If you have ever visited JAMB Headquarters in your life, it must surely have to do with University Admission and related issues. Nobody goes to the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board, Abuja Headquarters for a picnic.
It was therefore like the biblical camel passing through the eye of the needle when on Tuesday, January 23, 2024, ANA National President, Dr Usman Oladipo Akanbi, convinced security details that he was on an official appointment to see Prof Ishaq Oloyede, the Registrar and CEO of JAMB.
Having given the names of three visitors he had approved for passage before our arrival, it was like we were unwelcome visitors to JAMB at 1 pm.
“From where?” the redneck security personnel asked us.
Dr Akanbi’s response was inaudible to the guy until I echoed, “University of Ilorin.”
Meanwhile, the ANA President had messaged the Registrar of our arrival; so before protocol could be followed through, a gentleman came out, apologised for the embarrassment and led us into the CEO’s expansive office and asked us to wait until ushered in.
Immediately after sitting down we were led out again by a gentleman who took us to the staff canteen where we were served lunch alongside all the JAMB staff.
As we settled down to eat, Dr Akanbi got up shortly to walk up in the direction of the serving counter. When he returned and didn’t bring anything else with him, I asked what he’d gone back to do.
“I went to greet the Prof.”
“Who?” I looked around.
Was I shocked? I was flabbergasted and flummoxed at the sight of the powerful JAMB Registrar/CEO eating his lunch with subordinates and junior workers at the canteen. Ha! Talk of servant-leaders that I read so much about in Philosophy textbooks but never met any in real life!
I rose to go and greet him, especially after he was told who I was.
“I was greeting you this morning on Arise TV, Prof, but you didn’t see me,” I joked with the ‘big man’ of JAMB whose tenure had been renewed by the immediate past President of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari.
A Fellow of the Nigerian Academy of Letters (FNAL), among other national honours, Prof Oloyede is a former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ilorin where Dr Akanbi graduated from and currently lectures in. He is reputed to be upright and forthright in his approach to public office. He marvelled at Dr Akanbi’s emergence as the ANA President.
“Where did you get the money for the campaign?” he wondered wide-eyed. “Tell me how you made it to the ANA National Presidency with all the continuous wrangling and infighting going on in that association’s hierarchy.”
Dr Akanbi’s response to his questions seemed convincing enough to the JAMB Registrar who encouraged the new ANA EXCO’s olive branch approach towards rebuilding and reconciling factional state chapters. He suggested some other elders that ANA should pay courtesy visits to, in acknowledgement of their historical role in the development of the association.
When the General Secretary informed the Prof of her 33-year sojourn in Abuja and her frequent encounters with JAMB officials over time, he was elated to hear that an Oji girl had graduated from University of Ilorin’s Medical School and is doing the institution proud in the US as an Associate Professor of Pediatrics & Neonatology.
Prof Oloyede immediately called for photographs with his visiting ANA leaders, presenting us with unique JAMB souvenirs. Seeing us off, he introduced us to his senior officials present, “Meet the President of the Association of Nigerian Authors, the son of late Justice Mustapha Akanbi. And this is the General Secretary, a retired educationist and proud mother of eight accomplished daughters.”
He directed that the ANA Secretariat receive JAMB’s newsletter regularly via the General Secretary’s email.
* Dame Joan Oji, PhD, is the General Secretary of ANA