From JAMB to Better: Farewell Anecdotes of the Incorruptible ‘Alfa Isiaka’ By Mansur Ismaila

Prof Is-haq ‘Isiaka’ Oloyede is indeed an enigma, a paradox of personalities. Equally loved, hated and feared by many, he is everything people in his social, academic and religious circle are not. As he bows out today after a vivaciously successful and highly kinetic (first) tenure as Chief Executive and Registrar of JAMB, it is only apt to write this funny tribute about him, from a fresh, different and honestly hilarious perspective.

You see, I first met Professor Oloyede and his family when I was approximately 17, having just resumed as a medical student at the University of Ilorin. He was then a Professor at the Department of Religious Studies, University of Ilorin and Director of Academic Planning at the same university. A friend took me along to his house to celebrate Eid ul Adha (Big Sallah), and the very first time he set eyes on me, his first question was “Taa niwo? Omo taa ni e”! Yorubas reading this are probably saying “Hey God!” already. Lol. Let me translate for those who don’t understand the social and linguistic context. He hit me with “Who are you?! Whose child are you?!”

Blunt, unapologetic and probably downright insulting, right? Fear trickled down my spine! God, who says this first to a complete stranger?! But you see, he was right, and whoever does not ask that question of anyone he sees in his home, with his kids, without his prior approval and admission, is setting himself up for trouble. It’s such unknown entities who introduce one’s children to social vices, cyber crimes, sexual assault, and even terrorist propaganda. So, when next you see a stranger in your home, rolling with your kids and feeling comfy, be like Alfa Isiaka. Don’t care about any social proprieties or sensitivities. Blurt out the acid tests immediately. Bellow or yell if necessary. Who are you! Whose child are you! And what are you to my kids! To avoid stories that touch later in life. May we never admit, feed, fete and accommodate our enemies under our own roofs. Needless to say I answered those questions successfully, and I was given full admittance by Alfa Isiaka himself thereafter. Lol.

My next Alfa Isiaka story here concerns his first son, AbdulKareem, fondly called Abdul, now a Senior Lecturer in Engineering. You see, Abdul was a young boy then, in SS1 or thereabouts. Now, Alfa Isiaka had instituted a standing rule; Nobody at home should accept any Ramadan, Sallah, Christmas, New Year, Odun Egungun or New Yam Festival hamper on his behalf at home. Apparently, the fad then was, because every potential hamper giver, for altruistic or corrupt reasons, knew Prof would never accept such gifts, they never approached his office with same. Instead, they would target his home when they knew he was not around, browbeat and ‘oppress’ his children into accepting such gifts on his behalf in the name of the Yoruba culture of ‘you never reject gifts from adults’, and put Alfa Isiaka in the awkward situation of accepting otherwise rejected gifts through his children.

Prof saw through that ruse, and instituted that ban to prevent such difficult scenarios. Until Abdul succumbed to pressure, and accepted somebody like that’s hamper on behalf of Prof. Apparently, the young Abdul then felt “Haba now, not like Daddy XYZ nah. He is a close friend of Daddy nah”, so he used his initiative and young judgement then, and accepted the “forbidden fruit” on behalf of his father. Prof arrived home, and Kasala burst!

Daddy, Daddy XYZ brought this hamper home for you.

Who collected it?


Go and call Abdul for me.

Abdul, did you collect this hamper?

Yes Sir.

For me or for yourself?

Rara o, Daddy, for you nah. Who would bring me hampers?

Okay. What did I tell you about collecting hampers on my behalf?

But Daddy, it’s Daddy XYZ o.

Did I exempt anybody from that general standing rule.

No Sir.

Good. Oya, go and find whoever gave you this hamper, and return it to him immediately!

I was like, Hey God! On top hamper lasan! If dem com bring Ghana Must Go bag filled with cash, Prof will jail Abdul niyen o! Lol. Do you now understand why Prof was stubborn over that NIN thing to tackle examination malpractices at JAMB? E get why. No be today. I honestly don’t know how Abdul eventually sorted ‘his hamper’, but the poor boy was scared shitless. I’m sure if Prof mentioned ‘hamper’ to his ears after that incident, he would just Jakpa! Lol.

This is the funniest of them all. As Chairman of African Vice Chancellors and a Board Member of the International Association of Universities, Prof once had global university business to conduct in Barcelona, Spain. After the business of education, the organizers thought to treat the book-wary professors of global repute to some nice tourism, and pronto, drove them all to Camp Nou, home of Barcelona FC, and fiefdom of the world renown GOAT, Lionel Messi. Prof told this story when he got home, and we all had a good laugh.
Apparently, other Vice Chancellors on the entourage, from all over the world, became star-struck when they saw Messi in flesh. They started falling all over one another to take prized, once in a generation pictures with Messi at Camp Nou. Not Prof Oloyede o! Prof was like, who is he? What did he study? What are his highest qualifications? Is he published in any globally reputable journal? So you expect me, a Professor of decent achievements and pedigree, to line up and beg to take pictures with a common footballer? The boys were like; Daddy, it’s Messi o! Messi! Prof retorted: And so? Iwe melo lo ka? Lol. We all had a good laugh, but that didn’t stop him from buying original Barcelona jerseys for all his children who wanted them, straight from Camp Nou. Prof is the quintessential definition of ‘old school’, and no Messi could change that! Lol.

I don’t know what the future portends for you, Alfa Isiaka, but I pray Allah makes this JAMB stint the least of his favours on you thus far. May you never know evil. Warafahnahu Makaanan Aliya. Biqudratillah, inna shaniaka, huwal abtar.


I pity your next hamper donor though. Lol.



Mansur Ismaila is Lead Tutor at the Utopian Ideas IELTS Masterclass, and a Masters student of International Relations at the Liverpool John Moores University, United Kingdom.

Related posts