The Registrar of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB), Professor Dibu Ojerinde, in an interview with Punch Newspaper, spoke extensively on the lingering controversy that has continued to trail university admissions this year.
There were reports that the Federal Government overruled JAMB in its earlier plan to redistribute candidates for the post-UTME. Was it the outcome of the meeting you had with Mr. President?
Don’t mind them, nothing bad happened and I must confess that I initiated it. I said to myself that the voice of the people is the voice of God. If God is speaking to you through people, if you do not listen, the consequences could be disastrous. I did it and I told them that this is what we should do and how it should be done. I think what we have done now is in favour of the candidates because instead of going for one post-UTME, they are now given opportunities to attend two post-UTME; if one is not, the other will be. I was the one who said this was a way to do it.
JAMB said it is going to distribute candidates who scored below the cut off points, but the candidates are claiming that they are being sent to private schools. What if they cannot afford the cost of schooling in the private schools?
They do not have to go. We are trying to help them. If they claim that they are being sent to private schools, what of those we sent to federal schools? What of those that we sent to state schools? If you go to the University of Technology in Okitipupa, in Ondo State, it has not got enough candidates for technology, it is a state university and we are saying go there. Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, Ogbomosho Olabisi Onabanjo University are not private universities. I know Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti and Covenant University, Sango Otta will take a lot of money. I know but if they can do it, why not try instead of wasting their time at home?
There are people who have even been telling us they want to go to private universities because they know they cannot meet the cut off point of UNILAG. I have got many who are ready to stay, but we are saying instead of delaying their admission or wasting the time of the children, let us do it on time; that is the only difference. It is unfortunate that our intentions were misunderstood.
Are the private universities not too expensive?
I agree, they are shylocks and charge so much. Some of the private universities, I want to say, were established, thinking it is a way of making money; it is not. They may make the money but not immediately. I went to Connell University, a private university in the United States of America but if you are in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, New York State University will subsidise your fees by 50 per cent. If you are in the non-Agricultural and Life Sciences, you will pay in full. In other words, if you are studying Agricultural Education or things that are related to human beings, you will pay 50 per cent of the fees but if you want to go into Engineering and Medicine, you will pay 100 per cent.
If our states can consider such policies to help these children, and even in the private universities, it will be good. The private universities will remain but of course, some people are against my idea but I know it is a way out. Some say I am pushing the candidates to the private universities because the private universities paid me, I said, ‘Father forgive them for they know not what they are saying.’
If universities are free to decide criteria for admission, even after post-UTME, do you see any reason why there should be JAMB again?
They are free but those criteria can only be fulfilled by coordinating them, otherwise you will go to a place like any federal institution and they will all be filled by the people from that establishment. Even a state university, they will all be filled with the people from the state. The university is said to be a universal centre of education. Universality, that is how we got the word. The university is therefore a melting point of knowledge; otherwise, the gap between the various states will continue to increase. In some universities, only the rich will be there. Even in the federal universities that we are talking about, there are so many people out there in poverty ridden environments, if they are given the opportunity, they will shine.
Will it not be fair to allow the private universities to attract candidates and do business by themselves instead of JAMB coercing students to choose them?
We are not coercing them. When they were establishing the universities, they said they were not establishing them it to make money, so if we leave them to do what they want to do, I can bet it (and we will not get over it, they will continue to perpetuate themselves; otherwise the traditional religious people will say they want to establish a university where only traditional religious candidates will be admitted.
But do you know that some parents are not comfortable with JAMB policy of reassigning them to other institutions?
We have withdrawn that; let them go to wherever they want to go now. We felt we were helping them but on a very good day, we are helping them. They just left me to fight the fight alone even those with whom we made the decision together they were looking at me. Those who we showed the statistics copiously, they refused to talk. When I decided, they were not talking. I decided to cancel all the things we told them. Yes, the Federal Government finally approved my stand, it is an approval of my stand and not that it overruled me.
What were the initial parameters for reassigning the candidates?
First of all, we have to see the universities that are overloaded and can never absorb the lot. In some universities, 43,000 candidates scored 200 and above; in some other universities, 39,000 candidates scored 200 and above. No carrying capacity of any university is more than 9,000. If out of 43,000 candidates who scored 200 and above, you take 9,000, we are saying instead of giving them the whole lot of 43,000, let’s give them 18,000. We doubled it and said they should take any 9,000 that they like out of this 18,000. We didn’t say you must take, but consider them, let us take the remaining 20,000 to institutions that have not got candidates so that they can be considered at the same time instead of running from pillar to post. The only way to solve that problem is if the post-UTME is centrally conducted such that the score in Lagos will be tenable in Calabar or Maiduguri and anywhere.
Are you suggesting it?
Of course, I am suggesting it. If each university will be conducting its own post UTME, believe me, there will be no end to this crisis, and no end to the situation of irregular admission.