Why Psychology must be a choice course in University - UI Don

Professor Peter Olamakinde Olapegba

Professor Peter Olamakinde Olapegba

Professor Peter Olamakinde Olapegba

Gbenro Adesina/Ibadan

Professor Peter Olapegba of the Department of Psychology, University of Ibadan, UI, has emphasised the importance of Psychology as a course of choice in the University, stressing that knowledge of it is good and pleasant and if diligently sought and wisely applied.

The don, who is a social Psychologist and Dean of the Faculty of the Social Sciences, stated this while delivering the institution’s 447th Inaugural Lecture, titled “That I may know.”

He pointed out that if not unusual grace he enjoyed from God, he might have ended up as an ordinary provision seller in the popular Oke-Arin Market on Lagos Island.

In attendance were the institution’s Vice Chancellor, Professor Abel Idowu Olayinka and other principal officers, the Chairman of Oyo State Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Barrister Mutiu Agboke; Assistant Commissioner of Police in the state, Mrs. Funmilayo Akinfenwa, traditional rulers, family, friends and well-wishers.

According to him, one basic feature of man that showed up right from creation and which clearly sets him apart from other creatures was the quest for knowledge

“My quest for knowledge is so that I may know. Knowledge is about knowing, knowing the truth to be free from the power of ignorance. This University has in the last 70 years provided that platform to generations before me, my generation and we have the moral responsibility to preserve the platform and enlarge the coast for nations to troop in and drink from the fount, for a mind that knows is a mind that is free,” he said.

Olapegba’s lecture was the 4th in the forty-three years of existence of the Department of Psychology, University of Ibadan and the third from the Social Psychology unit of the department.

The first inaugural lecture “Psychology and Nigeria: The Search for a More Enduring Social Order” was delivered in 1986 by Professor Dennis Chima E. Ugwuegbu; the second, “Dancing in the Social Jungle” was by Professor Shyngle Kolawole Balogun in 2011 while the third “A Promising Baby in Turbulent Waters: Psychology, Health Care and the Criminal Justice Systems in Nigeria” was by Professor Helen Okhiaofe Osinowo of the Clinical Psychology Unit in 2016.

A cross section of the audience

In the lecture, the psychologist stated that one major thing he wanted to achieve with the lecture was to ‘deconstruct the construct of psychology,’ saying that a good way to do was not by first explaining what psychology was but by what psychology was not.

“This approach is important because even in this age and time, people are still largely ignorant of what psychology is, and everybody feels he or she is not only knowledgeable about psychology but that are psychologists,” he said.

According to him, Psychology is not about mind reading, manipulation, magic, hypnotism or voodooism, pointing out that there were a number of myths and misconceptions fueling the ignorance about psychology.

He said, “One misconception is that Psychology is easy. A lot of people believe psychology is such an easy subject that does not deserve special attention; they believe everybody is a psychologist. This is particularly so with students from other discipline who take psychology courses as electives, they only come to recognize the technical and complex nature of psychology after failing or getting poor grades. Another misconception is that Psychology is just common sense. Many people erroneously hold the opinion that psychology is just common sense.

“They wonder why people would go to school to study such a course when even the market woman, the roadside mechanic and the likes use “psychology” on their customers and in their daily interactions. This kind of opinion is nothing but crass ignorance of the scientific nature and methodological rigour that the discipline requires”.

Speaking further, Olapegba stated that another misconception was that Psychology is not a real science, which clearly demonstrated either a complete lack of knowledge of what science was or inborn mischief, explaining, “Science is all about empiricism, researchers’ control and manipulation of variables, objectivity, hypothesis testing, replicability and prediction – all of these are the hallmark of psychological research as we investigate human and animal behaviour with the additional advantage of being able to account for dynamics of human behaviour in response to situational and dispositional factors”.

The don, further explained that the four major goals of psychology were to describe, explain, predict and modify.

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“These goals put together are geared towards enhancement of the lives of individuals and improving society. In a bid to understand behaviour, psychologists engage in observation and gathering of information which they then attempt to describe as accurately as possible. It is about telling what actually occurs. Description may show that a relationship exists between two variables. This is an important foundation because a phenomenon that cannot be described cannot be studied. Also, what follows the description of behaviour in psychological research is the why. Why do people behave the way they do? Why do events occur in a particular sequence? The attempt at explanation leads to experimentation and other forms of research. The purpose of explanation is to eliminate all other likely or possible explanations except the correct one”, he noted.

Olapegba further noted that for prediction to be accurate or significant, a proper understanding of how the individual or similar individuals had behaved in the past was imperative, explaining that, “Modification is the intervention role where psychologists attempt a change in, or control of, aspects of the environment in order to change behaviour. Behaviour can be changed at individual, corporate and societal levels. He stated that this is one reason why psychologists are needed to bring about a change in the destructive attitude within the polity in Nigeria”.

Dwelling on Psychoanalysis theory propounded by Sigmund Freud because of its immense influence on psychology as academic discipline and a therapeutic intervention, he said that the theory which captured the essence of the human personality and manifest behaviour.

According to him, “Freud divided the human mind into the conscious and the unconscious. The conscious, represents the tip of the iceberg and is made up of those things we are aware of which is just about 10 percent of our experiences at a point in time. The unconscious which forms the remaining 90 percent and is made up of repressed thoughts, unresolved conflicts, primitive materials, unpleasant experiences, urges that are mostly sexual in nature and thoughts frowned at by society. Unfortunately, materials in the unconscious according to Freud intrude into our consciousness and influence our behaviour without us being aware of the motivation for behaving the way we do. This assertion finds corollary in the Bible, the Prophet in Jeremiah 17:9 exclaimed, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? Freud simply took of this challenge to search the mind of man, understand it, explain it, predict it and possibly heal it”.

Explaining that scholarly, the position of Freud had been heavily criticized and in some quarters out-rightly condemned, he said events in the world today still show that there may be things motivating man to behave the way he does which are difficult to comprehend. “How does one explain the mindless looting going on in Nigeria? What is in the mind of those stealing humongous amounts of money and keeping same in septic tanks? What will we find in the minds of those slaughtering fellow human beings without batting eyelids? How does one explain the mind of those who pay workers pittance but go home monthly with millions of naira for sitting in coloured chambers to shout “those not in support say nay, the ayes have it”. Indeed the heart of man is desperately wicked and we must search it “that we may know”, he exclaimed.

Among the social ills his research has covered include violence- peer victimization and domestic violence and sexual harassment, which has put many a people in trouble from presidents of nations, top bank executives, university teachers, to world champions in boxing, football etc and … making men becoming endangered species, adding, sex has become one of the cheapest commodity around the world today, people still allege sexual harassment, which is a good development and a demonstration of self-worth.

According to him, “Nigeria as a country has introduced a new dimension into the rape literature with a sustained and shameless rape of the nation by the political class since independence. The political class has turned itself into a serial rapist taking turns to rape a helpless nation through mindless looting and “fantastic” corruption, the nation is bleeding yet the depraved rapist does not stop. The consequences of this rape are staring us in the face; abject poverty, decayed infrastructure, abysmal underdevelopment, massive unemployment, chronic under funding of education at all levels, insurgency, terrorism, etc. But particularly worrisome is the new dimension of the rape in our polity, the political class not yet done with economic rape of the nation has started raping our minds and they are succeeding in doing this.

rofessor Peter Olamakinde Olapegba with UI VC, Professor Abel Idowu Olayinka

“Those who bear the brunt of the rape have also turned into supporters of the rapist fighting one another in support of their oppressors. This pathetic tendency unfortunately has crept into the academia as seen on ‘UI Acada’ and ‘Politics’ WhatsApp platforms where those that should know are at daggers drawn “Atikulating” corruption and “Buharifying” impunity. How and when did we get to this level?”

Olapegba also exclaimed about the prevalence HIV/AIDS as a social problem and sexual behaviour as a risk factor in the spread of the virus, quoting UNAIDS report of 2000 that an estimated 40 million people were infected in the world with people in the prime of their lives as the worst hit.

According to him, worst hit by the AIDS scourge were the developing countries, which accounted for about 90 percent of infections in the world stressing that Sub-Saharan Africa has more than a fair share of the scourge, which has reduced life expectancy by half while raising poverty to an unprecedented level.

Apart from HIV/AIDS problem, Olapegba equally frowned at the destruction of the African value system saying, “One of the things compounding our woes in Africa in contemporary times is the gradual but steady destruction of our traditional social support system. We have substituted family for household, the extended family structure that traditionally was a buffer and succour in trying times is being spurned now, we are becoming more isolated from the kith and kin and as such we carry all alone burdens that should by default be shared. The nuclear family is elevated as the ideal while the extended family is demonized, little wonder values are now eroded and ailments that ordinarily should not kill have become killers all because we refuse to tap into available social support networks”.

Disclosing how he ended up studying Psychology as a course, the don, stated, “My choice of psychology as a discipline was not intrinsic, but the decision to stay in psychology and make a career out of it was both deliberate and intrinsic. I came into psychology as a foot-in-the-door technique with the aim of crossing the road to the Faculty of Law in my second year but this was not to be as I was bewitched by the lecturers who taught me in my first year. So dynamic were they that I decided to get a PhD against the wish of my father who wanted me to study law”.

He explained that his quest for knowledge made him to venture into the area of social psychology, which is the scientific study of the individual influence on the group and the group influence on the individual. He continued, “My research focus is within the broad context of applied social/health and environmental psychology which has contributed to the understanding of the health-behaviour interface and policies. The published works emanating from my research have clearly shown my modest contribution to the sub field of applied social, health and environmental psychology as an emerging field in Nigeria. Included in these are research into issues of family/marital violence, sexual harassment, sexuality, victimization and the phenomenon of quality of life. In my quest to know and deepen this sub-field in Nigeria, I have developed and validated culturally relevant and globally accepted scales to measure constructs in the sub-field”.

Continuing, “I deserve resources to conduct research (in this wise the Department of Psychology urgently needs a modern psychology laboratory if the next accreditation will not be compromised), I deserve a world-class library and free internet access, I deserve a functional classroom to teach, I deserve travel grants to attend conferences, I deserve to be paid my promotion arrears in full, I deserve to be paid my earned academic allowances without having to struggle for it, I deserve to be protected from being “jacked”, I deserve to be treated with respect and dignity as an academic”.

Olapegba, who is a Pastor, stated that his quest for knowledge continues, “In spite of all that I know and will still know I still have a heart cry, “That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death.” Teach me your way, O Lord!”

The don expressed concern about one of the policies of the Premier University. He said, “The University of Ibadan has a moral obligation to widen access to education rather than restricting access through policies that are not informed by research. The last attempt in Senate to prevent candidates with two sittings in O’level from seeking admission into the University of Ibadan has no basis; this university cannot afford to become elitist such that children from disadvantaged backgrounds are further disadvantaged by our policies. The vision of the founding fathers of UI is encapsulated in the wordings of our anthem”.

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