By Hamidu Danbarewa
The successful and virtually hitch-free conduct of this year’s UTME across the country seems to have been an anti-climax judging from the unusually calm response from the general public and the media. It is a far cry from the frenzied chatter of critics, complainants and allied wailers that has regularly swamped the JAMB outing like an annual plague, much of which was justified.
The appointment of Professor Ishaq Oloyede as Registrar two years ago and the series of introspective sanitation exercises against endemic operational plagues he launched literally took JAMB to the cleaners, throwing up all the dirty linen for public opprobrium. The professor did the needful without fear or favour but with a daring determination to demystify the unfathomable by dint of curative innovation and street-wise scuttling of exam malpractices. Simultaneously, the technological templates were reviewed and upgraded solely for the enhanced convenience of the candidates and strengthened integrity of the processes.
The cumulative impact of the Oloyede crusade in JAMB highlighted the reassuring reality of potent possibilities for far-reaching corrective interventions in the notoriously dysfunctional and corrupted public service institutions by meticulous selection and purposeful deployment of requisite chief executives with a track record of impactful leadership. It was a remarkable instance of a one-man-riot squad successfully carrying out the administrative equivalent of exorcism on a bedeviled institution to the satisfaction of a hitherto pessimistic public. The challenge is to garner the consistency of commitment and sincerity of purpose to search, identify and deploy such caliber of not-so-rare professionals and bureaucrats like Professor Oloyede whose trail-blazing legacies as VC UNILORIN remain immune to deterioration and drift.
The seemingly low-keyed acknowledgement of the high-grade hitch-free conduct of this year’s UTME by the Oloyede-led JAMB actually signifies the calmness of contentment and quiet submission to excision of abnormality and inequity within the hitherto cynical, agitated and culpable community of stakeholders wallowing at the inherent excesses and inadequacies of the institution. The absence of the usual post-examination hysteria of dissatisfaction is therefore an indication of the burden of responsibility attached to leadership positions in determining the quality of service and level of performance of public service institutions.
The crux of the matter however is the “life expectancy” of the phenomenal corrective reforms and innovative initiatives for preserving the credibility and integrity of JAMB and its examinations. Though these landmark achievements are almost exclusively attributable to the leadership of Professor Oloyede and though the humble academic-administrator would always cite the supportive input of his management team, there is valid cause for concern as to the immunity acquired by JAMB against post-Oloyede relapse. Mercifully, the reformist professor’s tenure is just half way into a first term and he is most certainly qualified for an anticipatory approval of a second term and he can be trusted to extend the frontiers of his spectacular success into unexplored areas of further refinements of conduct of examinations!
So perhaps we can confidently declare JAMB as being extricated from the ranks of irredeemable public institutions in the education sector. Instructively however, in the process of reclaiming JAMB from various ills, the contaminating contributions of various stakeholders and related institutions were unceremoniously exposed. In particular, there were more than sufficient implicating grounds for putting the universities and other tertiary institutions as well as the secondary schools and related institutions who churn out the shockingly unqualified but intelligently dishonest candidates for UTME into the dock for Oloyede-type exorcism. Indeed the nation’s entire education sector would benefit tremendously from the dispassionate and professionally-motivated review and reform process with the same nationalistic objectives applied to JAMB so effectively.
The crucial importance of the education sector in determining the ultimate potentials of a nation to meet and exceed its peoples’ expectations and attain a distinctive stature of progress and development relevant for humanity’s continued sustenance cannot be downplayed. Thus far we seem to be tottering on a tortuous treadmill of disarticulated goals and aspirations, rarely connecting with the feasible or functional formula for desired outcomes. As basic education lies crippled in avoidable decay and deficiencies, secondary education is a mere conveyor belt of rat-racing students to universities that crown their desperation for certification with non-academic laxity. The result is now lamented to have deteriorated from unemployed to unemployable graduates.
It is therefore pertinent not only to begin a vigorous but vigilant manhunt for the likes of Professor Ishaq Oloyede who have distinguished themselves as dispassionate and dedicated in upholding professional as well as ethical standards of service to the country in all critical areas of national endeavour, beginning with education and deploying them meticulously and meritoriously to specific institutions where their influence will be transformative. In the meantime, can we crave the indulgence of Professor Ishaq Oloyede to help the process of much-needed national reform by producing a comprehensive blueprint of recommended remedies for the major maladies afflicting public service institutions in the education sector, now that he has satisfactorily exorcised the evil spirits of snakes, students, sorcery and science from the management and operations of JAMB?
-Danbarewa writes from Kaduna