A Republican form of government can be defined as a sovereign state headed by a president, elected for a fixed term of office. Unlike a monarchy, succession to the office of Head of state is non-hereditary but elective. It is a representative democracy in which government is by the consent of the people. Nigeria, so far, has succeeded in operating four republics. The first was 1963 and 1966, the second was between 1979 and 1983 and the third was aborted and the fourth was from 1999-2005. In the First Republic, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe was elected as President (a ceremonial Head of state) in a parliamentary or cabinet system of government.
In the Second Republic (1979 – 83), Alhaji Shehu Shagari was elected Executive President for the country as both head of state and government under a presidential system of government. Similarly, the third Republic was truncated under Ibrahim Babangida. The Fourth Republic, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo was elected president, head of state and government (1999-2007). Cameroun, Niger, Chad, U.S.A ., India etc are examples of republican governments.
Characteristics of a Republican government
- Popular representation: It is a government based on popular representation. Different interests in the society are represented by elected representatives.
- Popular election: Succession to different political offices is through popular elections
- Periodic elections: Elections are usually periodic. In some political systems, it could be every four or five years as the case may be.
- Limitations to the exercise of power: There are limitations to the exercise of power by political leaders.
- Rule of law: There is the supremacy of the constitution and rulers must abide by its provisions.
- Political responsibility: The political leaders must be responsive and accountable to the people they are representing.
- Term of office: Leaders can only hold office for a fixed term or only during ‘ good behaviour’. For example, the second and third republic constitutions in Nigeria’s presidential system of government allow for two terms of eight years.
- Popular sovereignty: Popular sovereignty is with the people. The people have the ultimate power to elect their political leaders.
- Equality of citizens: All citizens have equal opportunity to vote or to contest any elective posts in the system.