Monday Column by Emmanuel Yawe
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The military government of General Olusegun Obasanjo raised a national storm in 1978 when it set up the Joint Admissions and Matriculations Board, JAMB. Since the first University was set up in Nigeria in 1946, admissions into universities were squarely the responsibilities of the various universities. The idea of a regulatory body to conduct admissions was strange and resisted in many quarters.
“A university that cannot be trusted with the responsibility of admitting its students cannot also be trusted with the responsibility of deciding which of its students should pass its examinations or fail,” complained Ade Ajayi, erudite professor of history and Vice Chancellor University of Lagos at the time. His views represented a broad spectrum of those who believed setting up JAMB would interfere with the academic independence of the universities.
Professor Shamsudeen Amali is an academic and university administrator of international repute. Trained at Nigeria’s Premier University in Ibadan and in the United States, he has been a Vice Chancellor of two Nigerian Universities – the University of Ilorin and the Nasarawa State University.
He served for four years from 1978 as a founding Board Member of JAMB. Today he remembers vividly even if emotionally the teething problems of JAMB.
“Forty years ago, I was appointed to serve on the first Board of JAMB. The late Michael S. Angulu was the first Registrar and we struggled hard as pioneers to lay the foundation on which our successors have built.”
He revealed that the task before them was not easy because right from the start, JAMB had many enemies who wanted to pull it down. Often, he threatened to resign from the Board because of the work load and the antics of JAMB’S opponents but was urged to stay on by Michael Angulu.
Even within the universities, there was some subtle hostility towards those who gained admission through JAMB. I was a final year student at the university of Ibadan in 1978 when the first set of those admitted via JAMB arrived. We had a suggestions box placed at the Students Union building outside the cafeteria. It was meant for suggestions on how to improve services at the cafeteria. On this day when the box was opened, there was a sealed letter inside, addressed in fine handwriting to a parent, with the appropriate postage stamp on the righthand corner. It was posted there by one of the newly admitted students who came through JAMB. From that day, ‘Jambite’ became a synonymous word for any foolish act on the part of a student.
Even today as JAMB marks its four decades of existence, there are still some acts associated with the board that tend to not only ridicule and call to question its relevance but also impinge its credibility. The most celebrated case is the scandalous claim by a staff of JAMB that a huge amount of money, running into millions of Naira put in her trust by the board was swallowed by a snake.
At 40, JAMB has come a long way – from controversy to sublime; from the ridiculous to scandalous.
Since his appointment as Registrar in 2016, Professor Is-haq Olanrenwaju Oloyede has worked hard not only to reposition JAMB but to build on the foundation that was laid by its founders.
One of the innovations he has put in place is to convoke a policy meeting of all stake holders drawn from the academia, all former Registrars of JAMB, human rights activists, Labour organizations, media, administrators etc. He defines it as “a most potent strategic platform to share and validate the Board’s vision, solicit and obtain feedbacks and input”.
The Stakeholders Meeting and other forms of engagement are held periodically to exchange information and create awareness; they have thus become ingrained in all facets of the Board’s activities as it strives to achieve its mandate.
This novel experiment of democratizing the policy formulation and operations of JAMB he further said is paying great dividends. The achievements of the Board in the 2017 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examinations (UTME) according to him would have been less spectacular without the benefits of involving stakeholders of JAMB.
The 2017 UTME, he said was significant in many respects for it recorded the highest number of candidates, even with the registration period being essentially for one month; an optional Mock Examination was conducted for the candidates for the first time; introduction of 8-Key Keyboard to minimize the challenge of use of Mouse for candidates during the Examination; expanded and active involvement of stakeholders throughout the Exercise; domestication and better control of Examination Infras.
Today JAMB has not only improved on its service delivery, it has enhanced the credibility of all examinations conducted by the body.
Professor Oloyede as Registrar of JAMB has done more for the organization. He has brought credibility to the government that gave him the chance through prudent management of resources. In the words of Adamu Adamu the Minister of Education:
“Since JAMB was established more than 40 years ago, the total amount it has given government was N200 million; but in one year, Prof. Ishaq Oloyede has remitted N5 billion to government. The new JAMB registrar has been correcting many anomalies in the board. Within a year, he has been able to stop all the untold things that were happening there.”
There cannot be a more positive endorsement of the efforts by Prof Oloyede than this.
Last Tuesday June 26, the policy meeting of all stake holders was held at the Bola Babalakin Auditorium, Gbogan in Osun State. Adamu Adamu the Minister of Education who chaired the meeting said it “shall continue to be the forum where the agenda, guidelines, modalities, and timelines would be set for the purpose of admissions to Universities, Polytechnics, Monotechnics and Colleges of Education in Nigeria and for all modes of study including Full Time, Distance Learning, Part Time, Outreach, Sandwich and other related programmes.”
He warned that no admission to any Tertiary Institutions should be announced before the Policy Meeting. He directed that the meeting is held not later than June each year, early enough for the commencement of the new session.
Chairman of the JAMB Board, Dr Emmanuel Ndukwe commended the leadership skills of the current Registrar of JAMB for the achievements he has recorded since his appointment.
“The unprecedented returns of billions of Naira to the Public Treasury further testifies to the ability of Mr. President not only to be honest but also to fish out and entrust honest persons with strategic public office. The Governing Board under my leadership with the support of our upright and unassuming Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu will further add rigour to transparent and honest services of the Board.”
To demonstrate the current level of transparency and consensus building in JAMB, the Registrar took time to brief the meeting on all issues to be tackled in this year’s admission exercise. All conclusions at the meeting were reached democratically.
For this reporter who witnessed the meeting last Tuesday at Gbogan, it was a worthwhile exercise. At 40, JAMB is certainly not the foolish Jambite we had at the university of Ibadan in 1978 who mistook a suggestion box for a post office and posted a letter to his father there.