Former president Olusegun Obasanjo has described the Registrar of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB), Professor Ishaq Oloyede as a man of integrity, honour and courage. He also said the educational agency over which Oloyede presides was on track.
Says Obasanjo: “I am happy. From what I have seen and heard of JAMB, I would say that JAMB is on track. This is particularly true now that we have a person in the like of Prof. Oloyede, a man of virtue and caliber, running its affairs. He is a man of integrity, a man of honour, a man of courage and a man who never loses sight of the spiritual dimension to his work and I am proud of what he is doing in JAMB. Before he came, I think JAMB was about to derail a little bit but he came and put it back on track.”
Chief Obasanjo, also a former military Head of State spoke in a virtual interview with JAMBulletin, a weekly publication of the Office of JAMB Registrar. The interview covered role he played in the establishment of the 41-year-old JAMB, its leadership and assessment , Virtual Education, Post-UTME, COVID-19 Pandemic among other issues.
Read the full interview below:
“JAMB IS ON TRACK” – FORMER PRESIDENT OLUSEGUN OBASANJO …Says Oloyede Is A Man Of Integrity, Honour And Courage
Chief Olusegun Matthew Okikiola Aremu Obasanjo, GCFR, is a household name. He needs little or no introduction. He is a Nigerian military and political leader who served as Military Head of State from 1976 to 1979 and later as President of Nigeria from 1999 to 2007. Chief Obasanjo has not only carved a niche for himself in Africa but also become highly revered across the world. He would go down in history as a generous, kind, vocal and courageous leader both at home and abroad.
A nationalist and detribalised Nigerian, Chief Obasanjo, popularly known and called ‘OBJ’ by Nigerians, in a chance virtual interview with JAMBulletin bared his mind on the pivotal role he played in the establishment of the 41-year-old JAMB, its leadership and assessment , Virtual Education, Post-UTME, COVID-19 Pandemic and why Ogun State indigenes stand tall, among others. Chief Obasanjo said God had been very merciful, kind and generous to him.
He added that God had showered him with abundant blessings and unquantifiable joys as he joined the league of octogenarians.
He said, “Well, they say life begins at forty. I will say that life is sweet at eighty and as I have said on a number of occasions, God has been very generous, very gracious and very kind to me throughout my life. I have even said that God has been passionate in giving me all that he has given me, so I will be eternally grateful to Him for all that He has done for me, all that He continues to do for me and all that I know He will continue to do for me in the future.”
“I have said it that anybody that was born where I was born, by the parents I was born to and at the time I was born, you may not really hear his or her name beyond the next village. I was born in a village, brought up as a village boy and I grew up a village boy and I only went to school by the inspiration of my father who himself did not go to school and who insisted on my going to school and if I had not had that opportunity, my life would have taken a different course. So, I am grateful to God, I am grateful to my parents, I am grateful to all those who contributed in making my life what it is. I have dedicated my life and what remains of it to serving God and serving humanity, I believe that is all that I can do to try and pay back in my modest way, what God has done for me and what those who had influenced my life from my parents, to the teachers, to the community, my training in the army, to the opportunity I have had to serve in the government. The least I can do is to make the place and situation I have found myself better than I have met them.”
On the pivotal role he played in the establishment of JAMB, the Egba High Chief and kingmaker said, “Well, I will not appropriate the power of a seer or the power of an oracle to myself. What I will say is that the first thing that is very important in whatever situation you find yourself is to learn to understand the situation, learn to find appropriate solution to whatever you have or discovered. Well, at that time that you are talking about, we had universities, and people had multiple applications to different universities, so it was becoming a problem for universities. As such, we needed to help both the universities and the candidates to streamline applications and admissions. We wanted the admissions to be streamlined, so that candidates could make a choice of two or three universities that they want to go as well as make a choice as to the programmes they want to study and then have a central body that would lead, coordinate and make sure that the students get value for what they are doing. At the same time, the universities are relieved of the burden of considering candidates that may not take their offers of admissions. That was what really brought about the establishment of JAMB, and I believe other countries are following our example by doing more or less the same thing. May be, if we hadn’t done it that time there would have been others who would have come later to do the same thing.”
The former President assessed the examination body and submitted thus: “I am happy. From what I have seen and heard of JAMB, I would say that JAMB is on track. This is particularly true now that we have a person in the like of Prof. Oloyede, a man of virtue and caliber, running its affairs. He is a man of integrity, a man of honour, a man of courage and a man who never loses sight of the spiritual dimension to his work and I am proud of what he is doing in JAMB. Before he came, I think JAMB was about to derail a little bit but he came and put it back on track.”
Responding to the secret of the many “firsts” and the high success rate credited to people of Ogun State extraction especially in terms of their superlative performances in both public and private life, Chief Obasanjo attributed these to the sense of commitment, selfless service and altruistic spirit associated with people of the State. Speaking further on why the state was highly endowed and unique, he said, “Well, on a lighter note, I think the water of the Ogun River that we drink, could be responsible, but on a serious note, I think our serious religious inclination coupled with the no- nonsense way of life imparted to us by our ancestors is also a factor. So, I think all these had been bred into our DNA such that you would hardly find anyone who had risen to high levels from this part of the world, whether nationally or internationally, not doing their best. I do not say they have not made any mistakes, there is no human being that is above mistake, but you will find that they are genuine mistakes not those that are deliberately made either for selfish interest or against the interest of other people. I think most people from our part of the world are considerate, consistent and have the fear of God in them, and when you have the fear of God in you, you will attempt to do what is right, when it is right all the time.”
On the COVID-19 Pandemic ravaging the world, the former President commended the efforts of the government at mitigating the impact of the deadly virus and warned that all the necessary precautionary measures and protocols should be taken seriously, adding that the virus has no limitation with regard to borders, faith, religion, ethnicity, age, race or class.
He said, “We have a pandemic for which we were ill-prepared and also ill-equipped to handle but I will say the God of Nigeria has so far been helping us, it has not gone as far and bad as some of us had feared, but all the same it is bad. I believe that it this good fortune of ours that is fuelling the feeling, particularly among our people, that this is a disease for the rich people while Lassa fever is reserved for the poor and, as such, they can go about their normal lives the way they want it. I think we must counter that idea as COVID-19 is no respecter of social or economic standing. I think it’s important that we do what is necessary as advised by relevant agencies as we don’t know when this will end.”
“I fear we might not have got to the peak yet even when we do get to the peak, we must be mindful of the possibility of a second wave of infections. Consequently, we must be prepared for the worst in case anything worse than what we have now comes up. We must also appreciate what government has done and, I must say, they have done reasonably well within the limitation of the resources available. Therefore, we should not rest on our oars because the worst may yet come. Even if the worst doesn’t come, I don’t think COVID-19 would disappear from the surface of earth completely. Flu that came hundred years ago has not disappeared completely but flu has been weakened such that you can even get vaccination for it. Our government must be ready to stock our hospitals with whatever drug or vaccine that is available as we may have to live with the virus for a long time to come.”
The two-time President, while responding to a question on the proliferation of universities and the declining quality of education, said, “The question is not about the number of universities, the issue should be about whether they are doing what they should be doing, whether they meet the needs of industry where they are situated, or whether they are delivering quality education. We should be preoccupied with what product is coming out and not about the number or the size. America, for instance, has universities with multi-campuses where the total student populations number in the thousands. They also have smaller universities. I used to be a member of Board of Trustees of Wilberforce University with a total a population of 1,500, a small university but one which is making meaningful and impactful contributions. So, our concern should be on quality of universities as what is important are the deliverables in terms of the benefits to the society and not their numbers or whether they are owned by government, private sector or civil society or individuals.” Continuing, he said, “I believe we should build on what we have now and improve on them. I believe a population of over 200 million people having 170 or more universities is not too many for me as what matters are content and quality and the ability to turn out appropriate products for market and industry. If that is achieved, then universities could be said to be doing what they should be doing and we should hail them for doing such.”
On his views on virtual education, the National Open University graduate believes virtual learning is doable in Nigeria. He said, “I read recently that the Cambridge University has said that the next academic year would not have face-to-face conventional lectures, meaning that they are going for e-learning. We already have that mode of learning in place which we refer to in Nigeria as distance education/learning. With the present technology, the process has been taken a step further as you can now see your teacher in real time through Zoom. So, I believe it is possible and we should explore this further and expand its scope. I believe one of the final positive outcomes of COVID-19 is that we would have more of virtual learning centres.”
On Post-UTME, he said the need to rejuvenate the system had necessitated its introduction to prevent a decline in the fortunes of higher education in the country. He said, “We found out at that time that examination takers were helping others to take examinations, even some parents encouraged that type of practice for their children. It got so bad that if an institution had a candidate with 6As in WAEC, NECO and a good score in JAMB, it might be because somebody helped the candidate to take the examinations. But when it came to interview or screening, such a candidate would not be able to justify his grades. As such, we felt it was good for institutions to know the type of candidates they are admitting.”
The former President advised key players and policy makers in the education sector to brace up for the challenges ahead as well as ensure that the quality of education in Nigeria meets the UNESCO Education for All (EFA) standard. He said the situation where over 14 million children who should be in school are not is hardly ideal adding that these young Nigerians in the next one decade or more would constitute nuisance to the society as they become perpetrators of heinous crimes like kidnapping, banditry and armed robbery, among others.
He said, “If we don’t take care of these 14 million out-of-school children in the next 10 years or so, they will be the terrorists, armed robbers and kidnappers of the future.” He also advised that we focus on quality and relevance of education at all levels. He said, “We should be asking ourselves the type of education we want to impart to our children. Is it education as a meal ticket? That is not bad, but our education should also be for citizenship development to make the country great. Similarly, our educational sector should be geared towards providing education for the fostering of unity in the country so that biases or prejudices would be eliminated.”