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2019 Nigerian Elections: What You Should Know About the Nigerian Government

As the 2019 Nigerian General Elections draw near, we thought we should gather and share some information about the Federal Republic and Government of Nigeria. This extensive article should help students of government revise what they know about the Nigerian Government. It should also help voters with some quick education about the overall structure of the Nigerian government.

Flag of Nigeria

Introducing the Federal Republic and Government of Nigeria

The federal government of Nigeria is composed of three distinct branches: legislative, executive, and judicial, whose powers are vested by the Constitution of Nigeria in the National Assembly, the President, and the federal courts, including the Supreme Court, respectively.

Nigeria is a federal republic, with executive power exercised by the president. The president is the head of state, the head of government, and the head of a multi-party system. Nigerian politics takes place within a framework of a federal, presidential, representative democratic republic, in which executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is held by the real government and the two chambers of the legislature: the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Together, the two chambers make up the law-making body in Nigeria, called the National Assembly, which serves as a check on the executive arm of government. The highest judiciary arm of government in Nigeria is the Supreme Court of Nigeria which was created after independence and also practices Baron de Montesquieu’s theory of the separation of powers based on the United States system and also practises checks and balances. 

Form of Government

The form of government practised in Nigeria is democracy. A democracy is a form of government that strives to provide all citizens with an equal voice, or vote, in determining state policy, regardless of their level of socioeconomic status. Another important fundamental of the democratic state is the establishment and governance of a just and comprehensive constitution that delineates the roles and responsibilities of leaders and citizens alike.

Although Nigeria champions the democratic ideology, it is not a “pure” democracy. In a purely democratic society, all citizens would vote on all proposed legislation, and this is not how laws are passed in Nigeria. There is a practical reason for this: a pure democracy would be hard to implement. Thus, Nigeria is a constitution-based federal republic in which citizens elect representatives to make policy decisions on their behalf.

Elections in Nigeria: Each folded paper is dropped into a box.

The term representative democracy, which is virtually synonymous with republic, can also be used to describe a government in which citizens elect representatives to promote policies that favor their interests. In Nigeria, representatives are elected at local and state levels. 

Nigeria elects on the federal level a head of state (the President of Nigeria) and a legislature (the National Assembly). The president is elected by the people. The National Assembly has two chambers. The House of Representatives has 360 members, elected for a four-year term in single-seat constituencies. The Senate has 109 members, elected for a four-year term: each of the 36 states are divided into 3 senatorial districts, each of which is represented by one senator; the Federal Capital Territory is represented by only one senator.

The current President, Muhammadu Buhari took office on May 29, 2015 as the 15th President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The outcome of the 2019 Nigerian General Election which is scheduled for the 23rd of February, 2019 will determine whether the current president will remain in office for another four years or who the next president will be.

Arms of Government

In political systems based on the principle of separation of powers, authority is distributed among several branches (executive, legislative, judicial)—an attempt to prevent the concentration of power in the hands of a small group of people. The federal government of Nigeria is composed of three distinct branches: legislative, executive, and judicial, whose powers are vested by the Constitution of Nigeria in the National Assembly, the President, and the federal courts, including the Supreme Court, respectively.

The Executive

The primary function of the executive is to enforce laws and to maintain law and order in the state. All major appointments are made by the chief executive. The president is elected through universal suffrage. He or she is both the chief of state and head of government, heading the Federal Executive Council, or cabinet. The executive branch is divided into Federal Ministries, each headed by a minister appointed by the president. The president must include at least one member from each of the 36 states in his cabinet. The President’s appointments are confirmed by the Senate of Nigeria. 

Seal of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

The Legislature

The first and foremost function of a legislature is to legislate i.e. to make laws. The National Assembly of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is a bicameral legislature established under section 4 of the Nigerian Constitution. It consists of a Senate with 109 members and a 360-member House of Representatives. A bicameral legislature simply refers to a particular body of government that consists of two legislative houses or chambers. 

Nigeria’s National Assembly Building with the Mace.

The Judiciary

The judiciary or judicial system is the system of courts that administer justice in the name of the sovereign or state. The judicial branch of the Nigerian Federal Government consists of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, the Court of Appeals, the High Courts, and other trial courts such as the Magistrates’, Customary, Sharia and other specialised courts. The National Judicial Council serves as an independent executive body, insulating the judiciary from the executive arm of government.

System of Government

Federalism is the system of government in Nigeria. A federal government is a system of dividing up power between a central national government and local state governments that are connected to one another by the national government. Some areas of public life are under the control of the national government, and some areas are under control of the local governments. Federal government systems usually have a constitution that specifies what areas of public life the national government will take control over and what areas of public life the state governments will take control over. 

Type of Constitution

A constitution is a legal body that defines and regulates laws in a country. Any constitution serves a particular purpose at a particular time for a country. A constitution can be written or unwritten. A written constitution is a type of document or documents created in the form of laws. Written constitutions are usually very precise and systematic. The creation of this constitution is usually defined as a deliberate effort of the people. This legal body is elected to be the main legal document for the specific period of history. Nigeria has a written constitution.

The Nigerian Constitution has several sources from which it was originally created. Some of those sources include adopted laws from England, cultures of the several ethnic groups and law made by the legislative arm of the government.

Rights of Nigerian Citizens

Every Nigerian has rights, duties, liabilities and privileges, which are provided for in the hundreds of laws that exist in Nigeria. However, there are certain rights that basically trump all other ones. They are rights that are referred to as inalienable rights, rights for which the law has made specific and special provision. The following are the key rights of Nigerian citizens:

  1. Right to life
  2. Right to dignity
  3. Right to personal liberty
  4. Right to fair hearing
  5. Right to privacy
  6. Right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion
  7. Right to freedom of expression
  8. Right to freedom of assembly and association
  9. Right to freedom of movement
  10. Right to freedom from discrimination
  11. Right to own property

The Nigerian Electoral System

An electoral system is a method through which citizens of a certain country elect their presidents, governments or other administrative or political officials to oversee the affairs of the nation. 

There is a specialized committee responsible for the elections each time an election is held in Nigeria. This committee organizes the pre-election run, controls all the conditions of this period, and prepares everything needed for the voting process, etc. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is the current committee set up to oversee electoral processes in Nigeria. INEC organizes the pre-election run, controls all the conditions of this period, prepares everything for the voting, and so on. 

The secret ballot is a system of voting whereby voting is done secretly. Most democratic countries operate the secret ballot. A ballot is a paper containing the candidates of each party vying for a particular electoral position and its through which the elector votes. Under the secret ballot system, the voter goes alone into the ballot booth to vote for their chosen candidate and drops his ballot paper into the ballot box. The secret ballot is introduced in order to protect the voter from possible persecution and intimidation. In addition, this is so because aside from the voter no other person knows the particular candidate the voter votes for.

The actual voting activity is done within a set day and period i.e. the voting hours can be from 7.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m. on a fixed date. Each voter who is eligible has to cast his vote within the stated hours. Once the voting exercise is over, the ballot boxes are carried to the counting center and counted immediately and the results of the election are immediately announced by the Returning Officer after the counting.

The Party System

party system is a concept concerning the system of government by political parties in a democratic country. The idea is that political parties have basic similarities: they control the government, have a stable base of mass popular support, and create internal mechanisms for controlling funding, information and nominations.

A political party is an organization or group of people bound together by the same political ideals. It’s usually a cooperation of like-minded people who work together to achieve their political goals. It may be to gain control over the government, compete in elections, promote their political ideas, etc. Members of the same party should share a common goal. 

One of the main roles for any political party in a democratic country is to provide freedom of rights. A country should offer its citizens the ability to vote or be voted for. Another exclusive role for a political party is to be a representative for the citizens. Any political party is managed according to the demands of the country’s citizens.

Nigeria adheres to the multi-party system. In such a system, there are three or more parties which have the capacity to gain control of the government separately or in a coalition. There are two major political parties though, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC). There are other active but less prominent political parties. In fact, there are currently 91 registered political parties in Nigeria. Here is a list of seven of the presidential candidates that have emerged to contest for the Office of the President of Nigeria in this 2019 General Elections:

  1. President Muhammadu Buhari – All Progressives’ Congress (APC) | Incumbent
  2. Atiku Abubakar – People’s Democratic Party
  3. Donald Duke – Social Democratic Party (SDP)
  4. Kingsley Moghalu – Young Progressive Party (YPP)
  5. Obiageli Ezekwesili – Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN) | Stepped Down
  6. Fela Durotoye – Alliance for New Nigeria (ANN)
  7. Omoyele Sowore – African Action Congress (AAC)

On February 23rd, 2019, we hope to witness an electoral process that will indeed uphold Nigeria as a democratic state.

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