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Reasons El-Rufai's Selfless Call For Stopping Of JAMB Preferential Cutoff Marks Should Be Commended

Governor of Kaduna State, Mallam El-Rufai, had called for the stopping of the lower Cutoff Marks enjoyed by the Northern candidates who sit for the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME). The Governor reportedly made the call in an interview with the Channels TV 'Sunrise Daily' breakfast programme, monitored by The Punch. In the words of the Governor: "We have continued to be a disadvantaged region right from independence even though we're given preferences. That has not helped; in fact it has made our people lazy"

In about 24 hours after the Governor's call, JAMB officials reportedly rushed to the same Channels TV to counter the aforementioned. The JAMB Register, Prof Ishaq Oloyede and the Media spokesman Febian  Benjamin had both claimed that JAMB did not award Preferential or Differential Cutoff marks to the candidates , rather it was the institutions that determine cutoff marks.

People wondered why the hasty replies by JAMB officials to an issue that should require serious national attention. We all know that JAMB is not just a mere rubber stamp when it comes to university admission matters. We also know that candidates after receiving provisional admissions from the universities have been mandated to pay and printout JAMB's Admission Approval Certificate as one of the compulsory clearance requirements. In any case no amount of hasty replies could invalidate Governor El-Rufai's sincere call for removal of the exclusive admission privileges that have become the birthright of the north. The fact remained that Governor El-Rufai is no stranger to the national policies. His views are usually weighty and uncontrovertible, hence should not be dismissed with a mere wave of hands.  The outspoken Governor always says things as they are without entertaining fears or minding whose ox is gored.  

This Governor had demonstrated similar uncommon courage when he called his fellow colleagues in the North to do away with their age long traditional Almajiri system, which he said had continued to breed street children as well as contribute to increasing number of out of school children in that Region.  He had reportedly described Almajiri practice as a denial of child's fundamental right to meaningful education. He stressed that parents, rather than leave their children roam the streets, should take full responsibility. Consequently, he set the ball rolling by repatriating the Almajiris in his state to their states of origin.  According to reports, the Governor once kicked against the Federal Character principle; and also during the North West public hearing on the Review of 1999 Constitution at General Hassan Usman Katisina House Kaduna on 26th May 2021, he supported the calls for restructuring and devolution of powers. His fellow Northern elites, being the products and beneficiaries of these existing protective policies, always feel apprehensive about any paradigm shift that resembles restructuring of the status quo. Nigerians believe that the protective policies such as Quota System, Federal Character principle and the Differential Cutoff Marks have outlived their usefulness, having entrenched mediocrity and lack of hard work in the land. Didn't our President once describe Nigerian youths as lazy and largely opportunists waiting for oil windfalls? To say the least, nothing could be as bad if the president's assessment of our youths were correct, then the future is bleak, considering that these youths are the hope of this great nation. This is where Governor El-Rufai's clarion call becomes imperative.  

Reports had it that Nigerian universities now operate two different levels of JAMB Cutoff Scores for admission between the Southern and the Northern universities. Thus the South offer admission to candidates with 200 and above while North offer at 100. The Ministry allegedly defended the discrepancies stating that the scores were brought down to 100 to enable Nigerian children secure admissions. No body was deceived. Nigerians know that the limited admission capacity in our universities could not even accommodate 50% of the candidates with 200 scores and above, let alone 100. With this kind of policy put in place, a candidate from the South with 200 scores could be denied admission in the North while the counterpart from the north with 100 is favorably considered. Under these abnormalities the so called uniformity in our education would ever remain elusive. It has been said that no Nigerian university is considered good enough to make up the list of the best 100 in the world.

This discriminatory admission cutoff marks were even more pronounced on entries into the country's 110 Federal Unity Schools in Nigeria. According to reports, the FG National Common Entrance Cutoff Marks for 2021 admission into above was pegged at 142, with the S/E States having the highest minimum cutoff marks, as usual. Anambra State 139. Imo State 138. Enugu State 134. Abia State 130, respectively.

 This is a Region that rose from the ashes of bloody and devastating civil war fought on their lands and who lost about 5 years behind other regions.  Rather than granting the above a waver, they were rewarded with the highest admission cutoff restrictions. Worst still was that the criteria used to determine the skewed decision have so far defied any defined logics. If the criteria used were on the number of the candidates that register for the Unity Schools in each State, then it was faulty, because out of the 76,855 said to have registered in 2021/22, Lagos State had topped the list with 21,423, followed by FCT with 8,674 while Anambra State trailed far behind with 5,738

 The 2020/21 Common Entrance best Results showed that a candidate from Anambra State scored 199 while another from Enugu State (names withheld) scored 198 to cling the 1st and the 2nd positions, respectively. This was exactly the point El-Rufai tries to prove, that stiffer challenges bring out the best performances in the people.  

Economic experts have told us that the major reason local industries should not be granted an indefinite concessions such as tax holidays and other other similar exclusive protective benefits is because they tend to remain perpetually infant and will never want to grow up to compete with their foreign counterparts.

OBODO COLLINS OKOLO

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Channels TV Ishaq Oloyede JAMB JAMB Register Kaduna State

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