Ishaq Oloyede: Rebuilding Jamb From The Scratch


Rev Solomon Semaka.

There is a saying that it is easier to destroy than to build. This saying applies to almost every aspect of human life from reputation, to business and even in the field of administration. It takes effort and time to build functional institutions and structures. It equally takes time to bring about reforms and correct institutional anomalies. Human life generally from conception to childbirth takes both divine and human efforts. Very few people have the patience, talent and creativity to make things happen due to the sacrifices required to plan, strategize, deploy resources and follow up on policy implementation and goals. The majority of public office holders are either bereft of ideas or simply prefer to plunder and sabbottage public interest through
dubious means.

The current Executive Secretary of the Joint Admission and Matriculation (JAMB), Professor Ishaq Oloyede belongs to a distinct category of public servants with numerous achievements to his credit both in his current beat at JAMB , and the academia where he left tremendous impact.

Established since 1978 to facilitate admissions into tertiary institutions of higher learning through a unified platform, JAMB under the current leadership has discharged its statutory duty in a manner that can only be described as professional and accountable. From the era of pencil-to-paper test administration with few candidates and few examination centres across the nation, the examination body has delivered credibly beyond expectations via innovative technology. This has earned it respect and acclaim from students, parents and tertiary institutions. The continued surge in the number of Nigerians taking the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examinations (UTME) has not changed the effectiveness of the Board to deliver professionally. The Board had over time and up till now maintained a standard that has never been questioned by stakeholders in the academia. Building upon foundation laid by his predecessors, Prof. Ishaq Oloyede is even doing more to safeguard and protect the integrity of the Board even as he has digitally transformed all operations of JAMB in recent times.

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In times past, the coordination between Universities and JAMB for admitting students was shrouded in secrecy and opaqueness. It wasn’t a conspiratorial secret but it wasn’t open to public understanding. Many people who took JAMB in the 80s and 90s didn’t even know their admission letters first came from JAMB before the Universities ratified same. Many people got admissions but didn’t know on time or didn’t know at all. Under the administration of Prof. Ishaq, students can follow up on their admission processes via the instrumentality of Information Communication Technology as introduced by the current leadership. Universities also have dedicated platforms for interfacing with the Board to ensure that admissions are given in a transparent and policy-specific manner. Resource verification and the approval of new courses in conjunction with other relevant agencies have never been swift before now. Cut-off marks are collectively agreed upon by the Board and tertiary institutions in a consultative manner that leaves no one out of the knowledge of things. Indeed the periodic consultation with stakeholders in formulating the Board’s policy has no doubt smoothened the operations of the examination body. The regularisation of admissions for those who got admitted through other processes has helped to coordinate and harmonise databases for the benefit of tertiary institutions and the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC). That’s the essence of having patriotic leaders to man strategic institutions. JAMB under the current management team have no doubt made a positive impression with Nigerians.

JAMB, a statutory examination body with a meagre budget and huge expenses, the board under the visionary leadership of Prof Ishaq Oloyede has devised cost saving strategies and deployed technologies that have turned the Board into a robust organization tilting towards becoming a self sustainable institution with the capacity to run its operations without too much burden on the federal government. The total migration to digital operations has reduced paper consumption, sundry operational and printing costs which hitherto gulped the institution billions of naira. The adoption of Computer Based Test (CBT) technology and the introduction of smart cards for checking results have reduced costs so drastically and enhanced ease of conducting examinations . Even the JAMB syllabus which used to be a bulky print out is now digitized on a disc. While a few Nigerians might question JAMB’s motive to generate and even remit billions of revenue into the nation’s treasury, it is to the credit of JAMB under the current leadership that instead of diverting the surplus after every examination season, they choose rather to remit it back into the federations account. Whereas statutory revenue generating agencies fall short of this expectation , JAMB is setting a pace in accountability and transparency .

JAMB under the current leadership has continued to inspire confidence in all stakeholders. For the first time, the Board under the current management has created innovative platforms to monitor and evaluate the conduct of her examinations. It is indeed commendable that JAMB has incorporated all key stakeholders like Vice Chancellors, seasoned academics, Media and members of the Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in the conduct of the annual examinations. Apart from town hall meetings and consultations, Prof. Ishaq and his team have developed a culture of regularly briefing members of the public on developments and progress made at the Board. This is how institutions established to serve the interest of people should function in a democracy. By running an open-door policy, the Executive Secretary is letting all Nigerians know that he’s not on a self serving mission but to reform the Board. Prof Ishaq listens and takes good counsel from all concerned stakeholders. He has also demonstrated that there’s nothing to hide unlike what happens in many other agencies.

JAMB under the current management has enjoyed the goodwill and support of Mr. President in the discharge of their duties through motivation and support from the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu. The synergy and cooperation from the supervising ministry must be commended. Never has there been a conflict of interest or a dispute between the Board and the Ministry of Education as was in the past. JAMB has become a standard for comparison with other agencies under the Federal Ministry of Education. By far JAMB has outperformed other examination bodies in the country not because of the quantum of operations but because of the vision and tenacity of its leadership. Nigerians are happy that amidst all hardships, at least one agency of government is functioning optimally and professionally.

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There’s no need over flogging the fact that there exists a very cordial official relationship between JAMB and the National Universities Commission (NUC) on one hand and the National Commission for College Of Education (NCCE) and National Board for Technical Education (NBTE) on the other hand. This relationship is healthy for the education sector and our young Nigerians whose desire for higher education the Board seeks to make possible and seemless. So far so good and we hope that JAMB will continue to work closely with institutions both federal, state and privately owned to continue to harmonize admissions and sustain quality and standards for all academic programmes across the country.

Prof. Ishaq has done well not just in the area of technology and innovation. He has also invested heavily in staff development and welfare. Of course, conducting examinations in all the states and local government areas in the country is not an easy task. It requires extra hands to make it effective, which means more jobs and that’s what JAMB under Prof Ishaq Oloyede has succeeded in doing through interagency cooperation to enhance conduct of her examinations .The training and retraining of staff of JAMB especially in recent times have ensured the seamless operation of all CBT centres, offices and dedicated infrastructure. The welfare of staff has also received a boost under the new management. With a motivated labour force, the sky is the limit for JAMB. With the morale and leadership direction at the Board, it won’t be long before JAMB will absorb some underperforming sister agencies as a strategy to accelerate innovation in the education sector.

For his strides in transforming, reforming and setting an unrivalled standard in JAMB, Prof Ishaq Oloyede deserves to be awarded this year’s National Productive Merit Award. He deserves to be conferred with an award for digital excellence and a national honours award for his foresight and vision. Ours must not only be a culture of criticisms and attacks but we must learn to sing and honour our heroes and heroines. It is also necessary at this juncture to call on other sister agencies to emulate the efforts of Prof. Ishaq and strive to cut costs using the best technologies for higher productivity and efficiency. Tertiary institutions of learning should also look inwards and consider outright digitisation of all operations to enhance efficiency as pioneered by JAMB.

Semaka is the Author of Security, Politics and Economy ; A documentary in Honor of President Buhari & Convener Save Nigeria Movement.




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