Centralisation is defined as the process by which political power is located in a single central decision – making body. The highest degree of centralization is achieved where all powers of government are vested in a central authority. The degree of centralization is highest in a unitary state. Britain, France, etc. are centralised states.
In some political systems, they may see the need for some degree of centralization of power.
Reasons for the adoption of centralisation
- Best practised in a homogenous state: This system is best practised where there are no sharp differences in religion, language, beliefs, etc.
- Small country: It is easy to practise in a relatively small country where the government has representatives from every ethnic group in the society.
- Delegation of functions: The central government can delegate powers and functions to other component units.
- Power concentration: All the powers and authorities of the state are concentrated in the hands of the central government.
- Flexibility: The constitution of a centralised state is flexible.
- Power to modify the constitution: The central government may have the power to modify the constitution in the same process used to pass laws. Britain adopts this method.
- No constitutional division of power: There is no constitutional division of power between the central government and other component units.
- Strong central government: This is because it has all the powers of the state and the people gives support to it only.
- No conflict of authority: Since all the powers are in the hands of the central government, conflict in the exercise of these functions will not arise.
Advantages of Centralisation
- Decision – making powers: Sometimes, there may be the need to withdraw decision – making powers from subordinate units to make for a more coherent and efficient administration.
- Cost: The cost of running a centralised-administration is relatively lower than the decentralized administration. The reason is that functions are not duplicated.
- It makes for quick action: Quick action is made in the areas of decision making and implementation. The central government alone makes decision.
- Flexible constitution: The method of amending the constitution is relatively easy because the constitution is flexible.
- Makes for a strong government: A centralised state is stronger than a decentralised one, because all the powers are concentrated in the hands of single central authority.
- No conflict of authority: There can be no conflict of authority or confusion regarding responsibility for work to be done.
- Coordination of functions: Centralization makes for effective coordination of functions in both human and material resources.
- Prevention of waste: It prevents waste, inefficiency and a high level of indiscipline in both the civil and public services.
- Less bureaucratic: Centralization is less bureaucratic and simple to operate.
- Unity: A centralized government unites different groups of diverse opinions and interests in the society.
Disadvantages of Centralisation
- Remoteness: It makes for remoteness of decision-making centre from where the decisions are to be implemented.
- Rigidity and inflexible response: It may lead to rigidity and inflexible response to local needs and problems.
- Stagnation: Centralized government may also make for stagnation at the local level, because the centre cannot quickly respond to the problems.
- Dictatorship: Centralization may encourage dictatorship in the system.
- Small territories: It is only workable in small territories. This system may not work in countries like Nigeria and U.S.A.
- Homogenous society: Centralization can also work only in a homogenous society, where differences in culture, tribes, etc, are not well pronounced.
- Interest groups: It is not possible for centralization to accommodate every interest group in the system.
- Amendment of the constitution: The central government alone can easily amend the constitution for selfish purposes.
- Political participation and decision making: The people are not politically active and adequately involved in the decision making process of the country.
- Secession: The concentration of power may favour a particular tribe or group and this may create bad blood in the system. The result of this could be secession or break away of a part.