Oloyede at 68: an iCON of courage

Mahfouz A. Adedimeji

As the phenomenal Registrar of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB), Prof. Is-haq Olanrewaju Oloyede, mounts the dais to receive another consequential national award, Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON), it is pertinent to heave a sigh and reflect on this rare human species at 68. For a man who has served the ummah, the nation and humanity with unusual zeal and self-punishing selflessness, CON is a befitting birthday gift that the Federal Government presents to this icon of courage and forthrightness, a man who has remained true to his values despite our state of anomie.

“Anomie” was first used by French sociologist Emile Durkheim in 1893 to describe what he referred to as “derangement” and the “malady of the infinite”. This, according to him, is a social condition defined by the breakdown of moral values, standards and norms, the situation that sadly reflects in Nigeria. For a mastermind like Oloyede that has remained symmetrical in a largely asymmetrical social order bedevilled by corruption and acquisitive appetency, zeroing in on him as he attains another milestone is actually not an honour to him but a reminder that there is hope for Nigeria and a role model for the leaders, both current and future.

As many colours make a rainbow, there are many values and virtues that make Oloyede tick. Do we talk of his infectious simplicity, his transparent honesty, his charismatic leadership, his legendary self-discipline, his moral probity, his remarkable dynamism, his admirable generosity, his academic excellence, his native intelligence, his administrative dexterity, his intellectual profundity, his famed industry or unfaltering patriotism?

One of those colours that strikes my psyche as he clocks 68 today and receives the CON award tomorrow is his abundant courage. What defines the essential Oloyede is the rare courage to do the right thing and do things right. As I wrote in my New Telegraph column in early August 2016 after he was appointed Registrar of JAMB by President Muhammadu Buhari, Prof. Oloyede is a man who would “dare the devil and damn the consequences.” For those who knew his pedigree, it was not surprising that he soon became renowned as a game changer and a “snake charmer”.

For Prof. Oloyede, courage flows naturally as a tributary of his conviction and character. He is unstoppable in his commitment to changing narratives and shifting paradigms  even in the face of danger. With his abiding faith in God and enviable sense of personal discipline, this cynosure of all eyes projects to the world the Aristotelian postulation that courage is the first of human qualities because it is the quality which guarantees the others.

I still remember a scene at the Performing Arts Department of the University of Ilorin Mini Campus some time in 2004. It was at the public presentation of a book written by Dr Usman Oladipo Akanbi, son of the well respected anti-corruption Tsar, the late Hon. Justice Mustapha Akanbi, in which the proud father was present among other dignitaries, including Oloyede.

It was a time the University had not been able wean itself off cultists, whose recurring violence made everyone dub them “Shooting Stars”. While the programme was ongoing, a staccato of presumed gunshots rent the air at a close range. Almost everyone spoke to their legs and ran for cover in opposite directions. Only those who could not run remained but a cloud of fear enveloped the atmosphere. Prof. Oloyede stepped down briskly from the stage and marched in his agbada to where the gunshots came from, the Student Union Building. He returned a few minutes later to announce that some students were playing with bangers, those simple fireworks of rolled paper tubes filled with gunpowder. Everyone shivering on their seats readjusted their composure.

A complete gentleman and extraordinary personality who does not suffer fools gladly, Prof. Oloyede is innately aware that as a sanitary inspector, he is detested by maggots that thrive in filth. The man for all seasons and mentor of millions wouldn’t go out to look for a fight but when you fight him, he is ferocious with his facts and figures.

While Oloyede has a cordial relationship with many people across boundaries, religious, ethnic and otherwise, he has sustained a lifetime adversarial relationship with corruption. He has never received a bribe. As I once noted, “Oloyede loathes corruption so much that corruption too loathes him in kind.” Any time he confronts corruption in a mortal combat as he always does, corruption fiercely fights back until the monster is asphyxiated by the sheer force of Oloyede’s true character and blistering courage.

I recently read with one eye the report of a purported group that alleged Oloyede of corruption in a cheap and unreliable media platform. That’s blasphemous! However, the lie peddled to smear Oloyede’s reputation didn’t even enjoy the grace of travelling for a month, though the Yoruba said a lie can run for 20 years, before the truth overtook and smashed it. The Transparency Advocacy for Development Initiative (TADI) that wrote petitions against Oloyede had the courage to publicly eat its vomit and acknowledge its ignorance.

According to TADI earlier this month,  “Having been furnished with details of the activities of the Registrar and the way he manages public funds under his watch over the years we make bold to state that the information we got from our sister organization was misleading and do not depict the true happenings in JAMB.

“And when we investigated further, we found out that some people who are not happy with the reform the man has embarked upon which is aimed at sanitizing JAMB to deliver on its core mandate have been the ones misleading the public and are the sponsors of the spurious allegations of corruption against the Registrar because he has succeeded in stopping their business as usual for the interest of the nation.”

For the internationally acclaimed Oloyede, including by UNESCO that recently proclaimed him the “Best Advocate of Equal Opportunity in Higher Education in Africa”, the saying that a Prophet is not honoured at home does not hold water again. As an unsung hero at 61, as David A. Onmeje observed in his “Unsung heroes of change”, which appeared in the September 29, 2015 edition of “Daily Trust”  (page 48), it is gratifying that this iCON at 68 is a celebrated household name decorated with several garlands.

Among others honours of recent, he is the recipient of The Sun newspaper’s Public Service Award (2018), the Leadership newspaper’s Person of the Year Award  (2019), the Vanguard newspaper’s Personality of the Year Award (2021) as well as the Public Servant Personality of the Year 2021 Award by the National Executive Council of Nigerian Association of Christian Journalists (NACJ).

Congratulations to the combined Officer of the Federal Republic (OFR) and Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON), a national iCON of courage, at 68!

Prof. Adedimeji is the Vice Chancellor of Ahman Pategi University, Patigi, Kwara stste