The word legitimacy is derived from the Latin word ‘legitimus’, which means lawful or according to law. In government, it means the acceptance of the political system by the people in compliance with the laid down rules and regulations.


A government is considered to be legitimate if it has come into office through a general recognized and acceptable means such as a free and fair election. It also means the support of the people toward a government in power, since the stability of government depends largely on popular support from the people.


Factors that affect Legitimacy

Leadership: when a leader performs very well, the people accept his regime as a legitimate one.


Common National Symbols: the existence of common national symbols like the National Anthem, Pledge, National Flag, Coat of Arms, National Passport etc encourages legitimacy. The observance of national holidays and acceptance of common heroes and heroines also affect legitimacy.


Popular participation: for legitimacy to take place, various interest groups such as political parties, pressure groups, trade unions etc must be allowed to participate in government affairs.


Foreign Diplomacy: the foreign policies adopted by a government of a country determine its legitimacy before other nations.


Good Government: when the government meets up to the expectations of the people, its legitimacy is recognized. This is why some military governments seek to legitimize their government by implementing good policies.


Popular support: if a government in power receives the support of the people, it is legitimate. In modern democracy, the party that receives the greatest support in an election forms the legitimate government.



  1. Define Legitimacy.
  2. State five factors that affect legitimacy



Sovereignty may be defined as the supreme power in a state to exercise full legal authority over its own affairs within its territory without any form of external control. A French political philosopher Jean Bodin (1530 – 1596) introduced the modern THEORY of sovereignty.


He defines it thus ‘sovereignty is the supreme and final legal authority above and beyond which no further legal power exists’. A sovereign state therefore has the absolute power to make and enforce laws within its territory without any external influence.


Types of Sovereignty

Legal Sovereignty: this is the power, which a state has to make laws and enforce them. The body responsible for making and enforcing the laws of the state is known as the legal sovereign.


Political Sovereignty: in this type of sovereignty, the supreme power is vested on the electorate (the people) to establish their own government through voting. The people’s mandate through the ballot box forms the power of government.


Internal Sovereignty: this is the power of the state to exercise power over its nationals within its territorial areas.


External Sovereignty: in a simpler form, this is defined as freedom from external control. The government has the power to conduct its affairs without external influence.


De-facto Sovereignty: this refers to a body that acquires its sovereignty of a state through force. This is evident through the forceful seizure of government through military invasion or revolution. It uses force to ensure total obedience to its will.

De-jure Sovereignty: in this type of sovereignty, it is acquired in accordance to the laws of the land. It is opposed to the use of force.


Characteristics of Sovereignty

  1. Indivisibility: the powers of a state are final and cannot be shared or divided.
  2. Permanence: Sovereignty of a state is permanent as long as the state exists. Government may change but a state’s sovereignty cannot change.
  3. Absoluteness: this means that a state gives order to all and receives order from none. The powers of a sovereign state cannot be limited.
  4. Absence of Foreign control: the powers of a sovereign state are supreme in its own territory and are very free from external influence.
  5. Comprehensiveness: the power of a sovereign state extends over all persons, organizations and associations within its territory.
  6. Inalienability: this means that the powers of sovereignty of a state cannot be transferred. If it is given away, it cannot be regained.



  1. What is Sovereignty?
  2. List and explain the types of sovereignty



This is a system of government based on popular consent. The electorates freely choose their government; that is to say, it is the government with the approval of the people. Democracy is a fusion of two Greek words, “Demos” (people) and ‘Kratia’ (rule or government). Its origin is traced to ancient Greek city-states because they permitted freedom of speech and ideas.


According to Abraham Lincoln, Democracy is the government of the people by the people and for the people. Democracy allows the people to choose or reject their leaders. It is regarded as the best form of government that can be adopted in a country.


Types of Democracy

Direct/Classical Democracy: this is a form of democracy where all political decisions are made directly by all the citizens. The procedure of majority rule is adopted. This type of democracy was practiced in ancient Greek states and pre-colonial Igbo village republics.


Modern/Representative/Indirect Democracy: In this form of democracy, citizens exercise their political rights by electing representatives who periodically represent them in political office.


Features of Democracy

  1. Democracy implies periodic free and fair elections to elect political office holders.
  2. Fundamental human rights are recognized and protected.
  3. Majority rule i.e. the will of the people through the ballot prevails.
  4. There is equality before the law; nobody is above the law
  5. Opposition parties are allowed to exist and there is the presence of party system.
  6. Public opinions on government policies and programs are allowed.
  7. The Judiciary must be independent without any form of influence.
  8. The principle of separation of power must be maintained.
  9. There should be freedom of the press against intimidation.
  10. There should be an effective process of changing government to prevent dictatorship.
  11. The Rule of Law must be applied. Government rule based on the laid down laws.
  12. Political equality is an important attribute of democracy – one man, one vote.


Demerits of Democracy

  1. Democracy in an illiterate society could be very dangerous
  2. Decision-making is slow due to lay down procedures to be followed.
  3. The votes are counted on the basis of quantity and not quality
  4. Elections bring about thuggery, violence, arson, bribery and corruption.
  5. The poor can sell their votes at paltry sums and this promotes corrupt leadership
  6. It is expensive to run due to the large political parties involved.



  1. What is Democracy?
  2. List and explain the types of democracy.



  1. What is Jean Bodin’s idea of sovereignty?
  2. Distinguish between de-facto and de-jure sovereignty.
  3. What is the difference between classical and representative democracy?
  4. How can democracy in an illiterate society be dangerous?



  1. The concept of democracy originated in ________
  2. a) Britain b) France c) Greece
  3. Which of these is not a characteristic of sovereignty
  4. a) Permanence b) Indivisibility c) Incapability
  5. Legitimacy can be determined by which of the following?
  6. a) Common symbols b) Equal rights c) Common heritage
  7. A government is considered to be legitimate if it ______
  8. a) wins an election b) becomes autocratic c) has no good plans
  9. A form of sovereignty derived through force is called ____ sovereignty
  10. a) de-facto b) de-jure c) legal



  1. Explain four factors that affect legitimacy.
  2. Explain the two types of democracy.


See also







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