Monday, July 15, 2024
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“There must be a holistic approach to education reform”- Oloyede

Professor Ishaq Oloyede epitomises integrity in a country where it is going out of fashion. Like the late Professor Dora Akunyili, who was the DG of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration (NAFDAC), and Brigadier-General Mohammed Buba Marwa, current chairman of the Nigerian Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Professor Oloyede has become a household name and a reform-minded educationist.

From his time as the vice-chancellor of the University of Ilorin to date as the registrar of the Joint Admissions Matriculation Board (JAMB), competence has been his mantra. Armed with a solid Islamic education background, he has had occasions to say that falling short in his professional calling would be akin to going against his background.

While he may be regarded as old school due to his disciplinarian outlook, he is new-fashioned in the ever-changing world of technology as he has kept himself up to speed. In 2007 as the helmsman of the University of Ilorin, he introduced Computer-Based Tests (CBT) and as a result, JAMB has been inspired to do the same.

To him, his professional mien is a case of “what people blame you for today, they praise you for it tomorrow. When we insist on certain things, some people think we are wicked. But after some time, they realise that it is the right way to go.’’

As the registrar of JAMB and an educationist, he’s worried about students cutting corners to achieve desired results in their exams. However, he blames parents for encouraging their wards to engage in examination malpractice. Nevertheless, he is of the firm view that the rot in the university system is not as deep as the rot in the larger society. And he is optimistic that with a holistic approach to education reform, things would get better.

In this interview with Newswatchplus’ team of Yakubu Mohammed, Soji Akinrinade, and Yusuf Mohammed, Oloyede examines the issues bedevilling education in Nigeria and the competence of JAMB to help the university system pick the best students for their schools. Excerpts: 

Newswatchplus: Please tell us the secret of your success

Oloyede: I believe that success is from God. When people say one is relatively successful, it is a product of so many things. First among those things is the grace of God. The second one, in my view, is still part of the Grace of God that one focuses on what one is doing at any time. That is, we try as much as possible to be focused; to put everything we have into what we are doing and I think if we are successful, it might be a combination of God’s grace and the fact that we were determined and committed to making what we are doing to come into fruition.

Newswatchplus: Looking at your kind of background, how has your kind of discipline and your degrees affected your outlook on life?

Oloyede: Education, in my view is supposed to be something that is not just in the brain. Education is supposed to be impactful on the person. Education is expected to play a role in one’s life.

If somebody keeps an accurate record of his accounts; if somebody has a budget for whatever he is doing; and plans very well, you won’t be surprised that he or she has studied accounting. And in accounting, you would be trained on how to keep records. So, you cannot accuse that person of not following his discipline because he must have been influenced either directly or indirectly by the type of training.

Education that does not influence one’s action is not education in my view. I believe that if you find a medical doctor who is a chain smoker or who is a drunkard, there will be no correlation between what he is taught in the class and the effect of those things on him and what he is doing. But more often than not, the type of training one undergoes would have influence whether one acknowledges it or not.

Coming to the question, I believe that the fact that I studied Islamic studies must have taken me through certain routes of determining certain minimum standards below which one cannot go because when you talk about Islamics, you are talking about law. It is essentially law. And the law is about compliance. And when you talk about law, it’s technical. And as a result of that, it’s more often than not, either you comply or you are in violation. And that’s what I believe Islamics are. Where things are laid down and everybody is expected to meet the standard. Anybody who falls short of the standard is not worthy of being part of that community. So, I believe that my discipline has played some role in what I have become. But I also believe that society also plays a significant role. One might be trained as a medical doctor but if the environment is such that drug addicts are his immediate neighbours, he might not be able to know when he would be influenced by them.

I also believe that my parents played their role by creating an environment in the home that set certain standards that one would not want to fall below. I therefore believe that: yes you are right that the type of discipline that one pursues must have influenced one’s role in whatever one pursues. But I also want to say that environment also plays its own role.

Newswatchplus: Drawing from that, I have heard a few people likening you to a particular man in Nigeria. Now that’s based on your discipline, your outlook, and the way you do your things. Some people vouch for your incorruptibility. Many people would draw attention to the fact that they think you are as disciplined as Awolowo. How do you see that type of comparison?

Oloyede: Unfortunately, I wasn’t old enough to interact with Chief Obafemi Awolowo. But from what I have read about him, that again shows clearly that men are born. Men are also made. So, it means that yes, I said earlier that it’s about law. Chief Obafemi Awolowo was a lawyer, so it must have impacted him. But there are many lawyers who did not take that route. For that reason, you are bringing up the issue that men are also born. Not just made. So, it is possible that there are innate qualities in every human being to be positive. But the conflict between the environment and the natural self would more often than not, play a role. I believe that probably, Chief Obafemi Awolowo is not likely to be the only person created by God to be what he was. So many people will also be created like that. And what I believe we need is to develop those qualities that he developed that made him a person envied by all. I believe it can be attained by all if we dedicate ourselves to a path of being able to keep certain standards as he did. We will be trying to make our efforts to make sure that we are on the path.

Newswatchplus: How did you find yourself in administration? After all, you are a professor and teacher. You came into administration particularly when you became the Vice Chancellor of the University of Ilorin.

Oloyede: It wasn’t a deliberate act that I went into administration. In the university, administration is part of the academics. Every lecturer administers one thing or the other in the department. Even administering the questions and the classrooms is part of administration. It is just that while I was in the university, a few of the people that I had to work with felt that I could be invited to participate in administration. So, for me, it was just a service. Oh, come and be a director or chairman of this or that committee, which was part-time, because my primary assignment was to be in the classroom. So, I was doing that along with my primary assignment and gradually I became director of academic planning, became deputy vice-chancellor, and then, by God’s grace, became a vice-chancellor. It was an unconscious thing. It wasn’t that I decided I wanted to go into administration. I was deceiving myself that I was in the classroom. Part of the assignment of the classroom was to administer. And in the process of administering, I was drawn wittingly or unwittingly into having to find myself as an administrator of academic activities. And that’s how I became vice-chancellor. I still believe even as registrar of JAMB, I’m still in the academics. It is just that I’m now focusing more on the admission process and assessment of candidates into institutions. My primary job is still teaching, which I still enjoy.

Newswatchplus: Now your movement from the classroom as it were, to JAMB, would look to everyone like a seamless effort. That it worked well for you. What kind of shock, if anything like that happened. What kind of shock did you discover?

Oloyede: The truth of the matter is that universities are saner than most other places. Say anything you like about the so-called corruption in the universities and so on; compared with the society the universities are still on their own. There are special cases. Stepping out of the university, one great shock I found was that we paid attention to things that were nothing in the society. In the university for instance, somebody steals let’s say four litres of diesel, a vice-chancellor would set up a committee. The committee would sit for two weeks and interview the people and a voluminous report would be written and so on. But I got to a place where I would have been happy if somebody steals just 10 or 20 litres of diesel. But here I am, confronted with not just stealing the diesel but pouring water to replace it into the generator. I wouldn’t even complain if he had stolen four or 10 litres of diesel. But to ensure that you are not caught, you are wicked enough to put water in it. That is the type of shock. People would start begging you saying that he is a first offender. And because you don’t know the kind of society in which you operate you insist he must be punished. And you are not the court or police.  And then the person is charged to court. And in your presence, the judge finds him guilty and says he will go to jail for three months or pay N10,000, and the man puts his hand in his pocket and pays N10,000. What a shock! Whereas in the university system, it’s not likely it will get to court that fast. In the university system, the person would have gone through the trauma of facing the panel and this and that. It’s not likely that the police would want to play with a case coming from the university.

What I am saying in effect is: yes we have problems with some of our universities, but from my own experience I believe the universities are still very sane compared with the society at large. And I believe universities can still play significant roles in moulding the society because of education. My impression is that the society is deeply corrupt and we need to take so many steps to ensure that we rescue the upcoming generation from the decay in the larger society. I still admire and respect the university. Yes, there are people that are just aberrations. They are not normal. You find them here and there. When people talk about sexual harassment people are not scientific about it. There’s a concentration of youths in the university and many of these youths, you will find some of them that are being unjustly persecuted by people who are expected to nurture them. This is a very sad thing. But I am also aware that if the larger society is exposed to what the universities are exposed to, they are not likely to perform as well as the universities have. That does not justify the misdeeds of a few of our staff. But those who are doing such things, I believe, are very few and it’s becoming widely known simply because some of the university administrators are not firm enough. They are allowing society to play some role in moderating the abuse and therefore being tolerant of what they ought not to have tolerated.

Newswatchplus: The in-thing now, people say, is that if you fight corruption, corruption will fight back. You are not in JAMB to fight corruption but because you are doing the right thing, corruption seems to be losing. Do you see any sign of corruption fighting back?

Oloyede: Yes of course! I face it on a daily basis. Society itself may not want to admit it is promoting corruption one way or the other. For example, JAMB used to charge N5,000 per form. And later we reduced it to N3,500. But because we make ‘huge’ money because I don’t believe it’s huge. Because to whom much is given, much is expected. Society believes that because we return tens of billions we are making huge returns to the coffers. That makes society to be saying Oh why don’t you further reduce the amount? Why don’t you extend the validity of the exam to three or four years? But they are not asking these questions from those who are charging more and who are giving less. So inadvertently the message it conveys to me is that because we are not stealing the money we are making people make unnecessary demands on us because they are saying Oh don’t even collect money instead of returning money to the government. But we shouldn’t allow a limited standard or a local standard to determine what we do when we are in global competition. Our colleagues, in the UK, let’s say UCAS, UCAS does not collect a kobo from the UK government. Rather it returns money to the universities and collects from some universities some royalties. But in our own case, because we have been used to being spoon-fed, the government used to pay everything, including our capital, recurrent, salary, and everything. So, when we say the government don’t pay our capital, don’t pay our recurrent, you can only pay our salary and we are returning what we are returning. What we return to the government is not enough to cover our salary. So, to me, we are not doing enough. That’s why people believe we are returning huge sums of money. Where we do not have this entitlement mentality, I believe society is not put under any pressure. N3,500 is just about 15% to 20% of what others charge. In this same society, we still do GMA, SAT, and so on for N18,000, N80,000 to N150,000. Compare that with N3,500 that people are still putting pressure on us. It is simply because they believe that we are not a money-generating enterprise. Why are we returning money?

If the money had disappeared along the line, it’s not like they would have put pressure on us. That’s why I am saying that society itself, directly or indirectly, promotes fighting back of corruption. There was a federal government establishment that JAMB had a contact with and we were negotiating for a good deal. And we were saying look we rather want a reduction in the cost you are giving us for the services and the man said do you think we don’t want to return money as you returned to the government? That shows clearly that he is not happy that we are returning money. So, he is ready to punish us by charging a higher rate simply because we returned money to the government. And some people also believe that you are doing that to curry favour or to be popular. You see, these are subtle ways of corruption fighting back. Look at Mmesoma’s case recently you would see that even if I deserve to be attacked, a sane person will know that JAMB does not deserve to be attacked given its role. But you would see that even without any justification, many people had started attacking JAMB and trying to bring down the integrity of the board without giving the board a fair hearing. Even part of the government we are serving was already questioning or almost declaring JAMB guilty as charged before the facts came out. That should tell one that society may pretend to acknowledge such things, but they are not totally comfortable with what we are doing. They are only doing it, largely to do what they are expected to do. Had it been when this issue broke, the majority of the people stood by JAMB, you would have known they appreciated what JAMB was doing. But they were ready to sacrifice us even without being heard. So that should send a signal that you should not be deceived by the fact that people say you are doing well. If they have the opportunity to destroy you, they can destroy you.

Newswatchplus: I want to extrapolate from what you said earlier. Is there a disconnect between the way Nigerians view education and what is actually happening? And I say this because I see schools that raised their fees from N50,000 to over N100,000, and all hell has been let loose. Yet there are many of these kids who carry phones that are more expensive than the fees. Is there a disconnect?

Oloyede: As far as I am concerned I believe that government has the responsibility to educate the populace as much as possible. If the government can afford to give education from primary to university free nothing is bad in that. That’s the essence of government. But the reality is that government almost everywhere cannot. And since they cannot, we should face the reality and know how to partner with the government. Government should not abdicate its primary responsibility of providing sound education while the society itself should be realistic enough to know the limits of government. And the limits of government, whether we like it or not is that government cannot provide quality tertiary education free.

Many of the parents who are complaining can afford it. Why I am saying this is that I attended a public primary school. My children attended public primary schools but if we do not want to deceive ourselves we would know that the standards in public primary schools have gone down. And the standards have gone down, in my own view, due partly to the fact that the society is not playing supervisory roles in public schools. The difference between private schools and public schools in Lagos for example, is supervision. The private school owner charges a higher fee but he or she supervises the delivery and is committed. But the public primary school pay their teachers better than their counterparts in the private schools but there is little or no supervision and the society is either not allowed or not willing to play the role simply because everybody believes they can afford private schools. Since they could afford private schools, the PTA of the public schools went down, no one to check the activities of the school administration. Nobody cares about it. It is those who are really low in our society who cannot speak up to the headmaster that are now left with their children in the public school. So, as a result of that, we have played a significant role in bringing down the public schools. Shockingly, those of us who pay N150,000 or N300,000 in primary school for children per term will suddenly wake up and say we can’t pay N100,000 for university education. So, you can see that it’s a combination of surprises, a combination of incompatibles. You can pay this much for primary school and secondary education, but suddenly going into public institutions they say they cannot afford it.

I also believe that the roles of the local governments and state governments in education have not been put under serious focus, in my own view. I like federalism. I like devolution of power and all these things that we talk about. But we have not interrogated the performance of these states on what has been entrusted to them. Primary education or basic education is basically the responsibility of the states. They are virtually dead, despite UBEC (Universal Basic Education Commission); despite the fact that the federal government had to intervene to create UBEC with its funding formula: that if I give you 10%, bring 10%, a counterpart funding to lure them to force the state to spend money. And yet, when they contribute 10% and see 10%, they quickly withdraw their own 10% if not part of the 10% contributed by the federal government. As a result, the primary education is suffering. When you now talk of the primary health system itself; where are the primary health centres, if not those established by the federal government? All we want to do is now give the police to the same state governments to add to their problems. What happens to primary education is likely to happen to security. That’s the reality. So, as far as I am concerned, we need to look at what is going on at the level of the state and encourage our governors, and our administrators at the state level to pay particular attention to education. Yes, if there is a need to give more money to the state, I am in support of it. To provide more money to make things better, maybe in the distribution of the revenue in terms of what goes to the subnational governments. I believe that unless society is involved in primary education and secondary education, we would continue to have a contradiction of reality and perception which you have alluded to.

Newswatchplus: Given what you have said so far, what kind of reform would you want to see in the educational system in the country?

Oloyede: I want to see educational reform that is holistic, not adjusting one side that would disorganise the other side. It is a whole structure that you need to look at. Isolated cases will not solve the problem, in my own view. And what is general in it is that the society must stand up no matter the level of supervision of the government even the state government provides. Unless the society itself is ready to monitor what goes on in the education system we are not going anywhere. There should be a situation where public schools established by the government should be entrusted to a group of committed people within the society who will be involved in one way or the other in monitoring because there are not enough inspectors of education. You can’t recruit enough inspectors of education. But if there is a primary school here and a respected person in the society is made the chairman of the school as somebody who has retired, he goes to the school, just as the private supervisors do, and he would say look what’s going on here? He exercises himself rather than staying at home. He is exercising his brain. He is contributing to society. Public schools must be owned by the society. It is at that time, in my own view that we can talk of improving the quality of education in both primary and secondary schools.

Newswatchplus: Speaking of a holistic approach, do you think the parents also have a role to play after the secondary school level?

Oloyede: When I talk about society it’s inclusive of the parents because the parents have a significant role to play. What we call parents now, we talk about parents in terms of individuals. I’m looking at parents as a collective. I am not talking about oh I have a child in this school. I see every child in the community as children of our collective. You don’t need to have your direct son or your grandchild in a school first before you participate. If you have a sense of community and giving back to the community, in every community, be it ward or local government, everybody will see all the children there as theirs, and in that situation, they are acting as parents. It is not necessarily because my child is there or my grandchild is there. No, let us own the schools. Let us see it as our duty to the future to make sure that institutions, particularly public primary and secondary schools established in our community are owned by us. Owned by us doesn’t mean that we would go and take something from them or look for a contract from the principal or headmaster. But in terms of supervision and giving back. Look at how many people in the society continue to lament that ‘’oh people are underemployed.’’ But it’s not reflected in the primary and secondary schools around because someone who is underemployed has one hour as a service volunteer can go and teach in a school in the community. In the process of teaching there, there might be an opening. Rather than doing that, you see people wasting their already wasted lives. I believe that if we are really committed to restructuring education, and that’s why I said everything is connected with another, one way or the other. You cannot do this supervision in let’s say Yaba local government without doing it in Ebute Metta or Kano or Kaduna. There must be a structure that must say look we want to hand over all the primary and secondary schools that are public to the community and that entails certain things. There must be infrastructure for it. There must be an arrangement for it. There must be a support system for it. It means rather than having departments that you have in the Ministry of Education, there must be a department whose responsibility is to see to the affairs of volunteers. You don’t do cut and paste. You just put the head of a cow and put it on the body of a goat and then say the goat is not moving well when the head is bigger than the body. That’s the way I see it.

Newswatchplus: How have the states done in the management of tertiary institutions?

Oloyede: You see, the states: many of them create tertiary institutions that they don’t need because they have seen tertiary institutions as a means of either serving themselves or telling the community that ‘we love you’ because they do not have sufficient ideas of how to empower the society. Tertiary institutions remain the easiest way to do so. That’s the only development that they can think of. Whereas, in the olden days people were thinking of factories, thinking of cottage industries, and farm settlements that would create wealth in the society. But now they create tertiary institutions. Some of them don’t need the institutions. I know of more than five states that do not fill their quota in federal institutions. Their entitlements in federal intuitions are not filled. And they are still establishing their own tertiary institutions. At the end of the day, they won’t even allow the institutions to breathe. And in the process, the institution becomes substandard. I know of a university that was established almost four or five years ago and you can’t say this is a good secondary school. Even the staffing and everything. It’s just a university by name. Some of them established these institutions thinking that TETFUND would be funding them. If you go to some of these institutions, all the physical structures you would find are those created by TETFUND. TETFUND is supposed to be a supportive intervention fund. It is now becoming the primary fund. This should not be.

Newswatchplus: You got to JAMB in 2016. What was JAMB then and JAMB now? What is the future of JAMB in the next 10 to 20 years?

Oloyede: JAMB was created by the universities not by the government. It was the vice-chancellors of the few universities that were there then that knew that there was a problem. That was why they suggested JAMB. What we seem to have forgotten is that at that time, there were problems but because we were not in charge of the problems we didn’t know. By the time you have five to six universities when this idea came before the second generation of Ilorin and Port Harcourt joined, there were just six or seven universities then.

But the same candidate who applied to ABU, applied to Ibadan is buying four or five forms. He is sitting for four, or five entrance examinations. And he is likely to have admission if he is brilliant into these institutions. When it is time to resume, he chooses where to go, thereby forfeiting those waiting for him in the other universities. This was so pronounced that there were duplications of admissions and even expenditures that you have to buy four, or five forms. The vice-chancellors on their own looked towards the UK and said: can you get the secretary general of UCAS (Universities and Colleges Admissions Service) to help us? How can we do the clearing house? And that was how JAMB was suggested. The universities suggested to the federal government to establish two bodies to call one admission board and another one matriculation board. It was in the wisdom of the federal government to join the two and that’s why they called it the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB). They joined the two and said the chairman of the board must be one of the serving vice-chancellors. That’s how we started, until during President Obasanjo’s period that Madam Chinwe Obaji was the first none vice chancellor to become chairman of the board because they were rotating the chairmanship among the vice-chancellors in order to ensure that it was still jointly done between the university and the authority. The point I am making is that the autonomy of the university to admit is not taken from them. It is they themselves who saw the reason, the logic for this type of clearing house that we have. And I think that there are about 25 or 30 countries that I know that are doing this type of thing where you believe that it would amount to waste if you do not have this kind of central body. If properly managed, it doesn’t infringe on the freedom of the university to admit. I can beat my chest to say that since 2017 no candidate has been admitted to any institution without being recommended by that institution. We have returned the power of choice to the institution because we have done technological reinforcement for that. We have devised the technological means to process matters. You cannot have admission unless it is initiated by whoever is designated as the admission officer of a school. And that admission officer recommends to the head of the institution. And it is the head of the institution that forwards it to JAMB. What JAMB does is to ensure fairness. You are following your rules. Nobody is short-changed. JAMB doesn’t initiate any admission. If I have a candidate and I want to ask for assistance, I will have to speak to the admission officer or the vice-chancellor of that institution. I have this candidate. Out of your discretion can you give me one? That’s the only thing we can do. It is not possible for anybody whoever the registrar of JAMB to introduce anybody into it.

The second one is a question I don’t like to address. What was JAMB in 2016 and what have I done? The society believes that the past is bad and the present is good. And that has been the culture. So, whatever we do if 2016 when I came in was the time they established JAMB, it wouldn’t be where it is today. It is likely that JAMB in 2016 rests on the shoulder of what has been built before that time. Yes, there might be problems and there were problems. So, I was brought in to ensure that I corrected the problems. There wouldn’t have been a purpose for me to be there if everything was okay. Any stupid man can be brought and it would go on as stupidly as possible. The fact that I was appointed, means that what we have done is just to fine-tune what is being done, correct what we consider as errors and mistakes, and ensure that we are going on smoothly. That had resulted in changes that people would see. It couldn’t have started in 1978 and be where we were. So, at the time we came in 2016, what we had done was to make sure that we looked for the cheapest way of achieving the best for us. Given my background, at least for 30 years, I have interacted with students and I know what they can do. Therefore, we bring that idea to refine what is on ground. And people see and they praise us for is: “Oh we are now bringing more money to the government,’’ but more fundamental to me is the issue of the credibility of our examinations.

Before 2016, people thought that there was no correlation between what the university adjudged as the capacity of the students and what the exam produced. But that is no longer the case. We now have situations of high correlation between UTME (Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination) scores and post-UTME scores. Many institutions are now abandoning post-UTME scores. We don’t ask them not to do it. Do your post-UTME and add them to it. Yesterday I was reading one of the newspapers and saw that the lady who scored highest in JAMB got all As in WAEC. That is how it should be despite the fact that they are two separate examinations. That’s why it’s absurd when some people say we should extend the validity of exams. Our examination is not a qualifying or a certificated examination. It is a ranking examination. Three of us now want to sit for a school certificate, we would determine a syllabus. This aspect of biology and that aspect of biology; all of you must be exposed to different types of biology and this is the pass mark. Anybody who attains it among the three of you has achieved a secondary school certificate. This, more often than not, would take at least a minimum of 10 examinations. You take SS1, SS2, SS3, continuous assessment, you do papers one and two of the same biology before they give you the certificate that you are certified to have O-level biology. But in our own case, what we are conducting is not an examination that tells us all aspects of biology. We would just pick one aspect of biology and give it to the three of you. We want to know the best of you because we are not to test your biology knowledge. We want to test who the best is among you. It’s for the period. Our intention is not to talk about your ability to go to higher education. Our intention is to say all of you are qualified to go for higher education because of your fine O-level. But who is better than who? And because there is limited space, who is the best? That is what a ranking examination is. A ranking examination puts all of you together and it ranks you. It doesn’t mean that you are certifying the person that he has competence in biology.

Newswatchplus: I read one of your statements in which you said: our challenge remains examination malpractice, especially with regard to parents who keep calling me to favour their wards or children whether they meet the requirement of the system or not. Why have things deteriorated so badly?

Oloyede: Yes it’s bad but it could be worse. You see, in the world today, examination malpractice has become a trade. We are still better here compared with developed countries of the world where you can ask an artificial intelligence device to write a Ph.D. thesis for you on a subject and it would be ready in 30 minutes, at little or no cost. There are examination takers. People are taking examinations for money all over the world. If you read the higher education digest every time, you would see that we are shouting because we don’t want to get to the level of those people. Because we don’t have as much capacity to confront them. They have so many mechanisms for checking. For instance, hold whatever you hold in terms of a certificate. If you go to America and the UK, what you can do is what they would ask. They look at your certificate just for the sake of it. But what can you deliver? But here we are not at that level. We are still at the level of ‘’has he met the certificate qualification?’’ So, we cannot afford to be as wild as they are because we don’t have the capacity to attend to the consequences. That’s why I am saying that yes we are still good compared to what is going on in the world. But we are praying and struggling hard to make sure that it isn’t worse because it could be worse.

Examination malpractice here is developing by the day. There are examinations that are taken and on the day of the examination, you see the questions on the internet. I believe the examination bodies should take steps to ensure that they are ahead of these crooks. And the students are not difficult to convert. The parents are more difficult because they construct and reconstruct stories. Look at Mmesoma, if the parents had not covered up her case, it wouldn’t have taken us five minutes to get the facts from her. The parents are much more difficult because they can create webs of lies. Before you ask a question, they already have an answer that they have already prepared. That’s why we are saying that the parents are the problem. In 80% of the cases, the students are innocent.

The parents want their children to be doctors or lawyers even against the wishes of the students. I know of somebody who after finishing law said ‘’this certificate is for my father. I want to go and study performing arts for myself.’’ He had made up his mind that his first love was performing arts. He wants to dance and sing but his father said he must be a lawyer.  And today he is performing very well in his chosen field as a performer. Look at some of these bigwigs, some of their children are singers but the parents would have forced them to do something other than singing.

Newswatchplus: Across the tertiary institutions in Kwara State, University of Ilorin, Al-Hikmah, Kwara State University, and others, the words reformer, strict, and tough for instance, are synonymous with your name. In fact, the new students today, know Prof. Ishaq Oloyede. It’s almost as if you didn’t have predecessors. What do you feel about it? Starting out in your education career, did you see yourself having this reputation?

Oloyede: I think what is happening is that what people praise you for today, they blamed you for it yesterday. Why I’m saying so is that why I am insisting on certain things, people believe that we were harsh. Some would even think that we were wicked. But after some time, they now come to realise that this is the right way to go. And they would now be talking about us even beyond our imagination. They have created myths about us. As vice-chancellor I would wake up and go to inspect the hostels at 1 am, 2 am go round, and so on. But more often than not, I wasn’t part of the inspections. Occasionally once in three months, I would go to the hostel at 1 a.m. to see. It’s once in three months but almost every week, someone would say ‘’ah that’s the VC.’’ Even when I wasn’t there.

More often than not, I would not be there. When I was a VC, all my guests, no matter their level, would go to the student’s restaurant to eat. Whether you are a VC, minister, or whoever, we would go to the student restaurant. The fact that we used to go there, created fear in the minds of the managers of the restaurants that the VC can come any time. Therefore, the standard was high always because they never knew when the VC would come. But if the managers know that the VC would never visit, whether they like it or not, the standard will fall.

When I was vice chancellor, I hardly used the toilet in the VC’s office. I would go out to the faculty and use their toilet. That creates a ‘problem’ that the VC may want to use it. So, it must be clean. They must maintain it. If you go to the University of Ghana, Legon apart from the vice-chancellor, not even the dean has a private toilet like we have here. We are even making it a condition for accreditation here that the dean must have his own private toilet.

Go to the University Legon, you will see them, they will go to the main toilet. And that’s why their main toilets are well kept because they are maintained. But here, every head of the department has his exclusive toilet that he locks. I believe that it boils down to the issue of every time, what we blame today, we praise tomorrow. It is because we don’t look at issues critically. We just run into serious comments that have no reality, and no content. I have heard people say if Oloyede were to be the VC, this wouldn’t happen, and so on and so forth. The truth was that it could have happened because so many things are happening now and they believe that the leaders are not doing what they are supposed to do. They are now taunting them, oppressing them with an Oloyede who they believe would have done better.

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