Pillars of Democracy: 7 Essential Pillars of a Democratic Government

No state can be called a true democratic state if the essential pillars of democracy are not present in that state. The pillars of democracy are those theories/principles a state must practice to foster democracy. In Nigeria for instance, we claim that we practice democracy to the core, but it is apparent that some of the pillars of democracy are not present in our government. The question then is; what are the pillars of the kind of democracy practiced in Nigeria if the true pillars of democracy are cannot be seen in our system?

Frankly speaking, no state can be said to be democratic until the pillars of democracy are taking seriously. In fact, there is no democracy without its pillars. It is the pillars of democracy that ensure that a true democracy is practiced. In this article, i will highlight some of the pillars of democracy. Accordingly, i will explain each of the pillars to give you a comprehensive knowledge of how all these pillars help in a democratic state.

Pillars of Democracy

Characteristics of democracy

On this note, if you have been asked to research on the pillars of democracy (as a student) or you are just a philosopher who wants to gain more knowledge, i enjoin you to read this article till the end. Trust me; you will enjoy reading this article. Meanwhile, before i move into the kernel of this article, i would like to explain briefly; what the term “democracy” is. So what is democracy?

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What is democracy?

According to Wikipedia, democracy is a system of government where citizens are allowed to exercise their power by voting. Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) defined democracy as the government of the people, by the people, for the people. By this, Abraham Lincoln was trying to say that in a democratic state, the citizens are the Supreme.

It is worthy to note that, there are two types of democracy namely; direct democracy and representative democracy. Direct democracy is a kind of democracy where the citizens are allowed to participate in the decision making of the state directly. On the other hand, representative democracy is a kind of democracy where citizens elect a particular person to make political decisions on their behalf.

Pillars of Democracy

Now that you know what democracy is all about, i will now go into the crux of this article.

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Pillars of democracy

Below are the pillars of democracy:

  1. Separation of power;
  2. Rule of law;
  3. Freedom of the press;
  4. Accountability of the government;
  5. Independence of the judiciary;
  6. Equality before the law;
  7. Equal representation in government;

Yeah! Those are the core pillars of democracy. If you need a detailed explanation of all the pillars listed above, i enjoin to continue reading as I will explain them in full.

Also read: History of Nigeria’s legal system

Separation of power:

The principle of Separation of power is a political theory that posits that the powers of the government should not be contained in the hands of a single authority. Powers are to be shared between the executive, legislature and the judiciary. The 1999 constitution of Nigeria clearly provided for the separation of the powers of the government by stipulating the functions of the three organs of government in section 4, 5 and 6 of the 1999 constitution. The reason why this principle is necessary for the actualization of a true democracy is to ensure that powers are not accumulated in the hands of a single man.

If democracy is the rule by the people either directly or through representatives, it therefore follows that where the power to make law, interpret the law and execute the law are contained in the hands of one person, there can not be democracy. In such cases, the leader will no londer represent the people but himself. Every thing he does will be for his own interest and not the interest of those who elected him into power.

Rule of law:

Rule of law is the supremacy of law over everybody in a political system. It is the supremacy of the law over the ruled and the rulers. The principle of rule of law was propounded by A.V Dicey. For him, good government can only be actualized where the law is Supreme. Where the leaders are made Supreme, there will not be good governance because humans will always want to profit themselves if they are allowed to do that.

Nigeria is one of the countries that practice the rule of law in the world. That is why section 1 of the 1999 constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria provides that the constitution is Supreme and every other law in Nigeria is below the constitution. Other countries like Ghana, Britain, South Africa etc also practice the rule of law.

Now, the question is, How is rule of law a pillar of democracy? Rule of law is one of the essentials of every democratic government because, a true democracy can not be achieved where the law is not Supreme. It is the Supremacy of the law that will ensures effective representation and leadership. It will also stop despotism.

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Freedom of the press:

Frankly speaking, there can not be democracy where there is no freedom of the press. The press play major role in ensuring that leaders are accountable to the electorates. Almost all the articles i have read on the way to foster good government, highlights the need for press freedom. Section 39 of the 1999 constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria guarantees the right of any person to own media stations in the country. This simply means that any citizen of Nigeria has the right to share his opinion about national matters as long as it does not instigate the masses to go against their government.

As already stated, press freedom is one of the tentative way to make the government accountable for their actions while in power. Thus, freedom of the press is one of the core pillars of democracy because, democracy cannot be practiced where the government are not accountable for their actions.

Accountability of the government:

What keeps a democratic state alive is the accountability of government. Where the government are not accountable to the masses, then there is no democracy. It is pertinent to note that why the leaders were given mandate in the first place was to represent the people. And so, if they cannot give account of their actions while in power, there is no true democracy.

As explained before, one of the tentative ways to ensure the accountability of the government is by guaranteeing the freedom of press. Again, through judicial review and checks and balances, the government can be forced to be accountable to the electorates. No doubt, accountability of the government is very crucial for a true democracy.

Independence of the judiciary:

The concept of Independence of the judiciary postulates that the judiciary should be independent from other arms of government. It says that no other arm of government should be allowed in interfere with the powers and activities of the judiciary. The rationale behind this concept is to ensure that the judiciary (which is sometimes referred to as the last hope of the common man) performes his work without fear or favour.Characteristics of democracy

Independence of the judiciary is very pivotal for the success of every legal system. If other organs of government are allowed to lawfully interfere in the activities of the judiciary, then there will hardly be a good judgment in judicial proceedings as judges will want to protect themselves by not giving judgment against any person who is capable of removing him from office.

For democracy to reign, the judiciary must be independent. Since it is the arm of government in charge of administering law and justice, allowing interference will affect the practice of democracy. Indeed, there cannot be democracy where there is no Independence of the judiciary.

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Equality before the law:

One of the things that reduces the efficient practice of democracy in every state is inquality. If citizens are not equal, it will be difficult if not impossible to practice democracy. For instance, a state where citizens do not have equal right to vote during elections can not be called a democratic state because not everybody is allowed to participate in government.

An example of this is seen during the colonial Era in Nigeria, where only some class of people where allowed to vote in elections. In a true democratic state, citizens must be allowed to participate in decision making of their country. They must be allowed to vote and to be voted for, as that is what typifies a democracy in every state.

Equal representation in government:

One of the essentials of democracy is equal representation in government. In countries with different cultures, it is necessary that citizens from different culture is represented equally in government. Since the sole purpose of democracy is political participation in government, it is therefore improper where some states are not represented in a homogeneous society.

The federal character provision in section 14 of the 1999 constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria tries to guarantee equal representation in government. This is also provided in the constitution of many other countries. For instance, in the Nigerian senate, 3 members are to represent each constituent in the country. This is to ensure that every part of the country is completely represented.

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Having mentioned some of the pillars of democracy. It is evident that even though some are provided for in the constitution, they are not practically seen in the country. Thus, more has to be done by the government to actualized a true democracy in Nigeria. Aside Nigeria, many African and European countries lack some of the pillars of democracy in their so called democratic government. True democracy can not be actualized where all the points above are absence. I hope this article will help developing nations on how to consolidate democracy in the government system.

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  1. Barrister Bode Thomas October 26, 2019
    • Edeh Chukwuemeka Samuel, Ch.MC October 26, 2019
  2. Akhigbe Favour Ose February 10, 2020

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