Lesson Four: Types and Characteristics Of Government

Types of Government
The regulation of activities, enactment and enforcement of laws within a specific geographic territory constitute the function of the government. There are various types of government based on their formation, composition and styles of operation. These different types of governments are classified into: –

(a) Constitutional-based Government – Examples include monarchy, dictatorship and republican systems.

(b) Economy-based Government -This includes federal, capitalist and socialist systems.

(c) Sovereign-based Government – Unitary, federal and empire systems of government are examples.

(d) Party-based government – This refers to zero party, one-party, two-party and multi-party systems of government.

To serve our purpose, we shall discuss the following:

(i) Monarchical System of Government.

(ii) Unitary System of Government

(iii) Federal System of Government.

(iv) Confederal System of Government.

(v) Presidential System of Government.

(vi) Parliamentary System of Government.

(vii) Republican System of Government.


Monarchical System of Government
A government under the rule of a King, Queen or an Emperor is monarchical. The head of such a government is known as the Monarch which is usually the sole ruler with absolute powers and authority, functioning as the Head of State and Government.

The monarch usually is an heir to a royal lineage, he succeeds and gets succeeded by members of the royal family. Thus, power is transferred from one generation to the next. There are two types of monarchies namely:

(a) Absolute Monarchy – This type operates an unlimited power and authority, ruling by divine rights. e.g. King Fahd of Saudi Arabia, Emperor Salessie of Ethiopia and Tsar Nichiolas II of Russia.

(b) Constitutional Monarchy – Limited in power and authority the constitutional monarch derives its powers from constitutional provisions, thus only ceremonial functions are performed by the Monarch as the Head of State. Operation of government is carried out under constitutional monarchy by elected representatives.

The United Kingdom, Sweden, Denmark, Holland and Morocco are examples of countries which operate this system of government.

Advantages of Monarchy
(i) It allows for continuity and stability of government.

(ii) It encourages national pride.

(iii) It unifies the nation as the monarchy is seen to represent all sections of the country.

(iv) It is cheaper to run because the structures of the government have been in existence for Long.

(v) It is easy to operate.

(vi) It allows for fast decision-making process.

Disadvantages of Monarchy
(i) It encourages crises during succession.

(ii) Incapable successors can be imposed on the country while a capable individual may be far on the line of succession.

(iii) it has high autocratic and dictatorial tendencies especially under absolute monarchy

(iv) Decisions are subject to the emotions of the Monarch.

(v) it encourages politics of personal vendetta where individuals could be punished for sharing divergent opinions.

(vi) It wastes public funds on indolent royal family members.

Unitary System of Government
Power in a unitary system is concentrated in the hands of a single authority or central government which does not share but delegates It to subordinate bodies. Examples of countries with such a system of government are Britain, New Zealand, Ghana, Ethopia and Cameroon.

Unitary system of government is possible in a homogeneous society where the size of the population is small and the languages, cultures and tribal groupings are virtually similar. This system of government will be difficult to operate in a country of many diverse ethnic groupings, cultures and languages such as Nigeria.

 Advantages of Unitary System of Government
(i) Since power is concentrated at the centre (single authority), decisions are made quickly.

(ii) Single authority allows for small government which is easy and cheap to maintain.

(iii) Duplication of governmental activities is reduced since only a single authority is concerned.

(iv) The government is always stronger and stable because of loyalty to the central government.

(v) Bureaucratic bottle neck is reduced because consultation with interest groups and constituencies is reduced.

(vi) It unites the country around a single government thus fostering the spirit of oneness.

(vii) . Development of the country is even since there Is no undue divisions.

Disadvantages of Unitary System of Government
(i) Dictatorial tendency is encouraged because of the concentration of powers
at the centre.

(ii) Power at the local level is virtually non-existent thus autonomy is prevented.

(iii) Dependence on central government over-burdens the government.

(iv) Participation at the local level is not encouraged, thus the government is not felt by the people.

(v) The heterogeneous society cannot practise the system because it will lead to the domination of minority groups.

(vi) People are not always consulted on government actions because of poor representation.

(vii) Suppressed tension and dissatisfaction at the local level are not properly addressed and this leads to large scale problems on the long-run.


Federal System of Government

In a federal system of government, power is constitutionally shared between the central and other levels of government, e.g. states, regional and local governments. Specific power is given to the central and other levels of government.

The central government represents the whole nation while the states, regions and the local governments represent the people under their jurisdiction. In a federal system of government the constitution makes provision for the central government to exercise authority on some specific areas e.g. currency, defence and external affairs. Items on these areas are referred to as exclusive rights.

There is however, another provision in the constitution which gives powers to the central and other levels of government. Items that can be considered by all levels of governments are placed on the concurrent list of subjects. Examples are education, health and agriculture. Residual power is given to the states or local governments.

Countries which adopt this system include Nigeria, United States of America (U.S.A), India, Australia, etc.

Factors which Encourage Formation of a Federation
(i) Cultural Pluralism – This is a situation where there are many ethnic groups in a country.

(ii) Historical Background – Communities living in harmony for centuries but which have different ethnic backgrounds can form a federation.

(iii) Fear of Marginalisation by Minority Group – in a multi-ethnic nation like Nigeria, the fear of domination by a majority ethnic group may lead to the formation of a federal government.

(iv) The desire to bring the Government closer to the Grassroot – This often encourages the formation of a federation.

(v) Fear of External Aggression – This makes smaller states to seek union with other States to foster their security.

(vi) Communal Development – The need to rapidly and evenly develop and open up the rural community may also encourage federation.

(vii) Secession – Federalism can be used in preventing small territories from breaking away and becoming autonomous.

Conditions for Federalism
(i) Desire for Union among individual or constituent States – There must be willingness to be a part of the federation on the part of every state of the federation.

(ii) Desire for Local Independence – Though the states come together, each constituent state must have a level of autonomy.

(iii) Geographical Proximity of Federating States – Slates that will form a federation must be located close together for easy administration.

(iv) Absence of Domination among Federating States – Federating State must come into the union á equals. no one State should enter the union with a sense of superiority, thus wanting to dominate others.

(v) Presence of Political Enlightenment on the benefit of Federalism – The federating States must be fully aware of the advantages in Federalism so as to enhance reaping full benefits of the union

Features of Federalism
(i) A written constitution is always adopted.

(ii) The supremacy of the constitution is not in question.

(iii) Different levels of government derive their power and functions from the constitution.

(iv) There Is division of powers between the various levels of government.

(v) Central government has exclusive powers over items on the exclusive list while the concurrent lists are legislated upon by both the central and other levels of government.

(vi) The state and local governments are vested with residual powers.

(vii) When there is conflict of powers, the central government remains supreme.

(viii) The judiciary is active under federalism as the custodian and interpreter of the law.

Advantages of Federalism
(i) The government is nearer to the people thus increasing local participation of the citizens.

(ii) Dictatorial tendency in government is reduced.

(iii) Fear of domination of minority groups by the majority groups is reduced.

(iv) Each community develops at its own pace and difference in the make-up of the communities is taken into consideration during the process of government.

(v) It increases political unity due to even representation of all federating units.

(vi) It opens up the country for greater social and economic development thus creating economic advancement.

(vii) National security is enhanced as all will pull resources together to fight a common enemy.

Disadvantages of Federalism
(i) There is rivalry and inter — state division which tends to encourage state loyalty rather than national loyalty.

(ii) Organs of government are duplicated at every level of government thus; it is expensive and cumbersome to operate.

(iii) There are delays and undue bureaucracy in the area of government action and decision — making process due to large number of interest groups to be satisfied.

(iv) There is uneven development of component parts of federating units due to uneven wealth distribution.

(v) Compromise is often encouraged to allow for progress of government activities thus leading to mediocrity.

(vi) The various levels of government often operate under tension with each trying to exercise full authority over its territory.

Confederal System of Government
This is a form of loose federation. The constituent States which are autonomous come together to form a union. In this union, the functions of government remain with the confederating States leaving a weak centre.

The only thing the centre holds is a major power on the regulation of the common currency; defence and foreign affairs. Confederating States also retain sovereignty, identity, army, police and the right to secede from the union if they deem it fit.

Features of Confederal System of Government
(i) It is a union of sovereign States.

(ii) Confederating States retain the powers and functions of government thus they are very strong.

(iii) The centre is very weak because of limited government power.

(iv) Right to secede is enshrined in the constitution.

(v) The identity of the confederating States is retained.

(vi) Citizens of the union are only loyal to their States.

(vii) The confederacy normally has flexible constitution and It is usually not politically stable.

Advantages of Confederal System of Government
(i) The identity of each State is preserved and so are the culture and tradition, thus they are not swallowed up by the majority group.

(ii) Economy of scale is enjoyed by the Individual State because the component State can enjoy a common project financed by all, thus reducing the cost to individual State.

(iii) The system takes into consideration the individual differences of each State, thus allowing the States to rule with their own styles.

(iv) Uniting to present a common foreign policy allows the small States which form part of the union to be heard forcefully.

(v) The economics of the individual States grow because of their access to the economics of the other States.

Disadvantages of Confederal System of Government
(i) Its very weak centre limits its activity.

(ii) The central government cannot act without the agreement of all the confederating States.

(iii) Loyalty of the citizens is not to the central government but to their individual States.

(iv) Political unity is not guaranteed.

(v) Development is not even due to weak central government.


Presidential System of Government
This is a system of government in which executive powers are vested in an individual. The individual who is the President, heads the executive arm of the government that comprises the ministers who are the heads of ministries and parastatals.

Under this system of government, the President is both the head I the state and government. Examples of countries practicing this system of government include the United State of America (USA), Nigeria, Brazil and Mexico.

Features of the Presidential System of Government
(i) The President is both the head of state and government.

(ii) Separation of powers is practised.

(iii) The President exercises real executive power.

(iv) The executive cabinet members are responsible to the president and the principle of collective responsibility does not hold.

(v) Checks and balances are employed in this system where the executive, legislature and judiciary check one another.

(vi) The constitution Is supreme; the President is responsible to it and not to the legislature. Similarly, the legislative and judicial arms of government are subject to the constitution.

(vii) Appointment of cabinet ministers is done by the President but ratified by the legislature.

(viii) The President can dismiss any of. his cabinet ministers without consulting the legislature.

Advantages of the Presidential System of Government
(i) There is dear separation of powers among the executive, legislature and judiciary.

(ii) The tenure of public office holders is fixed so that they can seek re-election.

(iii) Checks and balances are carried out by each arm of the government on the others to forestall the abuse of powers.

(iv) Individual accountability is promoted; there is no collective responsibility.

(v) Democratic governance is fully encouraged as the people are allowed to make their choice.

(vi) Due to fixed tenure of public officers and the need to seek re-election, good policies are made and government performance is high.

(vii) Continuity and stability are enhanced because constitutional provision backs the completion of a tenure except in the case of impeachment.

Disadvantages of the Presidential System of Government
(i) Corruption is rampant especially in the selection and approval of cabinet ministers.

(ii) The arms of government constantly disagree over the bills that the legislature may refuse to sign them into laws. This is common especially when different political parties control different arms.

(iii) Since the President can dismiss any of his cabinet members without question there is tendency for abuse of power especially by a president with dictatorial tendency.

(iv) Presidential system is a large government, therefore it is always difficult and expensive to run.

(v) A stubborn president may be very difficult to control due to too much power available to him/her.

(vi) Government activity may be crippled if the executive and the legislative arms of government are at loggerheads.

(vii) Power of incumbency can be used to maneuver the constitution in favour of the President when the legislature is passive.

Parliamentary System of Government
This is a system in which there is no real separation of powers between the executive and the legislature. This is because members of the executive council are made up of people from the legislative arm of government.

The Prime minister is the head of government, while the office of the head of State is occupied by a person who functions in a ceremonial capacity. The Prime minister has executive power. All members of the cabinet share collective responsibility for the success or failure of the government.

Features of Parliamentary System of Government
(i) The head of State is different from the head of government

(ii) The head of State functions in a ceremonial capacity.

(iii) The head of government known as the prime minister has executive power.

(iv) Separation of powers is not strict but instead powers are fused.

(v) The executive council made up of the Prime minister and cabinet ministers are people from the legislative arm of government. who are also legislators.

(vi) The executive is not directly responsible to the electorate since they derive their powers and authority from the legislative arm of government. They are responsible to the legislature.

(vii) There is a collective responsibility; a vote of no confidence on the prime minister can force the resignation of all cabinet members.

(viii) Coalition government is very common when a single party fails to win the majority in parliament.

(ix) In the parliamentary system, there is always the presence of an opposition party

Advantages of Parliamentary System of Government
(i) Collective responsibility helps to make all cabinet ministers work for the success of the government.

(ii) The executive is always under the watchful eyes of the legislature, thus dictatorial tendencies are reduced.

(iii) The operation of the system is fast; this enhances information and decision making process.

(iv) There is a marked cooperation among all arms of government therefore there is less interruption and friction between the executive and the legislature.

(v) The president and the cabinet members headed by the Prime Minister have great party loyalty thus encouraging the full implementation of party promises during election.

(vi) The Prime Minster, since he is responsible to the parliament, is easily controlled.

Disadvantages of Parliamentary System of Government
(I) The principle of collective responsibility does not allow for apportioning of blame to the guilty individual in the cabinet thus making others suffer the mistakes of one person.

(ii) The lack of clear power separation leads to undue interruption in the process of governance.

(iii) Constant fear of the legislature by the executive arm can lead to inefficiency and undue compromise.

(iv) Since the prime minister and his cabinet are not directly responsible to the electorate, the system is less democratic.

(v) Due to the possibility of passing a vote of no confidence by the parliament at any time, the tenure of office is not certain; thus government is frequently changed.

(vi) The system employs the coalition government formation in cases of no clear majority in parliament, this may result in the emergence of a government by parties with completely divergent ideologies, thus creating instability.

Differences between Presidential and Parliamentary Systems of Government
(i) In the presidential system, there is clear separation of power which does not exist in the parliamentary system.

(ii) The principle of collective responsibility is operated in the parliamentary system which is not done in the presidential system.

(iii) A single individual is both the head of state and head of government in the presidential system unlike in a parliamentary system where the head of State is different from the head of government.

(iv) Cabinet members are members of the legislature in the parliamentary system, this is not so in the presidential system where members of the executive cabinet are presidential appointees.

(v) The President in the presidential system is elected by the electorate directly but in the parliamentary system, the Prime minister is chosen from the legislature.

(vi) The constitution is supreme In the presidential system while the parliament is supreme in the parliamentary system.

(vii) The tenure of office is fixed in the presidential system; this is not so in the parliamentary system in which the government can be sacked even after one month as it happened in Italy.

Republican System of Government
A country whose head of State is not a traditional ruler or the representative of a traditional ruler is said to operate a republican type of government Republican government has an elected President with a fixed term of office.

The office of the President may be a ceremonial one if it is under the parliamentary system or an executive one if it is under the presidential system. This therefore means that republican government can be operated under the parliamentary and presidential systems of government.

At Independence, Nigeria operated the monarchical system of government. The British Crown was the head of State represented by the governor-general. In 1963, Nigeria became a republican and we operated the republican parliamentary system in which the office of the President was a ceremonial one.

During the second republic, Nigeria changed, to the republican-presidential system; under the system, the office of the President became an executive one. Republican government is operated by sovereign independent States.

Features of a Republican System of Government
The following are the features of a republican government:

(i) Republican government is practised by independent States.

(ii) The power of the State rests with the people who elect their leaders.

(iii) The head of State in a republic is duly elected by the people for a specified term of office.

(iv) Official government business is performed by elected officials and their appointees, not by traditional rulers.

(v) A republic is governed by a constitution which is supreme.

(vi) The rule of law is operational with every citizen equal before the law.

(vii) Election is a major feature in the appointment of officials.

End of Lessons for SS1 Government 1st Term – Go to Page 6 for evaluation tests

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