By Kunle Akogun
The attempt by agents of revisionism to rubbish the reputation of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB), which it has assiduously built in the past seven years under the watch of Mr Integrity, Prof. Is’haq Olanrewaju Oloyede, with the needless controversy over Miss Joy Mmesoma Ejikeme’s alleged result forgery saga, has fallen flat on its face!
Watching and reading about the rigmarole on the matter that has dominated the media space in the past one week reminds me of a Yoruba adage that roughly translates, “If one is sure of one’s deity, one would enthusiastically swear by it without any fear of untoward repercussion” (“Bi Ogun eni ba da’ni l’oju, a maa nfi gba’ri ni”). Indeed, JAMB is very sure of the inviolability of its system and the unassailability of the integrity of its examinations and so it remains unshaken in the face of the barrage of mud being slung at the Board from very many mischievous quarters.
As is often the case in this country, the Ejikeme controversy has thrown up many emergency “girl rights activists”, legal jobbers, hypocritical sympathisers and others angling to cash in on the matter to make cheap names and cool money for themselves. Some others simply saw in the matter an opportunity to tarnish the highly reputable image of JAMB and its Registrar/Chief Executive Officer, the delectable Prof. Is’haq Oloyede, for daring to be different, like the rare breed public servant that he is, in running an almost corruption-free public institution.
But how wrong they all are! The Board has, by dint of its openness and incorruptibility, been able to shake off all the darts thrown at it and come out even cleaner! Indeed, the Ejikeme controversy has turned to a huge public relations bonus for JAMB, as it has afforded even the most adamantly virulent of its critics a new insight into Prof. Oloyede’s depth of character, sincerity of purpose, unassailable integrity, managerial profundity, administrative acumen with zero tolerance for double standard and unnecessary duplicity.
The Ejikeme story is too well known now to warrant any detailed repetition here. But even if only for the purpose of putting it in proper context, it will not be totally out of place to highlight some salient points thereof here.
On Sunday, July 2nd, 2023, Nigerians were taken aback when JAMB announced that one of the 2023 UTME candidates, Miss Joy Mmesoma Ejikeme, who has been parading herself as the highest mark scorer in that examination and who has been basking in the euphoria of that false claim with several private and public organisations dishing out favours to her in form of cash gifts, scholarships and all, is in fact an impostor, as its records do not support her claim. According to JAMB, Miss Ejikeme, who hails from Anambra State, scored 246 in the 2023 UTME, as against her orchestrated 362 mark claim, while the actual highest mark scorer, Miss Nkechinyere Kamsiyochukwu Umeh, another candidate from Anambra State, scored 360 marks. This sparked off a huge hailstorm of national outcries with some commentators crying blue murder and several others excoriating JAMB for allegedly attempting to deny the poor girl, who was touted as a prodigy, the sweet benefit of her exceptional brilliance, which, they said, she had consistently maintained since her nursery school days.
Some unsolicited advocates of the girl even started reading political and tribal meanings into the saga by insinuating that JAMB’s action was a premeditated move to deny Anambra State its well-earned trophy of producing the best candidate in 2023 UTME! Obviously, such people were oblivious of the identity of the authentic best candidate, who incidentally is from the same Anambra State!
The girl was even chaperoned to record a video that went viral in which she tried to deny that she forged the result and manipulated the score to which she is laying claim. In a carefully choreographed attempt to whip up sentiment, Miss Ejikeme claimed in that video that at her age, (variously put at 16, 17 and 19), she is not capable of the result manipulation she is being accused of. She then said she was traumatised and embarrassed by JAMB’s accusation. To be sure, at her age, the poor girl is not really capable of single-handedly recording that video. Like the proverbial “Iromi”, that proverbial aquatic bird that is dancing atop the river, its drummer must be lurking somewhere in the nearby bush or even probably under the water! The drummers are unmistakably those who have one axe or the other to grind with JAMB and/or its Registrar who have now donned the garb of girl rights activists and legal jobbers of various hues.
But when JAMB pinched their balloon of lies with just a strike of a needle, they all recoiled in ignominy. Even the lawyer who had been going about boasting and threatening JAMB with a N2 billion character assassination suit couldn’t find his voice after the Board presented its case that invariably showed that Ejikeme actually falsified her result. It is also instructive that Miss Ejikeme has begun to sing a new song, when she admitted on Channels TV Sunrise programme on Wednesday morning of 5th July that “after all said and done, I now saw that I got 249”!
Earlier in a no-holds-barred statement on Tuesday, 4th July, 2023, the examination body had exposed the unholy antics of Miss Ejikeme and those goading her on, stating with a tone of pontifical finality that the girl had committed a high grade cyber fraud of monumental dimension.
The Board pointed out that it had discontinued the issuance of ‘Notification of Results’ to UTME candidates since 2021 and has since been issuing actual Result Slips on which each candidate’s photograph is embossed. But incidentally, the result being paraded by Miss Ejikeme is that same obsolete ‘Notification of Result.
It should be noted that this is not the first time that such fraudulent claims have been made by unscrupulous UTME candidates. Some of them even went to the extent of suing the Board for accusing them of such frauds. But at the end, the litigants always came running to JAMB to apologise for their clients’ misadventure. This, to say the least, is a clear vindication of a government parastatal whose unmistakable hallmark is service excellence and uncommon institutional integrity.
Meanwhile, security agencies are already on the Ejikeme girl’s case for thorough investigation to unravel the masterminds.
That this matter involves this little girl is unfortunate, as her future career is now at stake. For now, her dream of studying in any Nigerian university would be put on hold for the next three years while the embargo on her lasts. Such is the collateral punishment she has to serve for the indiscretion of some selfish adults scheming to make quick money or just bent on rubbishing JAMB’s jealously guarded record of service excellence.
However, I am of the honest belief that Miss Ejikeme is a mere victim in this whole saga. I think she couldn’t have perpetrated the forgery on her own, considering her age and her humble background. But as the principal beneficiary of the condemnable crime, she is complicit and therefore culpable! When forensic investigation begins into the matter, she should be able to lead the investigators to the cybercafé where the deed was done as well as/or the hacker that did it for her. This, hopefully, would unravel the motive behind the whole saga.
*Akogun is the Director of Corporate Affairs, University of Ilorin.