Prof. Is-haq Oloyede: Profile In Forthrightness, By Dr. Muiz Banire, SAN

An average reader of this column may not be far from being correct if he summarizes my writings as expression of anger against all that is wrong with Nigeria, dedicated to examining the ailments afflicting the country and attempting to proffer solutions thereto.

The problems of Nigeria are so frightening that anyone who is conscious of his responsibility to the coming generations would not treat them lightly. To that end, I discovered that we have been swamped by the problem of poor leadership and its concomitant effects to the extent that we do not have time to talk about shining lights in our beclouded firmament.

Certainly, in Nigeria today, multitudes of men of evil, destructive politicians and civil (evil) servants have combined to make many conclude that the nation is without men of honour. Criminal practices of a few of our brethren outside the shores of Nigeria have painted most Nigerians to the outside world as a horde of criminals and unscrupulous elements.

The way we are treated at foreign airports is a summary of the perception outsiders have about us, and the margin of trust we have created is nothing to write home about. Interestingly, in the midst of this miasma, we do have excellent leaders of men whose choice of lifestyle is a source of admiration to the upright.

In this clime, we have men and women who have distinguished themselves not only in learning but also in character; leaders who, when following, have displayed worthy credentials of wonderful followership and excellent reflection of what good leadership commands. One of such is Professor Is-haq Olanrewaju Oloyede, the second-term chief executive of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB).

Prof, as many people and I fondly call him, was my Islamic Law teacher at the commencement of my Law degree programme at the University of Ilorin (Unilorin) before I transferred to the University of Lagos. He was an unassuming personality as a young man, a characteristic he has worn till date like a skin on his tall frame.

A peacemaker extraordinaire and a man gifted with the capacity to multi-task without failing in any task. His record in Unilorin still speaks for him. He is fearless, courageous and God-fearing. He is a man of no frivolity and encourages none. He could be a strict disciplinarian, which accounts for his no-nonsense disposition that may be uncomfortable to the undisciplined.

His honesty and incorruptibility are legendary. He once told me that his account was accessible to his children and there was no way an unusual sum could ever go in. How would he explain the source to his children? His record during the first term as the registrar of JAMB confirms his honesty and sense of purpose always.

This accounts for the jubilation that welcomed him into office on his appointment for the second term by President Muhammadu Buhari to preside over JAMB for another five years. It is one unusual instance in which staff of a public organization would be so happy to have a public official back to his office which he recently vacated as a result of expiration of tenure. In a lot of public bodies, it is usually resistance you would see.

At the end of his tenure, before you could say Jack Robinson, he had handed over and moved on before he was recalled. I can say, without any form of contradiction, that he never lobbied anyone for the office. He reflects the kind of personality we need to move the nation forward. He takes decisions, knowing only that he is accountable to Allah. He discourages any form of celebration but only encourages prayer.

He is an embodiment of humility. He abhors flamboyance and lives a moderate life as commanded by his faith. He lives by example. In any place his staff stay during assignments, he occupies same. Prof. Oloyede is a first-class academic and administrator.

The glory that University of Ilorin displays today is a testimony to the sterling qualities of Prof. Oloyede, which he brought to bear to accomplish the dreams of the founding fathers of the university. During his tenure as the vice-chancellor, University of Ilorin recorded tremendous progress and how Prof. Oloyede was able to insulate academic activities from the perennial academic and non-academic staff unions’ strikes is still a point to marvel at.

While such a feat might be described as anti-unionism, the student populace jubilated as the University of Ilorin was probably the only university not affected by ASUU strikes and students were able to graduate within the number of years originally bargained for. The situation was otherwise in many other universities, where a four-year course might end up being completed after a six or seven-year academic sojourn.

I recall, throughout his tenure as the vice-chancellor of the university, he refused to influence the award of contract to anyone. He completely insulated himself against such temptations. His unrivalled achievements have re-positioned JAMB as a cash cow rather than a near-insolvent organization that only gulped government allocations without remorse.

Nobody expected that JAMB could be raking in billions of naira every year it conducts examinations for tertiary institutions’ candidates, until Prof. Oloyede came with his transparent leadership and innovative acumen by which he did not only block loopholes leaking funds of the organization but also checked, effectively, academic malpractices that had become an albatross on the organization. Interesting to note that JAMB that had been remitting only N80 million to the coffers of government annually, suddenly started remitting N5 billion and above during the first year of Prof. Oloyede’s tenure in office.

Whatever conspiracy or cabal that was behind the financial sleaze being perpetrated in JAMB could not match his courage, resilience and wit. One wishes we could have such a leader taking charge of our nation. As a transformational leader, he deployed technology in a way never done before to make conduct and supervision of examinations easy and transparent.

His regime in JAMB has been a torment to fraudulent admission seekers and their collaborators who have been running special centres of examination fraud since the 1990s. Prof. Oloyede succeeded in improving the quality of our undergraduates by ensuring that only those who scale the rigours of examination demands are entitled to slots in our over-crowded tertiary institutions.

His accomplishments endeared him to many organisations and, notwithstanding the statutory limits by which the registrar of JAMB can only organize and conduct admission examinations for universities, polytechnics and colleges of education, Prof. Oloyede’s magical and golden services were sought by other government establishments like the Nigeria Police Force, the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) and a private organization like MTN Foundation Scholarship programme to help them conduct their screening exercises.

Prof. Oloyede is an accomplished academic, an Islamic scholar of high repute and an internationally recognized intellectual. I formally met him as a lecturer in the University of Ilorin in 1984 when I gained admission into the university, where he displayed uncommon understanding of his area of studies. Prior to that, the Muslim Students’ Society used to be our meeting point.

It was not surprising to see him rise in leaps and bounds up the ladder of the academia, until he became a world-recognized professor in 1995. His publications in reputable local and international journals have been widely cited. His love for the University of Ilorin was fully requited when he was entrusted with the leadership of the university as the vice-chancellor on the 15th day of October 2007.

He transformed the University within a period of five years into an internationally respected one which was ranked among the best in Africa and No. 1 within the shores of Nigeria. His tenure did not occur outside the time that Nigerians were lamenting of poor funding of the academia.

Yet, this intellectual and administrative genius succeeded in making his alma mater the darling of all and sundry by financial wizardry and prudence. His achievements as the Vice Chancellor is an endorsement of the agitation that it is better to select the Vice Chancellor from among excellent academics who have passed through the leadership offices of a University in many capacities.

We must recall that his achievements as the Best Vice Chancellor in Nigeria was highly assisted by his previous services as Director of Academic Planning of the University (2001–2003), Deputy Vice Chancellor, Academic (2003–2005), Deputy Vice Chancellor, Administration (2005–2007) before finally capping it with the primus inter pares, the Vice Chancellor of the University of Ilorin in 2007. He instilled academic integrity, financial prudence and transparency; the type that had never been seen before in the University of Ilorin.

His reputation as an administrator per excellence made his colleagues to elect him as the Chairman of the Association of Vice-Chancellors of Nigerian Universities and Committee of Vice-Chancellors between 2011–2012. Professor Oloyede, between 2009 – 2011 held the enviable position of the President of the Association of African Universities (AAU). He was also the Deputy Chairman of the Governing Board of the International Association of Universities between the period 2008 – 2011.

As the Secretary-General, Association of West African Universities (AWAU) between 2013 – 2017, he did not only set a new record, he displayed uncommon acumen in governing fellow human beings. Other universities have benefited from the intellectual and administrative acumen of this rare breed as he has served as Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of the 3rd Governing Council of Fountain University, Osogbo, Nigeria. Nigerian supreme council for Islamic affairs is another beneficiary of the acumen of this Giant in his capacity as Secretary General.

His administrative strides have conferred great benefits on the International Network for Higher Education in Africa (INHEA) where he served as a member of its International Advisory Board. My interaction with Professor Oloyede has taught me that no preaching about Godly virtues can be done without excellent character and a total devotion of love to humanity.

One may be the only scripture a person unfamiliar with one’s religion would read to summarize the quality of one’s religious persuasion. Guided with this philosophy, his interactions with people have always been received with tremendous approval. His approach to issues is always towards solving any problem as the situation may present.

Professor Oloyede is an archetypal representation of transparency, accountability and effective public service delivery in any clime. I am happy I am able to say this while he is alive as our society only excels in dressing evil on its way to the grave. We pray for more of Professor Is-haq Olanrewaju Oloyede in Nigeria. May Allah continue to guide him aright.