Government Keypoints

  • Government is a machinery through which the will of the state is formulated and attained. As an art, it is a body vested with the power and authority for maintaining security, peace, and stability by making and enforcing laws of the state. As an academic field, it is the study of agencies, political institutions and dynamics of the state. Its attributes are law, revenue, public supports, welfare services, political power. It performs the functions of law making, defence, administration of justice, maintaining internal and external relationships, economic and political responsibilities.
  • Power is the ability to control the actions of others through the possession of means of sanctions.  The types or forms of power are political, military, economic and physical power. It can be acquired through charismatic acts, coercion, political authority, inheritance or constitution.
  • Authority is the power or right to give orders and enforce obedience. It therefore gives one the right to command others to obey as a duty. The types or forms of authority are political, coercion, charismatic, delegation, technical, traditional, positional, or constitutional. Political authority can be acquired via legal, charismatic, or traditional means.
  •  Legitimacy is a situation of being lawful or the general acceptance of the political system as the most appropriate and being in line with the laws of the land. There are some factors that affect legitimacy such as existence of good governance, popular support by the citizens, foreign diplomacy adopted by the government, political participation (pressure groups, political parties, etc)
  • Sovereignty is the absolute power of the state to exercise supreme legal authority over its own affairs within its territory without any form of external control. The types or forms of sovereignty are legal, political, internal, external, de facto, de jure. The features of sovereignty are absoluteness, indivisibility, inalienability, comprehensiveness, permanence, absence of foreign control. Sovereignty suffer the following limitations; external help, coup d’etat, international laws, influence of pressure groups, customs and traditions, supremacy of the constitution, membership of international organisations, influence of powerful nations
  • Political culture is the attitudes, sentiments, beliefs, ideas and norms that guide the behaviour of the people in a political system. Its components or features are cognitive orientation (people’s knowledge about the political system), affective orientation (people’s feelings towards the political system), evaluative orientation (people’s level of assessment of the political system).
  • Political Socialization is a process in which the citizens are educated on the values, attitudes and beliefs of the political system. There are agents of political socialization which are the family, the school, the peer group, political parties, the mass media, religious group, pressure groups.
  • Democracy is a system of government in which all qualified adult citizens share the supreme power directly or through their elected representatives. It is also defined as government of the people, by the people and for the people. Types of democracy are direct democracy (where all citizens are able to participate) indirect democracy which is also called representative democracy (through election, representatives are chosen). The functions of democracy are periodic elections, majority vole rules the country, the press has freedom, existence of separation of power, free and fair election, equality before the law, party system, independence of the judiciary, maintenance of the rule of law, reliable fundamental human rights, opposition government, no intimidation of the voters during election, etc.
  • Oligarchy is the system of government where power of governance is with few privileged people.  It comes in form of aristocracy, plutocracy, theocracy or even military rule.
  • Communism is an economic system where the means of production and distribution is totally controlled by government. It is characterized with classless society, the use of force, one party dominance, authoritarian rule, forceful acquisition of private properties, central planned economy, attainment of communism is mostly via revolution.
  • Totalitarianism is a form of government where one supreme authority controls everything with no form of opposition. It is characterized by absence of opposition, one party dominance, limitation of the press, use of force, absence of rule of law, existence of single ideology and philosophy, suppression of initiatives, censorship of information.
  • Fascism is an aggressive control through an anti-communist dictatorship. It is characterized by anti-communist movement, aggressive nationalism, avoidance of capitalism and socialism, motivation for war, absence of rule of law, absence of democracy, absence of popular view, absence of religious principles, total control of industrial activities.
  • Feudalism is a system of government based on hierarchical order of ownership of land. Its features are leadership based on land ownership, lands are very vital, bond between landlord and serfs, existence of fief, feudal duties are performed in order to have access to land benefits.
  • Communalism is a system of collective ownership among members of a community. Its features are collective ownership, strong co-operation, existence of communal societies, absence of private land ownership, absence of individual ambitions, high degree of cohesion, presence of common cultural belief, etc.
  • Unitarianism is a system of government where the power is concentrated in the hand of a single authority or central government. It has its features as centralized power, use of unitary constitution, central interference into regional affairs, lack of constitutional division of power, the constitution is not supreme, presence of power delegation, lack of local legislative assemblies, parliamentary supremacy, etc. The reasons for Unitarianism are lack of tribal differences, political expediency, lack of minority groups, no fear of dominance, single language and culture, no economic inequality. Unitarianism has the following merits; stable government, low cost of management, quick decision making, unity persists, simplicity in operation, less bureaucratic, lack of human and material resources, no double loyalty. Unitarianism has the following demerits; encouragement of dictatorship, lack of local initiatives, it does not suit large territories, it does not encourage expansion, it keeps the government away from the people, it may lead to the central government bearing huge burdens.
  • Federalism is a government system that shares power between all arms of the government and each arm is legally and constitutionally independent and autonomous. The features of federalism are rigidity of constitution, supremacy of constitution, bicameral legislature, constitutional repudiation of secession, regions possess residual power, central government is supreme, existence of written constitution, power comes according to constitution, matters in exclusive lists are reserved to the central government. The reasons for federalism are tribal difference, size of the country, absence of marked inequalities, possible expansion of the markets, fear of dominance, desire for union, protection of the interest of minority groups. The merit of federalism are rapid development, enjoyment of economies of scale, greater political strength, more employment opportunity, lack of emergency of dictator, existence of checks and balances, guaranteed human rights, the local dwellers are cared for, room for experimentation, greater participation of the people in government, etc. The demerits of federalism are inter-state friction, fear of dominance, unhealthy rivalry, enthronement of mediocrity, causes dual loyalty, disparity in the level of development, too expensive to manage, problem of wealth sharing, it also create a weak centre.
  • Confederation is a political arrangement in which autonomous or sovereign states or republics come together to form a union in which almost the major functions of government are reserved exclusively for the component states with a weak centre. Its features are autonomous states, power is with component states, weak centre, constitution empowers the component states, right to secede, less politically stable, flexible constitution, and citizens have to obey only one government. The merit of confederation are growth encouragement, component states has the ability to make diverse laws, caters for local differences, enjoyment of economies of scale, bridge the gap between strong and weak states, prevents one state riding over another, no fear of dominance. The demerits of confederation are lack of even development, flexible government, power resides in the component states, it doesn’t assure political unity, and component states have their own armed force.
  • Presidential system of government is when power of the state is vested on the president as the executive and legislature are separate arms. The presidential system is characterized with the rule of law, supremacy of the constitution, judicial review and interpretation, limited term of rule, checks and balances, executive power is performed by the president, president and his ministers are not members of the parliament. The merits are checks and balances, fixed tenure of office, separation of power, void of dictatorship, independence of the president, absence of collective responsibility, political stability, democracy, absence of conflict, effective executive arm, absence of official opposition party. The demerits are arbitrary dismissal by the president, long impeachment process, corruption, absence of official opposition, too expensive to manage, frequent frictions occur between executive and legislature.
  • Duties and Responsibilities of the President
  • Parliamentary system of government where the Head of State is different from Head of Government executive and legislature are somewhat similar. Characteristics are lack of strict separation of power, prime minister and cabinet ministers are members of legislature, prime minister is the head of government while president or queen is the head of state, executive arm gets authority from legislature, prime minister and cabinet minister are chosen from the legislative arm. Advantages of cabinet system of government are cooperation, discipline, stable government, efficiency of the executive, reduction of dictatorial tendencies, absence of frequent friction, collective responsibility and there is free flow of information. Disadvantages are frequent changes in government and policies, treat of coalition government, encouragement of arbitrary dismissal, no personal accountability, less democratic, and the fusion of powers does not encourage specialization.
  • Duties and Responsibilities of the Prime Minister
  • Collective Responsibility means that all members of the cabinet are collectively accountable or responsible for all decisions and actions taken by the cabinet.
  • Monarchy is a form of government under the rule of a king, queen or emperor known as the monarch. There is an absolute monarchy which possesses unlimited powers and does not derive power from the constitution and rules by divine rights. The other form is constitutional monarchy where the power is limited to the constitutional provisions.
  • Republican is that which the Head of State is elected by the people of the state. The features are the Head of State known as the president is elected, rule of law, political and legal equality, officials perform government functions, politically independent, popular sovereignty, and the republican constitution is entirely home-made.

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