In this article, we shall look at the concept of constituted authority in the following regards:

  • what is constituted authority and its advantages
  • respect for constituted authority,
  • advantages and disadvantages of constituted authority
  • duties of citizens to constituted authority
  • problems of constituted authority
  • ways of showing respect to constituted authority

According to Little (1973) to constitute means to ordain, appoint or give legal form to something. Authority, means power or right to enforce obedience moral or legal supremacy. It also means the right to command or give an ultimate decision. From the above definitions, we can see constituted authorities as bodies mandated by the Constitution of a country to carry out responsibilities that could pave way toward smooth governance.

Constituted authorities cut across the three forms of the authorities identified by Max Weber, a German Sociologist, namely, traditional, organizational (legal Basis) and charismatic authorities. They also permeate the three arms of government namely Executive, Legislature and Judiciary.
The following among others make.. up the constituted authorities of Nigeria: Offices of the President, Ministers, Governors, Commissioners and Local Government Chairmen. Others are the army, police, courts of law, parliament, heads of institutions and traditional rulers. Thus, to constitute an authority means to give political authority, which is the recognition of the right to rule irrespective of leadership style the leader may wish to adopt.
For the constituted authority to succeed there must be an effective means of communication between the leaders and the followers. Once the individual is removed from office the authority is removed from him accordingly. An Authority, therefore, is to office not the individual who occupies it.
Citizens and Non-Citizens are considered law abiding when they respect bodies constituted with authority. Penalty awaits opposer to the constituted authority which when it becomes severe it sometimes lead to imprisonment or death. Thus, constituted Authorities emerge in every country because of the need for smooth governance. The concept of constituted Authority is closely related to the concepts of power and Authority.

Power and Authority

Power is sometimes mistaken for authority. However, the two terms means different things. In power play situation there is an involuntary compliance by the subordinate where as authority connotes voluntary compliance. We can see the difference between the two terms through examples.


In a simple language, power simple means a form of raw energy that enable an individual to carry out his own will despite the protestation of other (Musaazi, 1982). When power is exercised on an individual he complies involuntarily for fear of threats which can be in physical, economic, psychological or social form. This invariably, means a person in possession ofpower has something someone else desires. Take for instance, a student writing his final year project under the supervision of a bad teacher. The teacher may ask the student to wash and iron his clothes on week ends, giving the threat that if the student does not comply he will not graduate with his mates. The student washes and irons the clothes not that he desires but simply because he fears being denied graduation together with his mates.
It is also common to see power play situation in a civil service between the superior and subordinate staff. For instance, a director may attach the promotion of a subordinate staff to gossips he brings to his office. The subordinate staff takes gossips to the director not that he desire but simply because he wants to be promoted to the next grade level.
When the area of an individual’s controls is reduced or removed, his power over others is automatically affected. For instance, from the above examples if authorities of the teacher over student and director over the subordinate are removed their power is automatically affected.
Therefore, power is best seen as a control over punishment that an individual tries to avoid. The subordinate tries to comply for fear of some kind of threats by the superior.


Authority simply means acceptance of rule of those over whom it is expected. Authority connotes the relationship that exists between two individuals, one superior and the other subordinate. The superior initiates and transmits decisions to the subordinate (Simon, 1945), The subordinate is expected to accept whatever that comes from his superior. He acts according to the dictates of those decisions. For instance, in a legal basis organization such as institution of learning, the leader makes decisions and expects both teachers and students to comply. The leaders of the institution is regarded as the superior in this example while the students and teachers are the subordinates.
In authority play situation there is bound to be behaviour of a kind by subordinates. When behaviour of compliance manifests then authority of a kind exists between the superior and subordinates. No matter the size of the organization if behaviour compliance does not exist there is no authority. Take for instance, the leader makes decisions that are to guide towards the smooth running of the institution. However, in a situation where after making the decision both teachers and students refuse to act in a positive way, meaning showing non-compliance, it means the leader does not have authority despite the fact that the organogram of the school shows his authority over the teachers and students. Therefore, authority exists when subordinates comply positively to the decision made by the leaders.
In contrast to power, there is a voluntary compliance in authority, which is associated with legitimate command. An individual in authority play situation complies simply because he feels he should rather than because he must (Bernard, 1938).


Bureaucracy is a term defined by many in different ways. It can simply be defined as a form of organization characterized by certain dominant features, such as a hierarchy of authority and a system of rules.

In the early 20th century, Max Weber developed a theory of authority structures, in which he identified a form of organization to which he gave the name ”Bureaucracy1 (Cole, 1996). Bureaucracy is ‘Characterized by definition of roles within a hierarchy in which job holders are, appointed on merit and subject to rules whereby they are ‘expected to behave impartially.

The main features of Bureaucracy, according to Weber, are as follows:

(i)      A continuous organization :of functions bound by rules;
(ii)     Specified spheres of competence i.e the specialization of work, the degree of authority allocated and the rules, governing the exercise of authority
(iii)  A hierarchical arrangement of offices (jobs) i.e, where one level of job is subject to control by the next higher level
(iv).   Appointment to office is mad on grounds of technical competence;
(v)     The separation of officials from the organization.
(vi)       Official positions exist in their own right, and job holders have no right to particular position.
(vii)    Rules, decisions and actions are formulated and recorded in writing.
(viii)    Salary and remuneration.
The above features necessitate officials in an organization to obey those in authority over them. This has to do with what Max Weber called legitimate authority, therefore, enables bureaucratic organization to attain high degree of efficiency and this makes it the most rational means by which imperative control over human being is carried out.

Bureaucracy in Nigeria

In Nigerian, bureaucracy becomes an important institution that developed from the colonial and neo-colonial social and economic system, consisting of the managers and executors of public policy. Being an important arm of the state apparatus, its expansion or contraction is closely linked with the scope of state policy and activity (Ashiwaju and Areola, 1995). The expansion of bureaucracy in Nigeria dated back to the time of independence when colonial officers were replaced by Nigerians.
Bureaucracy is not neutral in implementing the decisions and policies of the state as alluded by Weber and others. It has become apparent in Nigeria that there exists an organic link ; between bureaucrats and politicians in their attempt to manipulate the state apparatus for capital advantage.
A critical evaluation of bureaucracy in Nigeria will further expose the delay involved in implementing government policies & no matter how important and urgent. Numerous examples can be cited from all facets of life including our hospitals where as a result so many lives are lost. Secondly, selfish interest of the bureaucrats is also self evident as a result of which government/ public property is regarded as no man’s property.
The bureaucrats in Nigeria are not neutral when it comes to partisan politics. They participate in partisan politics to the extent that they manipulate the election result to favour the political party of their interest. It makes sense, therefore, to say bureaucrats… are politicians serving the interest of the capitalist system under the cover of a body known as “civil service.’ Thus, the study of bureaucracy in Nigeria is a study of state since the two are inseparable.
Bureaucracy has expanded and become sophisticated right from the time colonial system, ceased to exist. Its change is a testimony of the fact that activities of a nation means expansion of bureaucracy since it has to play a decisive role. The representation of
government by bureaucrat in meetings with boards of directors of big business and multinational corporations make them tools of exploitation of Nigerian resources by International capital.
The curiosity of Max Weber and others in finding out why people in organization obeyed those in authority over them led to the identification of the following kinds of authority; organizational authority, traditional authority, expert authority and charismatic authority.
1.         Organizational Authority
Organizational authority is also known as bureaucratic authority. Under this kind of authority, power is derived from the organization that employs an administrator. Without this type of authority a person has no business in being the leader of a school or the head of an office. In exercising this type of authority, rules, regulations, circulars and other official documents are used.
2.         Traditional Authority
This is the kind of authority which traditional rulers such as Emirs and Obas have. Orders given by them are expected to be obeyed by their subjects as shown by the tradition.
Under this authority the role of the leader is to see that tradition continues and through this he maintains his own position and authority. For instance, in a school, students may accept the authority or the status of the principal and teachers because their parents and grand parents did so in the past.
5.         Expert Authority
Expert Authority is given to a person as a result of his expertise, especially if those around him have no possession of such knowledge. Among those who fall under this category of authority are teachers in their areas of specialization, Doctors and Lawyers.
4.         Charismatic Authority
Charismatic is from the word charisma which means divine grace, and a person blessed with it has ability to attract and inspire followers. Charismatic leaders are followed by their people not for any personal reward but just because they are attracted by the leadership styles. They are followed voluntarily irrespective of their age, rank and social status.

Leadership and Followership

All social organizations and institutions are made up of people who show or tell members what to do, and people who listen and carry out instructions, so that the goals and objectives of the group can be achieved.
The people, who are in a position to tell members what to do and sometimes how to do it, are the leaders. They direct and guide people. Those who are told what to do and how to do things are the followers. A follower trusts a leader and agrees to follow his example, instructions or advice.
In some organizations a leader maintains his or her position for a long time perhaps several years. Irr other organizations the leadership changes more regularly. Some leaders lay down firm rules and practice for their followers. Others let the followers decide what the whole group should do acting only as advisers.

Means of Becoming a Leader

There are various ways by which a person can become a leader. Some of these means are:
By Tradition- A person can become a leader through the traditional practices of his people. A member of a royal family can become a ruler by inheriting his father. When the seat of leadership becomes empty as a result of death or any problem facing the incumbent the next person to take over from him should come from the family. When one is not from the Citizenship Education in Nigeria traditional ruling house, one will not be appointed to the seat of power. Leaderships of Emirs, Obas, Obi, Obang, Estu Shehu and Tor Tiv, are examples of traditional leadership.
2. Leadership by Election or Legality- In a democratic society . . certain positions are filled up through election process. The adult population of the society votes for the leaders through balloting. This types of leadership is sometimes known as representative government. The leaders are elected by majority votes and given the mandate to lead the people and represent their wishes and views. In Nigeria, this form of government,began in 1954 when Lyttleton’s Constitution laid down the foundation for a democratically elected government to replace the colonial government.
Positions that are made through election are those of Head of State,   State Governors,   Honorable  Members  of the parliaments and Local Government Councilors. These are positions based on legality i.e, on the law of Nigeria as set put by the constitution.
3. Leadership through achievement/Training- Sometimes people are chosen as leaders because of their educational qualifications or through their own hard work. For example, a Director General or Managing Director of a company may, not necessarily be the oldest person in the place where he or she works. He may have educational qualifications, lots of. working experience or both in order to become a leader. Sometimes a person who works hard in trade or business can become a leader. For example, King Jaja of Opobo worked hard as a slave and eventually created his own Empire.
4. Leadership by Age- If a person is old, he is shown respect for all the experience that he has. If an older man is also very wise, he may be chosen as a leader. Example, Ndioha among the Owerri Igbo in the past.
5. Leadership by Force of Arms- In some cases, leadership particularly national leadership is taken by force of’arms Sometimes leadership is sized through military coups, stage by the country’s armed forces. They do this because they do not agree with the way in which the country is being ruled.
           Other times, a particular group within the country, disagreed with the policies of government in control and forms its own. army . and tries to overthrow the government by force. Example of this was’. Lauren Kabila of Democratic Republic of Kongo in 1997. He forced President Mbuto Sesseseko out of office. Major JohnnyKoroma also forced Alhaji Tajan Kabba of Sierra Leone out of Office in the same period. This form of leadership is not constitutionally accepted by any democratic Society. It is an illegitimate leadership mat is uncalled for.
In Nigeria, we had several military coups and eacli was an; attempt to put a stop to poor leadership and corruption as the leaders claimed. Civilians were included in the decision making processes, through their positions as ministers.

The Roles of Followers

Those who follow should try to co-operate with the leader and obey the rules, which allow the leader to carry out the work expected; of him by the group. He should also be loyal to the leader and avoid, any thing that works against the leader. A good follower will one day become a leader.
A follower should also join hands’with other members of the group when work is to be done. In this way, every one will be working towards achieving the goals of the group.
When a leader makes some mistakes, a good follower points them out in a nice manner. In this way, a good leader understands the mistakes and tries to put them right.
Constituted authorities are considered to be bodies’ mandated by the Constitution of a country to carry out responsibilities that could pave way toward smooth governance. The bodies cut acrbss:tfie three forms’of authorities of Nigeria are made up of the following among others: Office of the President; Ministers; Governors; Commissioners; and Local Government Chairmen. Other are the Army, Police, Courts of Law, Parliament; Heads of Institutions and Traditional rulers.
Power is considered to be distinct from authority in that the former connotes involuntary compliance with resistance overcomes by the use of threats. However, in authority there is voluntary compliance, and is associated with legitimate command.
Bureaucracy is characterized by definition of roles within a hierarchy in which job holders are appointed on merit and subject to rules whereby they are expected to behave impartially. However, the practice in Nigerian Bureaucracy seems to be in contrast with theory because bureaucrats participate in partisan politics, delay the implementation of government policies and engage in corrupt financial practices.
Leadership comes through different means. The following are identified to be means by which individuals come to power. Tradition; age; achievement/training, election or legality and force of arms.
Followers are considered to play significant role in governance of an organization, state or nation without which leaders can not be successful.
Ashiwaju, G and Areola, O. (1995): Nigeria: The First 25 years, Ibadan University Press.
Barnard, C. I (1938): The Functions of the Executives. New York, Harvard University Press.
Cole, G A. (1996): Management Theory and Practice. London, Me
Millan Publishers.
Little, J. (1973): Chamber’s Twentieth Century Dictionary. London,
Oxford University Press.
Musaazi, J. C. S (1982): The Theory and Practice of Educational
Administration: London McMillan Publishers Ltd.
Simon,  A.  H.   (1945):  Administrative  Behaviour.   New  York.
McMillan Company

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