Back to: Jss2 Civic Education (NVE)
WEEK: 1 & 2
A democracy is a form of governance in which citizens have the ability to exercise their political power and choose who will serve in political posts by voting for candidates in elections. Due to the existence of “Checks and Balances,” it is generally agreed that this is the most effective system of governance. The phrase “government of the people, by the people, and for the people” is a common way of referring to democratic republics. This was said by America’s 16th president, who was in office at the time (Abraham Lincoln).
Origin of Democracy
DEMOCRACY is made up of the words DEMO (people) and KRATIA (government). It began in ancient Greece when all adult men were required to participate in the legislative process. There was no check or balance on the government’s authority. This indicates that the legislative, executive and judicial branches have been combined into a single body.
The origin of democracy in Nigeria can be traced back to the colonial era when the British government introduced representative governance. However, the first attempt at democracy was in 1922 when the British colonial government introduced the Clifford Constitution. This constitution gave some Nigerians the right to vote and hold elective offices, although only a small number of Nigerians were eligible to vote.
In 1946, the Richard Constitution was introduced, which expanded the number of people who could vote and hold elective offices. The constitution also created regional legislatures that were responsible for making laws for their respective regions.
In 1954, the Macpherson Constitution was introduced, which further expanded the political rights of Nigerians. This constitution created a federal system of government and gave Nigerians more control over their local affairs.
Nigeria gained independence from Britain in 1960 and adopted a parliamentary system of government. However, the country’s democracy was short-lived as a series of military coups in 1966 and 1975 interrupted the democratic process.
In 1979, Nigeria returned to democratic governance with the adoption of a new constitution that created a presidential system of government. However, this democracy was once again short-lived as a military coup in 1983 led to another period of military rule.
Democracy was eventually restored in Nigeria in 1999 with the adoption of a new constitution and the election of Olusegun Obasanjo as president. Since then, Nigeria has held several elections, although there have been challenges with voter fraud and election violence.
Features of Democracy
- Free and Fair Elections: Elections are a critical component of democracy, and they must be free and fair. This means that all eligible citizens have the right to vote, without any coercion or intimidation, and that the election process is transparent and accountable.
- Rule of Law: Democracy is based on the rule of law, which means that everyone, including the government, must abide by the law. This ensures that there is accountability and that the government cannot act arbitrarily.
- Protection of Human Rights: Democracies are founded on the principle of protecting human rights. This means that all citizens have the right to freedom of speech, assembly, religion, and the press, among others. Additionally, minorities are protected from discrimination and persecution.
- Separation of Powers: Democracies have a system of checks and balances, where different branches of government have separate and distinct powers. This ensures that no single branch has too much power and that there are limits on the government’s authority.
- Civil Society: Democracies rely on a vibrant civil society, where citizens are active and engaged in the political process. This includes participation in elections, as well as advocacy and activism on issues of public concern.
- Accountability and Transparency: Democracies are accountable to their citizens, and transparency is a key component of this accountability. Governments must be open and honest about their activities, and citizens have the right to access information and hold their leaders accountable.
- Independent Judiciary: Democracies have an independent judiciary, which ensures that the law is applied fairly and impartially. This is critical for protecting individual rights and upholding the rule of law.
- Peaceful Transition of Power: Democracies allow for peaceful transitions of power, which ensures stability and continuity. This means that leaders are elected through a fair and transparent process, and that power is transferred peacefully and without violence.
Benefits of Democracy
- Protects individual freedoms: Democracy promotes and protects the fundamental rights and freedoms of individuals. People have the right to express their opinions and beliefs freely without fear of persecution, which encourages innovation and progress.
- Encourages political stability: Democratic systems of government promote political stability by providing a structured framework for political competition and conflict resolution. This creates an environment where political disagreements are settled through peaceful and legal means.
- Promotes accountability: Democratic systems of government encourage accountability by providing citizens with the power to hold their leaders accountable. Elected representatives are held responsible for their actions, and the electorate can replace them if they fail to meet their expectations.
- Fosters economic growth: Democracy promotes economic growth by encouraging innovation, entrepreneurship, and investment. It provides a stable and predictable environment for businesses to operate in, which helps to create jobs and increase productivity.
- Encourages social progress: Democracy provides a platform for citizens to participate in the decision-making process, which allows them to influence social policies that affect their lives. This encourages social progress, such as the promotion of gender equality, racial justice, and the protection of marginalized communities.
- Promotes international cooperation: Democracies tend to be more open and cooperative with one another than authoritarian regimes. This promotes international cooperation and can help to resolve conflicts peacefully.
- Encourages political participation: Democracy encourages political participation by providing citizens with the opportunity to participate in the political process. This encourages people to become informed and engaged citizens, which strengthens the democratic system.
Conditions Necessary for A Successful Operation of Democracy
- Free and fair elections: A successful democracy requires free and fair elections, where citizens can choose their leaders without fear of intimidation or manipulation. The electoral process must be transparent and credible to ensure that the results are accepted by all.
- Independent Judiciary: An independent judiciary is essential to the success of a democracy. It ensures that citizens’ rights are protected, and the rule of law is maintained. The judiciary must be free from political influence and corruption.
- Freedom of the press: A free press is vital for the functioning of a democratic society. The media must be allowed to operate freely without censorship or harassment. Citizens must have access to a variety of viewpoints to make informed decisions.
- Separation of powers: The separation of powers between the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government is necessary to prevent any one branch from becoming too powerful. Each branch must be accountable to the others and act as a check on their power.
- Civil society participation: Civil society plays a critical role in a successful democracy. It includes non-governmental organizations, community-based groups, and other organizations that represent citizens’ interests. They hold the government accountable and provide a voice for marginalized groups.
- Education and awareness: Education and awareness are essential for a successful democracy. Citizens must be informed about their rights and responsibilities and understand how the government works. Education also promotes tolerance and respect for diversity, which are essential for a democratic society.
- Strong institutions: Strong institutions, such as the police, military, and civil service, are necessary for a successful democracy. They must be professional, impartial, and accountable to the government and citizens. Weak or corrupt institutions can undermine democracy and lead to instability.
- Respect for human rights: Respect for human rights, such as freedom of speech, religion, and association, is essential for a successful democracy. Citizens must be allowed to express their views without fear of reprisal, and the government must protect their rights.
- Economic prosperity: Economic prosperity is not a condition for democracy, but it is essential for its success. A thriving economy provides citizens with opportunities and reduces the likelihood of political unrest. It also enables the government to provide essential services and invest in the country’s future.
- The Executive Branch: The executive branch is headed by the President of Nigeria, who is the chief executive of the country. The president is elected every four years through a national election. The executive branch is responsible for implementing policies and managing the day-to-day affairs of the country.
- The Legislature: The Nigerian legislature consists of the National Assembly, which is made up of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Senate has 109 members, while the House of Representatives has 360 members. Members of the National Assembly are elected every four years. The legislature is responsible for making laws, approving the national budget, and overseeing the executive branch.
- The Judiciary: The judiciary is the arm of government responsible for interpreting the law and settling disputes. It is made up of the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal, and the High Courts. Judges are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. The judiciary is independent and is not subject to the control of the executive or legislative branches.
- Independent Electoral Commission (INEC): INEC is responsible for conducting elections in Nigeria. It is an independent body established by the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria. INEC is responsible for voter registration, the conduct of elections, and the announcement of election results.
- Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC): The ICPC is an independent anti-corruption agency established by the Nigerian government in 2000. The commission is responsible for investigating and prosecuting corrupt practices in Nigeria.
- National Human Rights Commission (NHRC): The NHRC is an independent commission established to promote and protect human rights in Nigeria. The commission investigates human rights abuses and provides legal aid and other support to victims.
- Federal Character Commission (FCC): The FCC is responsible for ensuring that appointments to public offices in Nigeria are made in a fair and equitable manner. The commission ensures that appointments reflect the diversity of Nigeria’s ethnic, religious, and regional groups.
- National Orientation Agency (NOA): The NOA is responsible for promoting national unity and patriotism in Nigeria. The agency is tasked with promoting Nigerian values and culture and educating the public on government policies and programs.