Authority: Concept, Meaning And Forms Of Authority

Meaning Of Authority

Authority is related to power. Authority is power assigned to a position for the general performance of the functions of the incubent. The constitution of Nigeria for example assigns certain power to the president. This gives the president the authority, that is the right to command and direct and to be obeyed by others.

Forms Of Authority

There are two main forms of authority. These are:

1. Constituted Authority
2. Unconstituted Authority

1. Constituted Authority

Authority is said to be constituted when it is derived from the constitution or laws of the state. An individual can also derived his authority from various recognized institutions, established guidelines, regulations and procedures of the community. Examples of constituted authorities are those of the police officer, the governor, the judge. The traditional ruler of a community also possesses constituted authority. Generally, Constituted authority emerges through three ways:

1. In democratic states, constituted authorities emerge from free and fair elections: An individual is bestowed with the authority of the President of Nigeria or governor of a state of Nigeria as a result of success at the polls. The officials of National Union of Nigerian Students or the Nigerian Labour Congress are good examples of constituted authorities arising from elections. Elections are veritable sources of authority in democracies.

2. Authority can also be derived through appointment: Many people occupy positions of authority through appointments even in a democratic set up. Heads of government departments and parastatals such as the director-generals, chief executive of government parastatals, heads of government institutions derive their authority through appointment. In a military regime, the Military head of state appoints the governors, the State Executive and National Council of State members.

3. Constituted authority can emerge from divine right: This is true of most traditional religious leaders. This is to say that such people occupy arrangement. In Nigeria most traditional rulers ascend position of authority because of their royal birth. In Yoruba land, one can only become an Oba unless he belongs to the royal family. Even with the Igbo who are republican in nature, the authority of the head of the family is derived from a natural order. The father, or the eldest man in the family is looked upon as possessing the right to direct command and be obeyed.

Importance Of Constituted Authority

Every human organization has selected individuals who are given the right to direct, command and obeyed. This situation is predicated upon the vital roles, which such individuals play in the overall interest of the community.

These includes:

1. Mass Mobilization

The harnessing and effective utilization of the human and material resources of any community largely depend on effective mobilization of both human and material resources. There must therefore exist a constituted authority, which has to direct the people towards achievement of set out goals. This may involve the re-orientation of human attitude and redefinition of goals. For example, Nigerian’ could not easily comply to environmental sanitation practice until a task force was set up to enforce its implementation then Nigerians started to comply.

2. Unity In Diversity

No society can claim to be absolutely homogeneous, It Nigerian society in particular is heterogeneous in nature. This diversity is likely to lead to conflict and contradictions in social, political and economic interactions of the diverse people. The people however have to live together in peace and harmony. There must therefore exist a leader or leaders who should have the authority to cement the differences that exist between the people so as to establish unity in diversity.

3. Security

The police and the law courts are constituted authorities. These establishment help to ensure the security of the citizens. Without them the life and property of individuals will be unsafe. Equally, those who occupy positions of authority in any community, such as the traditional rulers use their positions through effective administration to maintain peace and order in the community.

4. Leadership

Finally, the essence of authority is to give legal or constitutional expression to leadership. This enables the leader to direct the affairs of the society for the achievement of set goals. Authority gives a leader the right to initiate and implement policies, stimulate the people through desirable leadership techniques. Without authority, individuals will tend to place their personal values or needs above those of the society. The presence of authority helps to harmonize conflicting interests in the society and provide direction in order to attain social, political or economic progress that will make the people happier.

Respect For Authority

From the above, it becomes imperative to accord respect to those in the authority. The need to respect our aspect of African culture. We are taught right from our childhood how to respect constituted authority.

The first step towards respect for authority is to recognize or acknowledge the existence of authority. Such awareness will direct our behaviour to the right direction and enable us to give honour to those in authority. Generally, civilized groups stand up when a ruler such as the President or Governor comes into a gathering. Honour to authority is depicted by addressing those in authority in specific ways such as “My Lor”, “His Lordship”, “His Highness”, Her Majesty” His Excellency etc.

Obedience to the rules and regulation of the society shows respect for constituted authority. On the other hand disobedience to such rules and regulations amount to challenge to constituted authority. Equally important is the fact that those in authority can make mistakes from time to come. Our criticisms of their actions should be constructive and not destructive. We should criticize when it is necessary to criticize. In criticisms,- we should be able to offer alternative suggestions. Equally we should not always criticize; we should praise when it is necessary to do so.

It may be important here to summarize the likely consequence of failure to respect constituted authority. Disrespect for constituted authority can lead to chaos and hatred, unhappiness and punishment. All these cannot make for the progress of any given society. However for those in authority to derive such respect they should be able to maintain effective law and order, practice justice and fairplay, mobilize the human and material resources of the people for the greater good of the greater majority.

2. Unconstituted Authority

Authority is said to be unconstituted when it is not derived from the law of the society. There are many people who wield power over other in our society and compel their victims to obey them without any regard for the law. These group of people includes the soldier in uniform who pounces on civilians simply because he is putting om khaki uniform, the bullies in our public schools who beat up the weaker pupils and remove their pocket money from them, the touts in our motor-parks, airports and sea ports who succeed in subjecting people to their orders. The law of the land does not constitute these, and therefore, they practice evil.

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