Characteristics, Functions and Importance of Government

Biola Emmanuel - Thu, 13th June, 2019 @ 00:23: AM

Topics in Government

Characteristics of Democracy Forms of Government Characteristics, Functions and Importance of Government Definitions and Branches of Government Organs or Arms or Branches of Government Meaning, Types, Qualities and Importance of Constitution Meaning, Types and Characteristics of Pressure Group Gender Equality and how we can achieve it

Academic Questions in Government

Please check out our Test Your Knowledge page to see all Questions and Answers

The definition of democracy as "Government of the people, by the people and for the people" is a concept of _____.

  • A. John F. Kennedy
  • B. Martin Luther King Jr.
  • C. Aristotle
  • D. George W. Bush
  • E. Kamala Harris
  • F. Abraham Lincoln

A form of government where the wealthy rule the people is known as _____.

  • A. plutocracy
  • B. timocracy
  • C. technocracy
  • D. meritocracy
  • E. richocracy
  • F. autocracy

Which of the following countries isn't a result of the disintegration of the Soviet Union (USSR)?

  • A. Malta
  • B. Latvia
  • C. Moldova
  • D. Estonia
  • E. Georgia
  • F. Uzbekistan

Characteristics of Government:

Recall that government is an institution or agency that is established to manage the affairs and general welfare of the people that make up a state or country. For instance, within your country, you probably have got good roads, clean water, good healthcare system and quality educational system; all of which are a function of your government; (that is, it is your government that makes these infrastructures possible). Please read on the various definitions of government here.

Government as an entity has its various characteristics or features that defines it. This means that in any government, you will always observe the following features:

  • Law

It is the function of the government to make law. These laws are entrenched in the constitution. To be more specific, the legislative arm of government is responsible for the making of law. (That’s why people often refer to the legislators as the lawmakers). Please read on the constitution here and arms of government here to get the bigger picture.


  • Power

Believe it or not, the government has the ability to exercise authority over its citizens because they wield political power. Take for instance, the minister of housing (who is also a part of the government) may approve the demolishment of buildings in a certain community in order to recreate a better design for such community. The owners of such building may disagree with the opinion of the minister; and the best they can do regarding their disagreement is to go to the government once again and that’s through the courts. (Remember that the court judges are a part of the government since they make up the judiciary arm of government).

When you hear statements like “This political party is in power”; that implies that the members of such political party are in government and automatically, power is attributed to them by virtue of the constitution.


  • Revenue

Since it’s the role of the government to give its citizens security, good roads, quality education and other good stuffs, then a lot of money will be needed to accomplish these purposes. Government must therefore generate revenue (money) through various means such as:

  • Management the country’s, nation’s or state’s natural resources
  • Taxation
  • Royalties
  • Import duties
  • Levies and so on


  • Legitimacy or Public support

Every government must be generally recognized and accepted by the people. Ideally, a good government is never imposed on the people as we have seen or heard in military or dictatorship rule. This is why you may have come across the term “democracy” regarding government related issues.

Democracy means government of the people, by the people and for the people; as quoted by Abraham Lincoln.

Power is vested on the people in democracy and its exercise in the choosing of their leaders through their votes.


  • Periodic change

No government is permanent; that is, no government can rule forever. Taking Nigeria as a reference, an election must be conducted every four years so that her citizens can choose their president, governors, senators and so on. This is what democracy entails and as a result, no one can rule forever in a democratic system of government.


  • Workforce

Every government must have men and women who will assist in implementing and interpreting the various government policies in the civil space. I want to assume that you probably would know someone who works with or for the government of your country.

Note: The workforces are paid by the government for their respective jobs.



Functions of Government

  1. The Government defends and protects the lives and properties of its citizens. This is the primary responsibility of the government.
  2. The government makes the laws as contained in the constitution. The law is meant to protect and guide every citizen. No citizen is above the law of his or her country.
  3. The government provides justice through amicable settlements and disputes resolution. The judiciary arm of government is responsible for this function through the courts.
  4. The government provides the necessary infrastructure to better the lives of her citizens. These will include good healthcare system, constant power supply, good roads and so on.
  5. It is the role of the government to protect and defend the fundamental human rights of its citizens. Please read on the fundamental human rights here.
  6. The government maintains law and order through law enforcement agencies such the police and customs officers.
  7. It is the duty of the government to generate revenue. Some of the various means through which government can generate revenue have already been listed above.
  8. It is the responsibility of the government to maintain external relations with other countries. This is probably why you see the presidents of other countries coming into your country; and your president visiting theirs.

Note: The functions of government is the same thing as "Roles of  government"


Importance of Government

  1. Government enables us to know our right and obligation as citizens through the availability of the constitution.
  2. Government helps to inculcate the spirit of nationalism and patriotism into her citizens. (You probably should be able to recite your national anthem and pledge as this serves as an allegiance to your patriotism). Read on the national anthem of Nigeria here.
  3. Understanding how government functions help prepares the citizens to take part in the governance of their country.
  4. The successes and failures of our past leaders and made known through government.
  5. The politics going on around the world is made known through government.
  6. It enables us understand the system of government adopted in various countries. For instance, America adopts the democratic system of government.
  7. Government prevents the emergence of dictatorship rule through the constitution.
  8. Government empowers the youth, women, less privilege and the physically challenged. They also create a supporting system for the aged.
  9. Government helps us to resolve political conflicts.

Note: The importance of government is the same thing as "Reasons for having a government"


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Amazing facts in Government


Anarchy is one of the forms of government. Ironically, it is the absence of government in a society, country or state.

An instance of anarchy occurred in Somalia in 1991 after a dictator name Said Barre was overthrown. This made Somalia disintegrate into fractions with local warlords imposing their authority over their land/area.

Other forms of government includes:

  1. Oligarchy
  2. Colonialism
  3. Monarchy
  4. Communism
  5. Federalism
  6. Dictatorship
  7. Democracy
  8. Meritocracy
  9. Autocracy
  10. Aristocracy 

Please read on the various forms of government here

Democracy is a form of government where the power of choosing a leader is vested on the people. It represents a government of the people, by the people and for the people.

According to Abrahim Lincoln,

Democracy means government of the people, by the people and for the people.

In democracy, the citizens have the rights to vote and be voted for. The citizens are mandated to choose their preferred candidate by voting for them through their political party. In fact, this voting process is considered as one of the civic responsibility of every citizen.

Please read on the fundamental Human Rights here.

NOTE: No one is above the rule of law in the democratic system. If the election outcome does not reflect the mandate of the people, a court of competent jurisdiction can nullify such election.

Democracy is practiced in countries like Nigeria, United States of America, India and South Africa.