JAMB: Oloyede on rescue mission

The appointment of the immediate past vice chancellor of the University of Ilorin, Professor Is-haq Olanrewaju Oloyede (OFR), as the new Registrar of the beleaguered Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) is heartwarming as it is reassuring. Heartwarming because it is like a Daniel coming to justice and reassuring because it is an indication that at last the right physician has been found for this critically ailing parastatal!

An erudite professor of Arabic and the first ever Unilorin graduate to make a first class degree, Oloyede became a household name during his tenure as the vice chancellor of the University of Ilorin, having largely succeeded in turning the second generation university into a world class institution. This, he achieved by dint of hard work, resilience, consistency, tenacity of purpose and unparalleled team spirit.

With the inconsistency and policy somersault that the central tertiary institutions admissions agency has begun to manifest in recent times, keen watchers and analytical commentators have begun to warn of dire consequences for the nation’s education sector if urgent action was not taken to stem the JAMB slide.

At first, it was the massive dwindling confidence in the entrance examination – the Universal Tertiary Matriculation Examinations (UTME) – conducted by the body. Such was the waning popularity of JAMB that a consensus of opinions is gradually forming on the need to scrap the body and revert the power to admit candidates to the respective universities! But then this would have meant a big step backwards and a sad reversal of one of the lofty dreams of the founding fathers of this central admissions agency – the dream of forging national unity and cohesion through pluralistic admissions exercise.

Indeed, no government worth its name would allow such a sad slide. What then is the way out? Look for a credible personage to reverse the glide, of course! And that exactly was what President Muhammadu Buhari did on Monday, August 1 with the appointment of Oloyede, a tested and trusted hand, to head JAMB.

A stickler for discipline and due process, Professor Oloyede will be bringing his well-known Spartan commitment to set goals to bear on an organisation that critically needs to be salvaged for the benefit of the nation’s educational development. Indeed, this is one of the best appointments President Buhari has made so far! Professor Oloyede is a round peg in a round hole! There is no doubt that in no time he will turn around the fortunes of JAMB and reinvent the organisation’s fast dwindling glory!

Since the announcement of the appointment, many commentators have commended the choice of Professor Oloyede, an erudite academic and astute administrator, whose administrative wizardry, during his tenure as vice chancellor of the University of Ilorin, was largely responsible for the meteoric transformation of the second generation Nigerian university into a world class citadel of learning!

Professor Oloyede’s appointment is a plus for the University of Ilorin, with which he has been affiliated since the past 34 years – as a student, lecturer, deputy vice chancellor and, ultimately, vice chancellor! He is a Unilorite through and through, Acknowledged globally as “better by far”, the University of Ilorin has a unique spirit – the spirit of consistency; the spirit of excellence; the spirit of discipline and indeed, the team of collective responsibility – that has largely accounted for the university’s success in all aspects of the tripartite mandate of an archetypal institution of higher learning. And Professor Oloyede is one of the harbingers of this positive spirit and a major stakeholder in its blossoming to national and international acclaim.

His tenure at the university (2007-2012) catapulted it to an institutional model for the Nigerian university system. During the period, Unilorin was ranked amongst the best in Africa. Also, during his tenure as Chairman of the Association of Vice Chancellors of Nigerian Universities (AVCU), public universities in the country regained their voice and institutional autonomy got a remarkable boost. Furthermore, Professor Oloyede championed and expanded the cause of inter-varsity synergy across the African continent when he became the President of the Association of African Universities (AAU).

So, Professor Peter Okebukola, a former Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission (NUC), was right when he described the new JAMB helmsman as a colossus in the academia and the nation’s education sector. In his media reaction to Professor Oloyede’s appointment, Professor Okebukola noted that he “parades excellent credentials to lead a whole sector like education in Nigeria, hence asking him to head a parastatal in education is like asking a 5-star, battle-tested general to quell a fight between two area boys in Ajegunle!”

That is just putting it as bluntly as it could be. For, Professor Oloyede’s trajectory is a study in service excellence, administrative acumen, religious commitment to the achievement of set goals, and unapologetic insistence on fairness for all.

Such is the stuff that this Advisory Board member of the International Network for Higher Education in Africa (INHEA) is made of. His appointment is an opportunity to sanitise the nation’s education system, especially the often controversy-laden admission system of the tertiary sector.   It is hoped that from now on, JAMB will not be the same again!

Another Unilorin don, an erudite Professor of Library Science, Lenrie Olatokunbo Aina, was also named, on the same day, the new Head of the National Library of Nigeria.  Professor Aina, who is the immediate past dean of the university’s Faculty of Communication and Information Sciences, is another rare breed of an academic. He is another full-blooded Unilorite in deed and in truth!

Everybody who has worked with him can testify to Professor Aina’s erudition and expertise, especially when matters bibliographical are in discourse!

A quite unassuming personality, Professor Aina is bringing to the National Library of Nigeria over four decades of experience in librarianship. He is another round peg in a round hole. There is no doubt that he will make a positive mark in his new appointment.

We congratulate the duo on their well-deserved appointments and wish them all the best in their new positions.

Akogun is the Head, Corporate Affairs, University of Ilorin.