Theory-Practice Nexus Will Assure Future Relevance of Political Science –Expert
The future relevance of the discipline of Political Science rests on the capacity of the Nigerian political scientists to achieve a critical intercourse between theoretical foundations of the discipline and the practical realities of the postcolonial Nigerian state, a political scientist Dr. Tunji Olaopa has advocated.
The Executive Vice-Chairman of Ibadan School of Government and Public Policy (ISGPP), who was Guest Speaker at the recent Town and Gown Seminar staged by the Department of Political Science and International Relations of Covenant University, Ota, Ogun State, described political science as the theory and practice of government and politics at various levels, since theories are by their very nature assumptive, they are either grounded or falsified by practice.
“In fact, it is the relationship between theory and practice that, on the one hand, generates new theoretical insights by which we can then reorient further practices,” he said. “As the actual application of any idea or theory, practice self-evidently justifies itself. Politics is action and it seems that this is what differentiates the politician from the political scientists.”
Speaking on the topic, “Connecting Theory To Practice: A Case For Political Science Programmes”, the politician, Olaopa said, is never troubled by the requirements of ideal theory, but noted that there is a significance of practice.
The political scientist bemoaned the current status of political science as a social science discipline, especially its popularity among aspiring undergraduates. “The discipline has become so dissociated with relevance that any hapless student who desires it as a course of study may risk the anger of his or her ignorant parents.
“For those parents, political science is a sure way to becoming a politician. And that is no longer a worthy vocation in present day Nigeria. But for those parents who are a bit enlightened, the discipline of political science is only contemplated as a grudging second choice, or even a desperate last resort, when the chance of an admission for their wards is acutely threatened.”
Olaopa called for urgent resuscitation of the “comatose” professional body for political scientists, the Nigeria Political Science Association (NPSA), which has a lot to do in the education of future practitioners of the profession.
Aside the urgent need to revamp the NPSA, Olaopa’s recommendations were all concerned tacitly with the theory-practice necessity.
“There is the urgent need to reconnect political science to the context of social policy. This will afford the practitioners the opportunity to always perceive the policy dimensions of their theories and methodologies. One good way to do this is to reinstate the Town and Gown tradition of a deep symbiotic relationship between the university and the State.
“A corollary to the Town and Gown synergy is the idea of think tanks or research institute that could serve as the focal point for policy recommendations and advocacy. Such a think tank will become a regular forum for political scientists, policy analysts and makers to brainstorm on the intersection between theories and practice.
“Above all, there is also the constant need to facilitate pedagogical creativity in adapting the curriculum to issues and ideas that are critical and relevant to the national context. The political science curriculum must thus be oriented to active learning that will enable the students to experience Nigeria and the world in the various methodologies and theories that we teach,” he explained.
Speaking further on the need to ensure future relevance of political science through the theory and practice nexus, Dr. Olaopa said political scientists requires an intellectual dynamism that can modulate the influence of theories on practice and of practices on theories.
Professionals and practitioners, he added, should be integrated into academic curriculum in all fields. These include politicians, cultural workers, policy makers, public servants, military personnel and entertainers among others.
Olaopa said: “When politicians are dissociated from political scientists in Nigeria, then things fall apart. And it seems to me that politics and policies are too significant to be left with the politicians alone.
“Imagine that Governor Adams Oshiomhole (of Edo State) or Ibikunle Amosu (of Ogun State), after public service, is asked to teach a course on ‘Government and Governance’ where students are given the liberty to ask hard-hitting questions about policies and implementations.
“We can expect two significant consequences from such practical experiment. First, students, who are some distance removed from government processes and procedures, would be given definite insights into what they trenchantly criticize from outside the theatre of government. We can from here begin to contribute to the creation of politically conscious citizens who, as the Scriptures put it, ‘understands the times’.
“Second, the politicians, who would now be far from the pressures of governance, can now reasonably have the opportunities to rethink and reassess their policies and politics. In both cases, the theories and practices of government are simultaneously invoked and at play.”
Head of the Department of Political Science and International Relations, Dr. Jide Ibietan, said that the CU management instituted the Town and Gown interaction in order to bridge the gap between academia and practice, while he expressed satisfaction that Dr. Olaopa had done justice to the topic.