Government » Introduction to Government » Introducing Government

Meaning and Scope of Government

Defining Government

When you hear the word “government”, what comes to mind? Are you immediately angry or perhaps, indifferent? Do you instantly get turned off? Maybe, you’re from and live in a country where you feel the government doesn’t work for its citizens or one where the government seems to be indifferent to the plight of the masses.

Government affects all aspects of people’s lives. What we eat, where we go to school, what kind of education we receive, how our tax money is spent. In fact, even what we do in our free time is somewhat affected by government. Nigerians and citizens of many other countries are often unaware of the pervasiveness of government in their everyday lives, and many are unsure precisely what it does.

Government as an institution of the state

Government as an institution of the state is defined as the machinery that is setup by the state to administer it’s functions and duties. It can be seen as a ‘machinery’ set up by the state, to keep the state organised, run its affairs and administer its various functions and duties.

The coming together of people to live in a society resulted in the need to form a body (government) which will handle the administration of the society. If a state should exist without this kind of body (government), anarchy is said to reign in such a state.

Government as an institution of the state is made up of three organs:

  1. The Executive– This organ formulates and implements policies
  2. The Legislature– This organ makes laws
  3. The Judiciary – The Judiciary is the organ that interprets the law.

Also See: Arms of Government

Government as an art of governing

Government is an art of governing. A government is a body vested with the supreme power of the affairs of a state. The supreme power of a state lies in the hands of the government thus giving it the authority to make and enforce laws and implement policies as well. The government can also punish any erring member of the society that breaks the law. The principle of separation of power aids the government in efficient administration.

Government as a field of study

Government is also a subject, a social science subject, studied in various educational institutions (primary, secondary and tertiary). It is known as Political Science in higher institutions. Government Studies covers a range of International Relations, Comparative Politics, Public Administration and so on.

Major Characteristics and Features of Government

Given below are the major characteristics and features of the government in a state:

  1. Constitution: This is a major characteristic of a government. The government make a set of agreed rules which guides it in the administration of the state.
  2. Periodic Change: A government is meant to change after a specific period of time. No government is permanent, particularly a democratic or elective government which changes through periodic election.
  3. Legitimacy: A government must enjoy the support of the people.
  4. Revenue: The government makes revenue in different ways to enhance its administration.
  5. Political Power: The government must possess political power which is a tool of rooting orderliness in a state. 
  6. Universality of Government’s Reach: The jurisdiction of the government must reach or extend to everyone within the state.
  7. Public Institutions: The institutions comprising the government of a political society, differ from the other institutions within the society.

Functions Of Government

  1. Law Making
  2. Military defense of the country
  3. Provision of employment
  4. Maintenance of law and order
  5. Promotion of economic growth and development
  6. Maintaining good relations with other sovereign states or countries (foreign diplomacy)
  7. Protection of civil liberties
  8. Protection of lives and properties
  9. Administration of justice
  10. Formulation and implementation of policies
  11. Provision of social-welfare services

Why Study Government

  1. To understand the influence government has on your daily life.
  2. To understand why the government produces the policies it does.
  3. To understand and interpret current events in a rapidly changing world.
  4. To understand how countries attempt to resolve conflicts and seek to establish order and security.
  5. To develop the ability to solve problems and make good decisions when current events and economic and social issues affect you directly.
  6. To apply your understanding when voting, petitioning, and speaking publicly.
  7. To deal with the government effectively in your future profession.
  8. To prepare for a career that requires a strong knowledge of government.
  9. To use your understanding of government to participate and bring about change in your community or country.
  10. To contribute to the success of a democracy that depends on your understanding and active participation.

Problems Associated With Studying Government

  1. It is not easy to put into practice all the mechanism in the various systems of government. 
  2. There are too many systems of government in the world and it requires a considerable effort to study all the complexities involved and decide which one is good for a country.
  3. Government as an academic field of study is very broad because its frontiers have not been fully defined.

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