Reasons Why Nigeria Adopted Representative Democracy

Representative democracy is one of the best forms of government in Nigeria. Before now, Nigeria was operating on a different kind of government: monarchy. Even with the emergence of colonial government, the monarchical government remains unforgotten. What are the reasons why Nigeria adopted representative democracy.

What is Representative Democracy and Monarchy?

Representative democracy is a system of government in which citizens elect representatives to make decisions and pass laws on their behalf. This democracy aims to create a responsive and accountable government by allowing citizens to have a direct role in choosing their leaders and shaping public policy through a structured and inclusive political process.


Today, many kings and queens, before and after the advent of representative democracy, have evolved to fit within some democratic arrangements, where the their sole role is largely symbolic, and governance is carried out by elected officials. For instance, the United Kingdom and Sweden exemplify constitutional monarchies that blend tradition with modern democratic principles, ensuring that the country benefits from both continuity and representative governance.

On the other hand, absolute monarchies still exist, such as Saudi Arabia and Brunei, where the monarch retains significant or total control over the state. This reflects a more traditional form of governance with limited political pluralism and centralized power.

Understanding the variations and functions of monarchies provides insight into how they have adapted over time and continue to influence the political landscape in different regions. What does the future hold for these different forms of monarchy in an ever-evolving global political environment?

Differences Between Monarchy and Representative Democracy

These differences illustrate the fundamental distinctions in how power is obtained, exercised, and maintained in monarchies versus representative democracies. Monarchy and representative democracy are two distinct forms of government with several key differences:

MonarchyRepresentative Democracy
Authority is derived from heredity, often justified by tradition or divine right.Authority is derived from the consent of the people through elections.
It can be centralized in one individual (absolute monarchy) or shared with elected bodies (constitutional monarchy).Governance is typically shared among elected representatives and different branches of government.
Limited political participation; the general populace has little to no direct role in choosing the leader.High political participation; citizens vote in regular elections to choose their leaders.
Often less flexible and slower to adapt to change due to the hereditary nature and long-standing traditions.More adaptable to change as leaders can be replaced through elections and new laws can be passed by elected representatives.
Monarchs are often not directly accountable to the populace, especially in absolute monarchies.Leaders are accountable to the electorate and can be voted out of office if they do not perform satisfactorily.
It is primordialIt is modern
In some countries, it is controlled by presidents, governors, and other political authorities.It cannot be controlled by anyone as it is the people that has the greater say.

Examples of Countries Where Monarchy is Practiced

Here are some examples of countries in which monarchy is practiced and they are categorized into absolute and constitutional monarchies:

Saudi Arabia: The king has extensive powers over the government, economy, and religious matters.

Brunei: The Sultan of Brunei holds full executive authority, including emergency powers.

Oman: The Sultan of Oman has near-absolute control over the country’s governance.

United Kingdom: The monarch (currently Queen Elizabeth II as of the knowledge cut-off in 2021) performs ceremonial duties, while real political power is held by elected officials in Parliament.

Sweden: The King of Sweden has ceremonial duties, with executive power resting in the elected government.

Japan: The Emperor of Japan is a ceremonial figurehead, with political power residing in the elected government.

Spain: The King of Spain has a mostly symbolic role, with the elected Parliament and government holding legislative and executive powers.

Belgium: The King of Belgium performs ceremonial duties, while the Prime Minister and Parliament manage the country’s affairs.

Important Characteristics of Representative Democracy

If you want to know what representative democracy truly means, you recognize and identify it by its characteristics. Below are some of these features:

  • Representatives Based on Exceptions

Citizens vote in regular elections to choose their representatives at various levels of government (local, regional, and national). These representatives are accountable to the voters and are expected to act in their best interests.

  • Free and Fair Elections

Elections are conducted in a manner that is free, fair, and competitive, allowing citizens to choose among multiple candidates and political parties.

  • The Dominance of the Rule of Law

The government operates under a set of laws that apply equally to all citizens and government officials. This ensures that everyone is subject to the same legal standards and that individual rights are protected.

  • Separation of Powers

Government powers are divided among different branches (typically executive, legislative, and judicial) to prevent any one branch from becoming too powerful. This system of checks and balances ensures accountability and transparency.

  • The Presence of Political Parties

Multiple political parties and interest groups are allowed to exist and compete for influence and power. This encourages a diversity of viewpoints and prevents the dominance of a single party or ideology.

  • Protection of Rights

Representative democracies typically have a constitution or a similar foundational document that guarantees certain fundamental rights and freedoms for individuals, such as freedom of speech, assembly, and religion.

  • Majority Rule with Minority Rights

While the decisions made by representatives often reflect the will of the majority, there are protections in place to ensure that the rights of minority groups are not infringed upon.

  • Active Citizen Participation

Citizens are encouraged to participate in the political process not only by voting but also by engaging in public debate, joining political parties, or participating in civil society organizations.

Reasons Why Representative Democracy Was Adopted

Nigeria’s adoption of the representative democracy is for many reasons which are deeply rooted in its history, political evolution, and socio-economic needs. A number of factors which include historical influences, the necessity to manage a diverse society, ambitions for self-governance, and the need for social and economic stability, all contributed to Nigeria’s adoption of representative democracy.

  • Representative Democracy is a Colonial Legacy

Nigeria was a British colony, and during this period, the British introduced some elements of representative governance. The colonial administration included local councils and legislative assemblies, which laid the groundwork for future democratic governance.

  • Representative Democracy Promotes Diverse Ethnic Composition

Nigeria is a place that is home for the promotion of diversity in ethnic components because of its adoption of representative democracy. A large number of ethnic groups, each with its own unique culture and interests. Sincerely, representative democracy allows for these diverse groups to have a voice in the political process, helping to manage and balance the interests of different regions and communities.

  • Representative Democracy Establishes National Unity

Unity among Nigeria’s diverse population was a major difficulty throughout the post-colonial era. Through the formal political process, representative democracy was perceived as a way to address concerns and promote national unity by giving all groups a voice in administration.

  • Representative Democracy Boosts the Need for Self-Determination

Representative democracy allows for freedom of speech and life. By reason of independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity, it gives Nigerians the chance to have a great ambition to rule themselves after obtaining independence in 1960. This was made possible by representative democracy, which gave the people the power to choose their leaders and shape public policy.

  • Representative Democracy Encourages Economic Development

It is also a very good way to encourage financial blossomness that will enlarge and increase the coffers of the country, or the occurrence of economic development in every venture of the state. Effective governance is important to economic prosperity. With its checks and balances, representative democracy was thought to provide a more stable and accountable form of governance that could foster economic prosperity.

  • This Type of Democracy Gives International Influence and Support

There was lot of worldwide support for democratic administration throughout the Cold War. As part of larger initiatives to promote global democracy, numerous Western nations and international organizations urged and supported Nigeria’s adoption of representative democracy.

  • Representative Democracy Responds Directly to Military Rule

Given the long years of the taking over of soldiers in Nigeria. Nigerians have experienced several periods of military leadership. It was often marked with authoritarianism and human rights abuses. The return to representative democracy in the late 20th century was a response to the excruciating experiences of military years, as Nigerians sought a more participatory and accountable form of governance.

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