Abayomi G. Omotayo

Nigeria…actually good people and supposedly great nation. This is a sufficiently apt slogan that we should adopt rather than the not-so-true ‘Nigeria, good people, great nation’ slogan that we have come to adopt. Why? Because great nations don’t unabatedly display unpreparedness. Every sphere of our lives is marred by this very bad habit and unless something drastic is done about it, it will continue to pull us down the abyss of mediocrity however hard we try to portray ourselves as a great nation in the committee of nations. The latest victims of this habit are the prospective Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) candidates. Since the registration began on March 20, 2017, a large percentage of the candidates across the country have not been able to register. The reason is pathetic and the excuse by JAMB, the organizer of the exam is silly but before I analyze this it will be instructive to journey back in time in order to put our national unpreparedness in context.

The first and the most important sector of Nigeria that has suffered a great deal from our unpreparedness is the economy. The 70s was a period Nigeria enjoyed so much economic boom that in 1973, General Yakubu Gowon said that the country’s problem is not money but how to spend it. He was right and that statement holds true till this day. If there was a solid plan towards consolidating on the oil boom for economic growth and development, knowing how to spend the money wouldn’t have been a problem. It is therefore not surprising that the following decade was characterized by a sharp economic downturn when oil prices plummeted. Given that it was the first time thus little or no experience, let’s cut the handlers of our economy at that time some underserved slack. However, the trend has continued and we have repeatedly gone true the high oil prices-economic boom and low oil prices-economic downturn cycle.

The origin of our presently struggling-to-get-out-of-recession economy can be traced to the decline in oil prices that started towards the tail end of Goodluck Jonathan’s tenure as president. Interestingly it was also during his tenure that the price of crude oil peaked at the highest yet no plan for the rainy day instead the Excess Crude Account (ECA) was depleted from $20bn to $2bn. We do not even need to be good students of Economics and History to know that the price of crude oil is very volatile and influenced by various factors like socio-political unrest to politicking and more recently to the exploration of shale oil.

Nigerians love sport especially football but unfortunately we have now missed out of the last two editions of the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) due to shoddy preparations. I remember that in August 2016, Nigeria’s contingent to the last Olympics in Brazil had to improvise because their official attire for the opening celebrations did not get to Brazil in time. It still beats me why they left the country without their attires. Shall we talk about our dismal performance which was also largely due to unpreparedness? Funds were not released on time; athletes’ welfare was very poor. In fact, the Dream Team VI had so much financial issues that affected team logistics and match bonuses. We had four years to plan and execute yet we fumbled.

For the fear of starting a never-ending epistle on Nigeria’s unpreparedness and how it has affected the education sector, I will just stick to the UTME 2017 registration challenges. The major complain is that the PIN needed after payment at the banks is not being generated and without this, the candidates cannot proceed to the accredited centers to register yet JAMB is insisting on not extending the registration deadline. The new payment-registration model may have its merit thus the reason for jettisoning scratch cards. However, this new system, was there no simulation or stress test? Does the payment portal have issues due to improper application development? In this period when the government is driving the cashless policy, why mandate candidates to go to banks to pay? Why not explore mobile and e-payments? In this time and age, the transaction error/delay in PIN generation is the most trivial of issues in application development yet JAMB and their consultants or application developers have not been able to resolve this for three weeks. If a thorough User Acceptance Test (UAT) was done, the hitches would have been detected and resolved before live deployment. One begins to wonder if there was a project, operational or risk management plan when JAMB decided to change the mode of registration.

My aim for this piece is not to offer technical or management consultancy to JAMB especially pro bono since UTME registration is not free as well. My aim is to use this medium to appeal to JAMB on two things; get your acts together and fine tune your system to allow seamless registration and as a palliative, extend the registration deadline to accommodate the pressure that will be on the system due to the backlog of paid-and-waiting-to-register-candidates. Doing this would mean staying true to JAMB's  motto which is service and integrity.

I tweet @AbayomiGOmotayo and blog at http://musingsamplified.blogspot.com.ng

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