Just as any quality building would require a rock solid foundation and pillars, the same applies to the concept of democracy. It must be said that without pillars a house cannot stand. Democracy, like a house or a structure, cannot stand or survive without pillars. Pillars of democracy therefore are institutions and organs of the government that are working together to make democracy work and survive in a democratic state. Some of the pillars of democracy in Nigeria include: the Nigerian constitution, political parties and arms of government etc.
The constitution of a country is an established body of laws, regulations and principles by which a country is ruled or governed. A constitution is the whole body of fundamental laws, rules, written or unwritten, legal and extra-legal according to which a particular state is govern and the operations of the government. In a simple language, a constitution spells out the “dos” and “don’ts” of citizenry of a state. It shows the relationship between the government and the people, government to government and people to people between the government and the people of the state. Constitution involves fixed or unfixed rules, customs, norms, values, traditions and principles by which a particular country is governed.
The constitution of a country is one of the unique symbols that differentiate a country from the other. For example, the constitution of Nigeria is different from that of Ghana or the United States of America though there may be some similarities.
The various types of constitution include: written constitution and unwritten constitution, flexible constitution and rigid constitution, unitary and federal constitution.
Sources of the Constitution
The rules, conventions, norms, values, traditions and principles which make up the constitution of a country may originate from the following sources:
- The acts of the parliament or statute: These are laws that are passed by the members of the legislature i.e. the National Assembly members in Nigeria. Also, in the 36 states of the federation, we have state House of Assembly and in the 774 local governments, there are legislative houses. House laws are made at the federal, states and local government levels in Nigeria.
- Constitutional and Historical Documents: The development of man and states has a lot of historical facts. These facts therefore formed sources of the constitution of the country. Some of these historical documents are: The Bill of Right or Fundamental Human Rights of 1689, The Magna Carter of 1215, the Political Rights of ? 1628 etc.
- Common laws of the land: They may be unwritten such as; customs, conventions, norms, values, principles, traditions etc.
- The decisions of the judges in the law courts and judicial precedents.
- The writings and commentaries of constitutional lawyers and scholars of note: Examples are: The Rule of Law by Prof. A. V. Dicey, Separation of Powers by Baron de Montesquieu etc.
- Constituent Assembly: This happens when the constitution of the land is due for a review. Eminent personalities from all works of life will be invited through nomination from their community to participate in drawing another constitution for the country. For example, the 1979 Constitution of Nigeria was drawn by the forty-nine members usually referred to as the “forty-nine wise men”.
- International Agreements and Treaties: From time to time, agreements and treaties are signed between and among nations of the world for peace, cooperation, trade, economy, education and so on. For example agreement reached at the African Union (AU), Economic Community of West African states (ECOWAS) United Nations Organization (UNO) and other international organizations.
Roles and Functions of the Constitution
- Constitution brings law and order to the running of the government.
- Constitution safeguards the rights of citizens.
- Constitution ensures that citizens and government officials do not become too powerful or dictatorial.
- Constitution spells out the duties and obligations of citizens.
- Constitution states the basic organs of the government and their duties.
- Constitution makes it possible for the rights of the citizens to be guaranteed.
- Constitution gives room for good and effective governance.