JAMB and the New Nigeria Agenda

That Nigeria has not been able to achieve her full potential has been a major concern for all those who are genuinely interested in the giant of Africa. Reference has often been made to countries in Asia and South America that Nigeria should have been standing shoulder-to-shoulder with. However, those countries have now surpassed us in all indices of development.

Most people around the world, not just Africans, would agree with the late literary guru, Chinua Achebe, on the trouble with Nigeria. In his The Trouble with Nigeria (1983), Achebe submitted thus: “The trouble with Nigeria is simply and squarely a failure of leadership. There is nothing basically wrong with the Nigerian character. There is nothing wrong with the Nigerian land or climate or water or anything else. The Nigerian problem is the unwillingness or inability of its leaders to rise to the responsibility, to the challenges of personal example which are the hallmarks of true leadership.”

The implication of the Achebean thesis is that when we get leadership right, we would get Nigeria right. Getting the right leaders in the right places will be a major breakthrough for Nigeria and this is more expedient as a new government will be coming on board at the end of this month. The Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) is a metaphor for the possibility of a new Nigeria and its Registrar, Prof. Is-haq Oloyede, is an icon of “responsibility” and “personal example” which Achebe identified 40 years ago as hallmarks of true leadership.

As the Board successfully completed the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) across some 784 Computer-based Testing Centres across the 36 states of Nigeria and Abuja, it is striking that examining about 1.7 million candidates could be done with such remarkable efficiency. Certainly, just as the Board predicted, there were some technical glitches related to innovations introduced this year but candidates who could not sit their exams were immediately rescheduled. Candidates interacted with on the field expressed satisfaction with the seamlessness of the entire process.

Let’s face the facts, since 2016 that the current JAMB Registrar mounted the saddle, the narrative of public examination by that agency has completely changed. He assumed the office with a lot of expectations from those who know his pedigree as a man extraordinary competence and rock-solid integrity.  But he has surpassed their expectations and benumbed the enemies of progress.

It is mind-boggling that while a measly sum of N52 million was cumulatively remitted to the coffers of the government within 40 years of the existence of JAMB, just within six years, Prof. Oloyede has returned over N50 billion. This was achieved despite the fact that the Board reduced its charges in 2018 and 2020.

Apart from promoting inclusivity and equal opportunity to all candidates, including the blind and the disadvantaged, JAMB has in this dispensation leveraged technology to automate the admission process and ease transactions for its candidates and stakeholders. The introduction of the Central Admissions Processing Systems (CAPS) in 2017 is revolutionary as it has cut several hours of meetings on admissions and promoted transparency.

Examination malpractices have also reduced significantly to near zero level with investment in fraud detection and prevention gadgets as well as several layers of supervision and monitoring. There is also a massive expansion and standardisation of infrastructure across the country. The Computer-based Test (CBT) Centres alone have increased from 394 in 2015 to 784 in 2023 while the Board that had just15 CBT Centres of its own now has at least 50, including mega CBT Centres that can accommodate 500, 750 and 1,000 test takers at a time. Everyone now has a CBT Centre close by.

Now that Nigerians are desirous of a New Nigeria where things work and leaders are responsible, accountable and selfless, JAMB offers a lesson in responsibility. The totality of the challenges confronting the country, from economic banditry to social savagery and from peacelessness to systemic failures, can be addressed through getting the right pegs in the round holes just as Nigeria did with JAMB in 2016.

Right from the time of Independence through the post-Civil War era to the second, third and ongoing fourth republics, the missing link has always been the inability to connect all the dots that would make the Nigerian project a success based on competence and character, despite the best efforts of successive administrations.

A New Nigeria is possible if our forthcoming government is not only that of national competence but also that of character and personal example. That is the leadership that will solve our problems and lead the country from the depth of deprivation to the peak of peace and prosperity.

Prof. Adedimeji is the Vice-Chancellor of Ahman Pategi University.