Trepidation best describes the mood of many public office holders in the twilight of their career. If truth be told, many regard post retirement years as a hellish and dreadful experience. To others, retirement is synonymous with physical and mental fatigue which only a nonactive and solitary lifestyle can cure. With this mindset, many pass off opportunities to prepare for the fresh and exciting opportunities that post-retirement years present.
Not so for Yusuf Bolakale Lawal, Ph.D, fsi, fnim. He prepared for another life after exiting the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) on February 1, 2022, and has since assumed a senior academic position, on transfer of service, at the University of Abuja. His departure from JAMB came few weeks after appreciative colleagues gathered to honour the seasoned administrator after a sterling performance at the EIMC Course 14 of the National Institute for Security Studies (NISS) where he won multiple awards and prizes.
Dr. Lawal was once again in the spotlight last month when he was feted by an appreciative management of JAMB. He waxed philosophical on the occasion “There is no doubt that, in the course of our relationship in JAMB, we must have crossed one another’s path and possibly offended one another in some ways. This is as much as we must have also benefited from one another. We should therefore not harbour any ill-feelings against one another.” He apologized to those who possibly took offence at some of his actions and added: ” personally, I do not harbour any negative feelings against anyone, and I beseech God to forgive all of us for our shortcomings.”
In transiting to the academia, Dr. Lawal, administrator, political engineer, teacher, researcher, foremost community leader and field worker par excellence, has returned to a natural habitat. It is a fitting ice on the cake for Dr. Lawal as the new academic position does not deviate much from what he did at JAMB for close to three and half decades.
By his own account, Dr. Lawal never intended his stay to be permanent when he joined JAMB in July, 1989. After the mandatory national service in Maiduguri in 1986, Dr. Lawal tried his hands in the private sector before he opted for a career in the federal service. He was engaged by the Federal Ministry of Finance and Economic Development but he had barely settled down when the JAMB, where he had applied to in 1988, invited him for an interview. To indicate his resolve to stick with the mainstream federal service, Dr. Lawal requested for a higher grade level when he appeared before JAMB interview panel. Impressed by his performance, the Board acceded to his request.
The decision by JAMB to engage Dr. Lawal turned out to be a wise investment: less than two years at the Test Development Division of the Matriculation and Examination Department of JAMB (as it was then known), specifically on January 15, 1991, he was drafted to the Office of the Registrar as Personal Assistant in recognition of his diligence to duty. It was a position that introduced Dr. Lawal to critical and sensitive responsibilities very early in his career. That Dr. Lawal executed the office from 1991-2013, when he became a substantive Director is a testimony to the diligence he brought to bear on his work.
In the 22 years Dr. Lawal served directly in the Office of the Registrar, he diligently served five JAMB Registrars, two of whom served in acting capacity. The Registrars under whom he served, and who are in the best position to report on him were generous in their praises. If the contents of the congratulatory messages from each of them were anything to go by, Dr. Lawal must have been the jolly good fellow known not only to his superiors and subordinates alike but to other Nigerians who had the benefit of even a scant acquaintanceship with him.
Born April 23, 1963, Dr. Lawal, like his contemporaries was exposed to Qur’anic education early in life. He received his formal education in Ilorin before proceeding to Maiduguri to obtain a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Administration. He was also at the University of Lagos and Abuja for his second degree and third degrees. His father, Alhaji Sani Adebayo Lawal, widely known as Baba S. A Laval, died in 2011 at the age of 78. Baba S.A Lawal was himself an intellectual of no mean repute, a respected community leader and politician. Baba S.A Lawal was more than a bridge builder; in Ilorin and environs he is still celebrated as a human bridge! Dr. Lawal’s mother, late Hajiya Khadija Kubura was the only sibling of the first lawyer in the defunct Northern Region and Mutawallin Ilorin, late Alhaji Abdulganiyu Folorunsho Abdulrazaq.
For now, Dr. Lawal’s crossover to University of Abuja has put paid, albeit temporarily, to widespread speculations in his home state, Kwara, that one of its most celebrated ambassadors planned to join efforts to reposition the state by taking up a political appointment. The speculation gained currency after the Ilorin Emirate Descendants Progressive Union (IEDPU) honoured one of its illustrious sons for his sterling performance at the National Institute of Security Studies last year.
In a way, politics has taken the backseat but, for how long? With 2023 around the corner and considering the goodwill Dr. Lawal enjoys, how long he continues to resist the pressure to give back to Kwara state remains to be seen.
Magaji <firstname.lastname@example.org> writes from Abuja