Government: Meaning, Functions And Forms Of Government

Table Of Contents

1. Meaning Of Government
2. The Need For Government
3. Functions Of Government
4. Forms Of Government

Government Defined

Government is one of the basic characteristics of a state. It means an agency or machinery through which the will of the state is formulated, expresses and realized. Government consist of body of people elected or appointed to manage, direct and control the public affairs of the state. Government exercises sovereignty on behalf of the state.

The Need For Government:

Before the origin of the state, there was no government, no law which could be enforced by a coercive authority, men lived, it was said, in a state of nature in which they were subject only to such regulations as nature was supposed to prescribe. Within this period, Hobbes said men were living in a condition called warre as is of every man against every man- not war in the organized sense, but a perpetual struggle of all against all, competition, diffidence and love of glory being the three main causes. Law and justice were absent. The life of man was solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short. At this point, the important need of the state was a strong government to maintain law and order within the state.

Against this background, modern states like Nigeria created the institution of government and bestowed it with the following functions:

1. To Make And Enforce Laws: The government through its legislative organ, do make law to regulate social relations among the citizens of the state. The executive arm of government enforces such laws made by the legislature in order to maintain stability and security of the state.

2. To Administer Justice: The government through its judiciary system do administer justice and fairness to all citizens. Conflicts are resolved by the government within the society in such as way as to ensure justice and fairness to all concerned, thereby building the confidence of the people in their government. However, corruption has been a bane towards administering justice in our society.

3. To Maintain Law And Order: Government do maintain law and order by punishing any person that causes a breach of peace in the society. Examples: In Nigeria, any person who is guilty of affray is liable to imprisonment for one year. Punishment for riot is imprisonment for three years and provoking breach of peace by offensive publication attracts a fine or imprisonment for a term of three months.

4. To Provide Welfare Services: It is also the duty of the government to provide welfare services like, health, education and other social amenities to the citizenry.

5. To Promote Economic Development: The government do promote economic development by making and implementing policies that will generate growth in the economy. Such economic policies must take adequate consideration of the private sector, which is the engine of growth in any state economy. In some cases, the government is directly involved in the industrial production.

6. To Create Jobs For The Citizens: The government can do this by establishing more industries and social institutions capable of absorbing the qualified citizens seeking for job.

7. To Protect Lives And Property: The government performs this function through the security agencies like the police. The problem here is that the police is not well equipped with modern weapons of war against the criminals who are in possession of the sophisticated weapons. Besides, there are other problems of the police, like corruption, which the government of Nigeria needs to tackle to make the police ready for the task of protecting lives and property.

8. To Maintain External Relations: Government of a state do establish, regulate and maintain external relations with other countries of the world through its foreign affairs ministry and diplomatic service. The world is a global village and states are actors in international relations.

9. To Protect The Nation From External Aggression: Government plays the role of defending the country against aggression. To do this, the government of a state do maintain regular armed forces to wit; the Army, Air Force and Navy.

10. To Uphold And Defend The Constitution: The constitution is the grundnorm; the supreme law of the land and it is the duty of the government to uphold and defend it in order to avoid tyranny or dictatorship.

Forms Of Government

1. Monarchy

This is a government under the rule of a King, Queen or Emperor. Absolute monarchy is a sovereign and has absolute authority – meaning that his command is law and succession is by hereditary within the royal family. There are instances where the monarch is elected like in Denmark and Kuwait.

There are limited monarchy like the British Monarchy, here the powers of the monarch is limited by the constitution or Act of the parliament. The constitution may assign only ceremonial functions to the monarch. In this case, he/she “reign” not “rule”.

2. Aristocracy

This is the government of the elitist class. The few people that govern in this form of government rank high in social status. In fact, it is a government by the relatively privileged class who are judged by the Aristotle’s conception as the best qualified to rule because of their intellectual capacity.

3. Oligarchy

This is a form of government by a small and privileged group who exercise political power for their selfish interest. The few people that govern in this form of government are usually corrupt and despotic.

4. Autocracy

In this form of government, a single ruler who is a dictator has absolute power and he is absolutely corrput. His myth is right! Examples are, Idiamin of Uganda, Hilter of Germany and Mussolini of Italy.

5. Democracy

This is government by the majority of people who are elected representatives of their community. In this type of government, power belongs to the people, in order words; democracy is formed on the principles of popular sovereignty, political equality and popular consultation. It gives room for mass participation in politics by giving opportunity for the people to choose thier leaders.

Note that genuine democratic government is difficult to attain, with exception to the Ancient Greece, no modern state can boast of practicing a genuine democracy. “What the developed capitalist countries of Europe are practicing is a civilian plutocracy misnamed a democracy by the bourgeoisie”.

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