”. It was published on 26th of October, 2019. It got massive reviews.
Many called me and asked if I knew him personally, to which I responded in the negative, as I have never met him as a person. Not even once. I have, however, followed his activities in public and private engagements, which prompted me to write that article. I saw an exemplary person and leader in him. When he took over JAMB and began to revolutionise the institution, I saw the “near perfect” example of the kind of leader that Nigeria needs in him. Many agreed completely with me, reason for the huge reactions to that article.
Ever since then, he never disappointed us who believed in him. He has since spent additional two years, conducted two more JAMB/UTME examinations with continuous improvements in their integrity and the institution. He has laid a solid background for subsequent developments in the organisation.
The level of transparency and accountability he has introduced into the management of that examination body was unparalleled in a public institution in Nigeria, especially that very JAMB. That was what brought his personality to the fore in the first place, when he declared billions of naira as excess funds, after he conducted his first JAMB in 2017. Nigerians were flabbergasted. How come? From where? In this country? These are some of the peoples’ reactions at the time. This was because, that was a complete departure from the previous locust decades in the agency.
How could JAMB have declared a whooping 7 billion naira after just one exam when only about 50 million naira was declared for previous seven years? That was in 2017. He has since declared several billions of naira yearly in the last five years, despite making the exam body to be self-funding and reduced the cost of JAMB registration for the students now. That’s a rare act in Nigerian system. Many government institutions and MDAs are about subventions despite generating revenues. That’s the “largesse” of the bosses and people in such organisations. He went ahead to make the exams completely computer-based (CBT), with results coming out at record time.
Therefore, as his time as the Registrar was winding down in his first term, some of us took his reappointment for another term as a given. I personally took it for granted. I could not fathom why he would not be reappointed. This explained the shock to my marrow when I read of his handing over. Is President Buhari actually aware of this?
I asked because, with what we are made to believe as the overarching interest of the president to build institutions with integrity, JAMB with its leadership should have been poster child, from where other institutions should copy. What Professor Oloyede did right and how he did them, should be have been taught in seminars and management training programmes for the executives and personnel in public offices, except there is really no sincerity in such claim.
The president has been out of the country for a few weeks now and this easing out of Professor Oloyede is taking place at such time. Is it that some people are deliberately blindsiding the president to it? Are there other interests battling to highjack the institution and possibly reverse all these gains, which might not have been in their selfish interests in the past five years of his leadership? We all know that making that reappointment by the president from wherever he is, is not an issue. It’s left for those who should communicate such to him to do so if they so wished, assuming that the president may be unaware of it.
It’s strange how people who the public perceived as performers usually have difficulty getting appointments, reappointments or tenure extensions in Nigeria. While in many instances, many public officials or appointees who the citizens deemed incompetent, non-performers or misfits, do get reappointments or tenure extensions. Many who did so badly, even after series of unmerited tenure extensions, were even rewarded with other appointments after eventually leaving such positions. Do we prefer to reward bad behaviours or poor and non-performance? I don’t want to believe so.
I am still hoping that appropriate remedy would be made and Professor Oloyede can do more of the good jobs he started at JAMB. Except of course, the president is planning to give him greater responsibility, to go and sanitise another agency of government, which many believe he can do effectively. Like in some of the reactions to that my article two years ago, some have been asking him to become the president. That’s a great “wish”. I chose the word “wish” deliberately. That was my opinion at that time too.
Getting to any elective political office in Nigeria “no be moi moi”, not to talk of becoming the president. It’s an herculean task. The system is already manipulated against such wishful thinking. With the kind of jackals that populate the political landscape and with the pedigree of Professor Oloyede, he will be the last person that the political institution in Nigeria will support. “Dem no wan person wey go put sand sand for their garri”. No way!
At that material time, I wrote an article as my opinion on such wish. It was titled: “Did You Say…Oloyede for President?”. There, I highlighted why it would be a tough call to bring such wish to reality. I posited that our politicians will never be comfortable with a person of his integrity to wield such powers of a Nigerian president. “He go scatter things and spoil business”. I even suggested a position as INEC chairman as a test-case. That’s still being occupied now by an equally eminent Professor Mahmood Yakubu.
But, we all saw how political interest could seriously hamper the performance of a person in a position. In the past few years since he was appointed, Professor Mahmood has insisted on wanting to do e-transmission of election results. He has piloted it in many by-elections, including the last two governorship elections in Edo and Ondo states, which were adjudged to be reasonably free, fair, credible and representative of the wish of the people.
When the same amendments was proposed in the constitution, what happened? That’s the difference between a JAMB as an institution and an INEC. Not to talk of becoming the president. Oloyede and JAMB were not directly in the way of the politicians and their political interests. That’s why he was allowed to do his job as effectively as we saw.
In all, whether he is reappointed to JAMB, given another post or even retire to his private life, Professor Ishaq Oloyede has done us proud, made indelible marks and showed us all that there is a Nigeria of our dream that is possible if we can get our leadership and the selection process right. Leadership can make all the difference. We wish him well as he continues his service to humanity. God bless him.
May God continue to protect us and guide us aright.
God Bless Nigeria.