By Tunde Akanni, PhD
This is not a regular appreciation note. It is a combination of a personal expression of gratitude as well as it is a class initiative, even if not commissioned by the presumed class. But the addressee, Prof. Is-hq Olanrewaju Oloyede, Registrar and Chief Executive of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board, JAMB, is most deserving from me as a person, as well as from his folks with whom he shares assorted communities. Good ambassadors must always be treasured.
First, from me. It is a huge debt I should hasten to defray on account of Professor Oloyede’s uncommon capability to indulge his own ‘ayanfes’ across generations, professions and all, in spite of whatever may be their imperfections but not without registering his disciplined preference for pleasant manifestations of ingenuity, hard work and creativity. He also keeps manifesting all of these qualities which obviously have helped him raise stakes in all his recent positions of high responsibilities
When Prof was first appointed registrar of JAMB five years ago, I was rounding off at the 2016 edition of the International Association of Media and Communication Research, IAMCR, conference which my alma mater, Leicester University, England, hosted. Flying Turkish Airlines, it was inevitable for me to endure the usually long stop-over of almost 10 hours in Istanbul. Promptly I moved into the mosque for passengers in transit. “Oloyede deserves all our support to succeed” I ruminated within myself. Right there I settled for an opinion article to be published in as many media as may be available and accessible to my big brother.
The resultant titled ““Agenda for Born-Again JAMB and TETFUND” was my own advisory to a man renowned for excellent performance as the Vice-chancellor of Unilorin, peaking with the President of the Association of African Universities, a position never occupied by any Nigerian before him and yet to be occupied again by any Nigerian. I felt fulfilled that he managed to access the publication and even called me to properly acknowledge it.
As a parent and a university based scholar, those two organizations meant and still mean so much to me. But many will agree with me that the two were not being run with the best of what I considered as patriotic commitment. JAMB had given some semblance of good intention to do well when it sought tutelage from Unilorin under Oloyede for the tricks of Unilorin’s well managed Computer Based Tests, CBT, system. But it turned out that the overture was far, very far, from that of public interest as we have since been made to realise. TETFUND was hardly any better with the opaque operational style and all imaginable accompaniments. The nation, however, seemed helpless with government’s irritating tardiness…
Though already an established administrative maestro, Oloyede isn’t a genius that underrates the indispensability of expertise, even from the junior ones he is old enough to father. Same is the towering intellectual’s altruistic ceaseless strive to seek learning opportunities for his darling folks like me. The implication: Be prepared to watch out for the interminable seminality of the Oloyede phenomenon. Our dear country shall attain true greatness.
So began what has come to be globally recognized as the inimitable, inspiring story of the genuinely “born-again JAMB” on that Saturday. That day, he chose to hold what we later learnt was the first strategic meeting with the management of JAMB. “…my brother you’re joining me here at Bwari on Saturday; very important”, he responded to my courtesy telephone call announcing to him that I was in Abuja for a speaking engagement. For some of us, there’s no debating any such entreaty from our elders. Importantly though, I’ve also observed that that Oloyede isn’t any less courteous. I joined him at the said meeting, together with a similar invitee, my very good friend and brother, a smart computer scientist who, propelled by his uncommon brilliance had worked in all the highest paying sectors in Nigeria that you can imagine. Such was he most sought after that he had to attend a job interview on his wedding day! For him, yours sincerely and several other reliable professionals, Oloyede never missed the window to register enduring impressions.
Not one lacking in a sincere and emphatic commitment to every cause he believes in, he welcomed us all to the strategy meeting and assured us that his approach would be all-encompassing as he hoped, in sha Allah, to deploy a far-reaching impact. Thus, we started with the contents of the application form examining details of grammar and logicality of sequencing the constituent questions. Not a single item was left undecided upon as we ensured everyone had the opportunity to volunteer comments.
We were all as fulfilled as better educated on account of the rich and diverse specializations of everyone in the room. The boss, Oloyede, reminded me of the Clintonian wisdom. As president, he had a way of picking bits of wisdom from everyone at meetings, a habit he cultivated since his undergraduate days, when he used to sleep heavily in class during winter. To the glory of God and the strategic leader, Prof Oloyede, it gladdens me that everyone in that room on that day has been found relevant for one assignment or the other by the leader even as the meeting doubled as networking enabler for many of us as we keep crossing each other’s paths in the course of working for JAMB or some other engagements including domestic environments, small world you will say.
Today, we are all too happy and grateful to Oloyede for adding honour to us all for being privileged to associate with a sincere soul and a most consistent well wisher. “Show me your friend” and the world tells who you are.
I recall with pride that I was a part of the campaign team that got him elected as the national president of the UNILORIN Alumni Association, back in the years. Who isn’t proud of his accomplishments years later as the first alumnus to emerge as the VC of our alma mater? Such has my delight in his accomplishments remained fresh with fervor that I reckoned with my choice as the guest speaker at a UNILORIN event in his honour in 2018 as a triumphant return of an old boy now a proud parent of a potential UNILORIN great. As a relentless follower of this uncommon mentor, I couldn’t help referring copiously to his special speech to the students’ congregation in his early days as the VC. In that speech, Oloyede made effort to impress it on the entire UNILORIN students that he was not only there to guide and guard their interest, but to also use the university to restore and even enhance the perceivably lost glory of the students.
‘O ran mo nise f’aya ti’, ‘Senior’ Oloyede, as he then was in the days of Prof IA Balogun (may Allah bless Baba’s soul), has helped to cultivate and nurture many of us, yet won’t abandon his project. Even now that the young have grown, he has offered to team up with a select high flying team on some brand to watch in the very near future, fitting so well with his lifelong reputation of ethical uprightness. Also in this team, it may interest you, is an inimitable, pathfinder banker, holder of a first class degree in economics and a PhD from South Africa’s Wits University.
I therefore cant help to ceaselessly congratulating the folks at JAMB for the Oloyede blessing. Has it not been said that you can’t grow beyond your environment? The physical and infrastructural development supportive of the works of regular and ad-hoc staff like yours has been continuous since Oloyede commenced his first term till date, I can authoritatively reveal. But everyone who has had to do anything for or with JAMB since the Oloyede days began has a good story inspiring all beneficiaries and sheer witnesses alike to do our own little for our dear Nigeria. We are happy to note a promising NNPC.
As we anxiously await Oloyede’s second term, we beseech the most merciful Lord to grant him the best of guidance and the good health to pull through successfully with the desired lofty consolidation
Akanni, PhD, is an associate professor of journalism based at the Lagos State University.