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JAMB Registrar: The secret of his template

By Femi Abass



Following the defence of the budget of the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board, (JAMB) by Professor Ishaq Olanrewaju Oloyede recently, two questions arose, for which some Nigerians are eagerly seeking answers.

One of those questions was about the secret of Professor Ishaq Oloyede’s unbeatable template. The other was about the tenure of his appointment as the Registrar of JAMB. The answers to both questions had tacitly been given by President Muhammad Buhari, in both oral and body languages, albeit codedly, two years ago even before those questions were raised. Please, read how it happened below:


In appreciation of Professor Oloyede’s unique dynamism in laying a formidable foundation for tertiary education in Nigeria by clipping the wings of corruption, President Muhammadu Buhari conferred a well deserved National Productivity Order of Merit Award on him. That was on Thursday, November 28, 2019. The award was an additional golden feather to the glorious cap of this hardworking, honest and patriotic Nigerian citizen, popularly known as Nigeria’s ‘Model of Change’.


Long before he became the Registrar of JAMB, Oloyede had been a household name, not only in Nigeria or Africa, but also in the entire world, just like the University he was privileged to head, as Vice-Chancellor, over a decade ago.


What qualified this onetime ‘Madrasah Boy’ for such a vertical position, in an horizontally cloudy country like Nigeria, is an interesting question for which most inquisitive minds may be earnestly seeking an appropriate answer. And, the answer is not far-fetched.


Unlike most Nigerian men of letters in the Ivory Tower, Professor Ishaq Oloyede wears a binocular spectacle with which he sees life from two opposing sides of the world. One side is the West and the other is the East. This became evident, not just in his management of the University of Ilorin within just one tenure of five years, but also in the humility, selflessness and patriotism with which he demonstrated civility par excellence in that office. Through his exemplary performance, Nigerians came to see, with evidence, the difference between a man of letters and that of knowledge. While the one sees life with the common eye, the other sees it with an uncommon vision.

In the days of Socrates, Aristotle and Herodotus, when education was an adorned virtue used as a yardstick for measuring civility and human value, no one cared about the material gains accruing from it.

However, some thousands of years after that era, bastardization of education set in when certificate became a means of evaluating the material worth of learning. Thus, with acquisition of certificates, by all means, mere literacy began to be misconceived as education. And, today, Nigerian Universities have been reduced to mere centers of advanced literacy rather than that of citadel of knowledge that they used to be.


Whereas, literacy is just an added value to education, the modern day man has ignorantly and arrogantly interpolated the one for the other. This is what Professor Oloyede resented in his academic odyssey when he chose to combine Eastern system of education with that of the West with a determination to take advantage of both in fertilizing the academic soil of Nigeria’s future. For those who didn’t know, Professor Oloyede’s ascetic lifestyle is the driving force of his rising fame. And that can simply be called the fervour in his burner.


By the philosophy he adopted right from his adolescent years, Professor Oloyede had imbibed contentment as a permanent principle of life. On a particular occasion, while relating his reason for contesting for the office of the Vice-Chancellor of the University iof Ilorin, he told some medical students of his University, who went to congratulate him, on his assumption of office, as Vice-Chancellor, that he never intended to contest for that office. But when, according to him, an academic charlatan, in the same University, who harboured ulterior motive, threatened to expose him if he dared contest for the VC’s post, in that University, he (Oloyede) saw it as a challenge to his integrity. He therefore took that challenge as an opportunity to put his privacy on a public table. His real intention, according to him, was actually not to contest but to see what would be exposed in his privacy. And, contrary to the expectations of skeptics, he surprisingly emerged as the Vice-Chancellor without an iota of blemish.


Before contesting for VC’s post, he had served twice as Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Academic and Deputy Vice-Chancellor Administration, in the same University of Ilorin where he had spent his entire academic life as a student, as a lecturer, as a Director in several areas and, as a Professor. Thus, he had seen that University inside-out and, that was enough to propel an ambition in him to target the highest office in the Citadel, for which he was eminently qualified. Yet, there was no such level of ambition in him until he was triggered into magnetizing an unprovoked challenge that became the catalyst for him to become the Vice-Chancellor of that University.

That Professor Oloyede relayed the episode of his unintended contest for the highest office in his University, to his students, was not an act of mere bravado but a token of encouragement for those students towards service to humanity with humility and patriotism.


As the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ilorin, Professor Oloyede was nominated and elected as the President of the African Vice-Chancellors.

But when he noticed that the position of the Executive Secretary of the Association of African Universities was more meaningful and more beneficial to Nigeria than that of the President, which he then held, he decided to relinquish his own position as President to enable another Nigerian to occupy that of the Executive Secretary. He therefore encouraged some of his Nigerian academic colleagues to apply for that post and promised to resign from his own Presidential position in that Association to allow a fellow Nigerian to occupy the office of the Executive Secretary to the benefit of Nigeria. Incidentally, most of his colleagues did not believe him at first. But when the time came and one of them indicated interest, in the post of the Executive Secretary, perhaps as a way of testing Oloyede’s sincerity, he (Oloyede) surprisingly resigned as President of African Vice-Chancellors just after two years in an office where he had opportunity to spend two terms of five years each.

However, the Professor who benefited from Oloyede’s unbelievable large-heartedness by assuming the office of the Executive Secretary of African Universities, later ventured into Nigerian local politics and opted for the post of the Secretary to a State Government (SSG) thereby opening the door for another Professor from another country to occupy the post.

By that greedy decision, the man deprived Nigeria the benefit for which Oloyede had resigned as President. The comparison of both personalities in this circumstance is better left to reasonable readers of this article.


Only a few Nigerians in the academic arena can equal Oloyede’s record when it comes to the ‘nitty gritty’ of academic administration. Yet, you can hardly notice it in his demeanour. This ascetic Professor is not just the first alumnus of the Faculty of Arts, in the University of Ilorin, to graduate with a ‘FIRST CLASS’, he is also the first alumnus of that University to obtain a PhD from the same University. Not only that, Professor Oloyede scored many other ‘FIRSTS’ in that University to the admiration of the upcoming students, as a template for those who might be nursing aspiration among them to similarly rise astronomically.


In the reverential archive of the University of Ilorin, Professor Oloyede was the ‘FIRST’ Director of Academic Planning and the first alumni President to be a member of the Governing Council of that University. He was also the first Unilorin alumnus to become a Deputy Vice-Chancellor and subsequently the first alumnus to become the Vice-Chancellor of the University.


It is incontrovertible that Professor Oloyede was the first Vice-Chancellor in Nigeria to introduce Computer-Based Testing (CBT) method of screening applicants for University admission in the country, just as he was the first Vice-Chancellor to lead a second generation University to the number one position in Nigeria, based on international rating. He also became the first Nigerian Vice-Chancellor to emerge as the Chairman of the Association of Vice-Chancellors of Nigerian Universities (AVCNU). Still not done, he is the first Nigerian Vice-Chancellor to combine the Board membership of International Association of Universities (IAU) with those of the Association of the Commonwealth Universities (ACU) as well as with that of the Association of African Universities (AAU) at the same time.


With the above listed ‘FIRSTS’ he was, as Vice-Chancellor, able to make Unilorin the first Federal University in Nigeria to run a decade of uninterrupted academic calendar which prompted that University to be internationally rated as one of the very best 20 Universities in Africa. Also, through his astute academic administration, the University of Ilorin was able to maintain the first position in the national rating for three consecutive years (2009, 2010 and 2011). Another major plus in this man’s life, but which most people hardly noticed, is arbitration factor.


Professor Oloyede does not only resent conflicts in whatever form, he also regards arbitration as a duty for him wherever he is. Thus, whenever he notices any sign of conflict in his vicinity, be it interpersonal, intertribal or interreligious, he immediately initiates arbitration and reconciliation process to ensure resolution without minding the cost. And, his impartiality in doing this is generally acknowledged and revered across all borders. Now with his post as the Registrar of the Joint Matriculation and Admission Board (JAMB), he has added a rare feather to his exemplary cap in a way that fetches him a tacit title of ‘A Model of Change’.


In Professor Oloyede is a great example for those who aspire to be great in a world where greatness is a slippery land. His life has become a guide for the younger professionals and artisans who need guidance “either as a warning on the vanity of human wishes or as encouragement or both”.

With His Eminence, Dr. Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar CFR, mni, at the helm of affairs of the NSCIA and Professor Oloyede as the Secretary-General of that apex body for the Muslim Ummah in Nigeria, who does not see that a right step is now on course on the right path for Nigerian Muslim Ummah of the contemporary time?


With vertical men of this stature on Islamic stage in Nigeria, at this point in time, who says Muslims are non-existent in the scheme of modern life? Today, there is no aspect of human endeavour where Muslim men and women do not stand out as signposts of life like summer crescents quietly moving towards zooming into full moon. And, now, with such fervour in his burner, who can say that Oloyede’s shining star, as a historic signpost for Africa, does not transcend the firmament of the globally known sky that we see daily? We pray the Almighty Allah to spare this man’s life with His divine guidance. AMIN!

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