‘’Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.’’ – Warren Bennis
By ALIYU AHMED
Among the laudable things the President Muhammadu Buhari’s led administration did on assumption of office was the appointment of Professor Is-haq Olarewaju Oloyede as the substantive registrar of the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board( JAMB) the vital government agency saddled with the responsibility of conducting examination into various tertiary institutions across the country.
Prior to his appointment, the board had been enmeshed in various controversial admissions and examination issues that almost dented the credibility of its examinations and the composition of the board itself, including the erroneous neglect of training its workforce to meet up to the 21st century standards of propelled best practice of conducting examination across the globe.
Staff were left to carry out their duties in an outdated manual mode and forced to go on assignments without adequate or proper financial remuneration and entitlement to carry out their legitimate duties.
But that seemed to have changed overnight with the appointment of the former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ilorin to head the board by the present administration. Stakeholders and other enthusiastic analysts had predicted a revolutionary change in the board activities immediately he was announced as the man to steer the wheels of the almost 40 year old government establishment.
And the Prof. did not leave anyone in doubt when he unfolded his five-point agenda on taking over. Prominent on the agenda was his pledge to institute an enhanced staff welfare that would boost their morale and also to ensure discipline with a vision to restore the sanctity of examinations conducted under the board. He also promised to introduce improved technology and as well enhance transparency and advanced networking.
True to his words – the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board( JAMB) no doubt is not its old self any longer as what seems to be a massive revolutionary change has swept through its foundation and its structure now stands more boldly and more transparent in its duties to the Nigerian people.
Top on the list of ensuring that the process of carrying out examination by the board is no more business as usual was his innovative introduction of CCTV cameras to monitor the conduct of exams across the various centres in the country. The Computer-Based Test (CBT) Centres were efficiently monitored by men and technology and decisions taken after reliable records from the centres were thoroughly evaluated. The idea of the board to involve various stakeholders at all levels also contributed in organizing one of the best conducted examinations by the board so far.
Attestations from various relevant associations and bodies on the improvement recorded with Professor Oloyede as head of JAMB are notable, prominent among them is the National Association of Nigerian Students ( NANS) who gave kudos to his leadership style, including the Joint Action Coalition on Education, a Non-Governmental Organisation that deployed monitors in all 36 states and confidently came up with a verdict that it was one of the best examinations conducted by the board so far, despite the short period available for preparation.
Professor Oloyede, cognizant of the important of a well motivated workforce also kept to his pledge to adequately mobilize his staff on assignments across the country; this he did by going step ahead of their expectations by introducing what is known as buck money to staff on national assignment, this to enhance their productivity and efficiency.
No doubt that this newremuneration procedure galvanized the morale of the staff and Nigerians are now experiencing an efficient system of carrying out examinations into various tertiary institutions across the country.
As part of injecting transparency into the board activities the new registrar also ensured that many CBT centres found to have performed below expectations were blacklisted, while candidates who were affected by performance in such centres were afforded another opportunity to take the examination.
One of the lucky groups of Nigerians who have also benefitted from his focused transparency are candidates with disability. The board under Oloyede, determined to make the Computer Based Test all inclusive to different category of candidates embarked on a nationwide training for visually impaired on the use of Apex Braille-note computer.
The Apex Braille-note computer is an electronic devise invented by the Board to enable visually impaired to take the Computer Based Test without stress like a normal Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination candidate.
The machine is affixed to a desktop computer and questions are deployed to it electronically with hearing aid. No fewer than 200 visually impaired participants in the training held at designated venues across the nation; namely South West Resource Centre in Abeokuta, Lagos , Kano, Enugu and Port Harcourt.
In his message shortly before the commencement of the training at the South Western Resource Centre, the Registrar told the participants that the Board exam was all-inclusive and as such would not exclude any candidate due to one disability or the other. The registrar, who spoke through the Director of Psychometrics, Mr. Omokunmi Popoola and was replicated across the other centres, pointed out that the training was designed to acquaint the visually impaired on the new technology, familiarize themselves on the usage before the examination.
In a remark at the, the visibly elated participants expressed joy and happiness for the thoughtfulness and equal level playing field given to them by JAMB. Mr Popoola Suraj from the Ogun State Ministry of Information and consultant and an instructor to the centre commended the Board for the “laudable initiative”. He said “the process JAMB has initiated was easy and friendly to use, I say kudos and I urge them to intensity continuous orientation through constant training.
One of his most remarkable achievements since resuming office has been his extraordinary zeal of remitting huge amount of money to the federal government coffers. His first year in office broke the record of remitting about 7.8 billion to the Federal Government. An amount never recorded in the 40 years history of the board. Many analysts and stakeholders lauded this commendable achievement seen as something rare and unlike in public agencies in the country. This was something that never happened during the past administrations.
Commendations from various quarters on the professor and his team have emitted from all angles and parents and candidates have equally commended his honour of keeping to his words of bringing about a transparent examination board in the country. Again his introduction of cost-saving measures instead of spending inefficiently in poor examination exercise has been noted and applauded by stakeholders as well.
Notable also is, professor Oloyede’s focus of creating synergies with other government agencies to ensure that the board has credible data to conduct its examinations annually. Such synergy is the ongoing plan to partner with the National Identification Management Commission (NIMC) to streamline the data system in Nigeria.
Fabian Benjamin, the Head of Information and Media elaborated more on this during an interview. ‘’ If you see what we are doing this year, starting from last years in terms of registration, we have put it into our system that you must have a profile and biometric data of every candidate, that is, you must have a proper profile in our data; your names and every other relevant information about you. So that maybe in the next 10 years for any candidate who has applied and pass through JAMB, we will have his or her internal data. As a matter of fact we are about to go into partnership with the National Identification Management Commission (NIMC) so that we can streamlined the data system in Nigeria’’
But despite his prompt successes at JAMB, the professor just like any other human doing something positive has not been left out by criticisms from the lens of critics and the bring him down syndrome . But no doubt that the Prof. is doing something no other registrar has been able to do since taking over the saddle as the head of JAMB.
The fact that significant unions in the country’s educational sector like the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), has come out boldly to commend him is a testimony that he is doing the right thing. ASUU recently commended the Oloyede’s led JAMB for blacklisting 48 Computer Based Test (CBT) centres used for the 2017 UTME for alleged involvement in extortion and organized examination malpractice during the UTME.
Professor Oloyede had earlier announced that the decision was taken at the end of an enlarged meeting with stakeholders in the conduct of the examination.
According to ASUU ‘’ What JAMB has done in that respect is a welcome development and a good decision. We will not expect it to stop at just blacklisting of such centres. The leadership of the board should go a step forward by prosecuting owners of the affected centres in order to serve as a deterrent to others.’’
Finally, the reality is the good news that the ministry of education under which JAMB is domicile as a government agency has also commended the good work of the new JAMB under Oloyede. The minister of Education Mallam Adamu Adamu recently commended the board over the establishment of more Computer Based Centres (CBTs) across the country and the remarkable work of the board under the new registrar.
No doubt that JAMB like any other organizations has its own peculiar problems, failure and challenges, but the testimonies that the examination body under the new registrar, Professor Is-haq Olarewaju Oloyede is today wearing a new face and a modernized approach of conducting examination in the country has restored the confidence of candidates and other stakeholders and nothing sweeter to hear than the fact that he has not only injected transparency into the activities of the board, but has also guarantee the sanctity of examination in Nigeria.