One was rounding off graduate education at the University Jos when Godswill Obioma was appointed a professor of Mathematics education at a record age of 38. Then, there were students in their 30s still pursuing an undergraduate education in the same institution. So, emerging a professor in his thirties was a stunning achievement, which endeared him to most of us. He became a natural role model to ambitious students and young lecturers. Some of us had to keep a tab on him.
For social researchers who are interested in the predictive validity of academic performance for career success, Professor Obioma was quite a subject. Doing so well for himself at a relatively young age is as important as the achievements he recorded where he has been opportune to serve and a few of them will be spotlighted shortly. Psychologists are of the firm view that one’s past is the best predictor of his future. If this research-based axiom is anything to go by, NECO is set for the next level with Professor Obioma’s coming.
The Abia born professor attended Alvan Ikoku Federal College of Education where he studied mathematics and physics, graduating in 1975 with distinction and as the overall best graduating student. He went to University of Nigeria, Nsukka to study mathematics and education, graduating in 1979 as the best graduating student. His master’s degree was in educational measurement and evaluation in the same university, graduating in 1982. He went further for his doctorate degree, graduating in the same field and same university in 1985 and winning the vice chancellor’s award for the best doctoral dissertation.
Since the man has often succeeded in making his stay anywhere he goes sublime thereby leaving huge footprints on the sands, NECO will certainly witness a new lease of life. Before the coming of NECO in 1999, Nigeria had relied entirely on the West African Examination Council (WAEC) for evaluation of secondary education. Though Nigeria is still a member of WAEC and still applies West African School Certificate (WASC) pari passu with NECO, the National Examination Council ought to be at par with WAEC and cannot afford to drop a shade in quality and standards.
The two certificates are held at par and therefore interchangeable and tertiary institutions have continued to accept both as equal and even in combination where students need to make up credit loads for entry qualifications into Colleges of education polytechnics and Universities.
Recall that NECO was created by former Head of State Abdulsalami Abubakar in April 1999. It was the first Federal organization to offer subsidized registration to academic candidates in Nigeria. NECO was mandated to take over the responsibilities of the National Board of Education Measurement (NBEM). Its maiden examination took place in mid-2000.
NECO in recent times has not been living up to expectations in proving that it is indeed a worthy alternative to WASC. NECO’s last Registrar was sacked for conduct less than noble and Abubakar M. Gana appointed in his place in acting capacity as Registrar of the council. Abubakar M. Gana revealed the rots in the Council during the release of the 2019 June/July Senior School Certificate Examination results in Minna, saying 40,630 cases of malpractices were recorded, representing 3.53 percent in 2019; as against 20,181 in 2018. Desperate parents and guardians are believed to purchase results from the Council for their wards. Such must stop.
In the area of general administration, the Federal Government’s annual Audit Report published this February has stated that the National Examinations Council made payments for examination materials in 2017 totalling N7.2bn billion without evidence of supply of those materials. The FG audit report from the Office of the Auditor-General of the Federation, titled, ‘Auditor-General’s Report on the Accounts of the Federation of Nigeria 2017’and made available to the media, stated that the Council paid the sum of “N7,249,458,443.82 between January and June 2017 without evidence of receipt of the items into the store.” With Professor Obioma, such ugly tales will come to an end in the Council.
Going by the complementarity between WAEC and NECO, Professor Obioma’s appointment, an accomplished, educationist and topnotch administrator and more importantly, a reformer, is indeed a round peg in a round hole and will restore the confidence being eroded in the Council.
Obioma started his career in 1979 at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka as a research fellow, after he was retained at the end of his degree programme in the same institution. In 1988, he left the university and moved to the University of Jos, where he became the head of the research division of the institute of education as a senior research fellow.
As stated earlier, at the age of 38 in 1991, he was appointed a professor of mathematics education and evaluation at the University of Jos. In 1993, he became the head of the department, department of science, mathematics and technology education. From January 1994 to March 1994, he served as the special assistant on policy monitoring and evaluation to the then military administrator of Abia State.
From 1994 to 2000, he served as the director, monitoring and evaluation, National Primary Education Commission, Kaduna. In 2000, he became the director, monitoring and evaluation, Universal Basic Education Programme, Abuja. From 2003 to 2005, he served as the director, monitoring, research and statistics, National Business and Technical Examination Board (NABTEB), Benin City.
In March 2005, he served as a special assistant to the then minister of education, before serving two terms as the executive secretary, Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council, Sheda, Abuja where he superintended so many reforms in the core mandate areas. NERDC has the statutory responsibility to: develop, review and enrich the curriculum at all levels; undertake and promote book development, and local authorship for quality assurance; Conduct educational research for public policies formulation and implementation.
Apart from making NERC a top-of-the-range anchor for the educational reforms of the era, which helped to kick in the revival in public education, he made the agency truly a think-tank. As a Think Tank of the Nigerian education system, in his time at NERDC, the agency continually provided the nation with building blocks for strategic educational planning & development; education quality assurance; policy formulation and implementation.
Later in his career, he joined Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC and became the Resident Electoral Commissioner of Ebonyi State.
On 22 May 2020, it was God’s will again that Professor Obioma will be appointed by the president of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari as the registrar of National Examination Council, NECO for five-year tenure to replace Abubakar Gana.
Nigerians can heave a sigh of relief as an accomplished academic, intellectual, educationist, astute administrator and a reformer of note takes over at NECO.
• Dr. Law Mefor is an Abuja based Forensic/Social Psychologist and Journalist; Tel.: +234-905 642 4375; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org