ELEMENTS OF GOVERNMENT
What is a state?
i. A state is a community of persons, permanently occupying a given
territory, independent, or nearly so of external control, and possessing an
organized government to which a greater number of people render
ii. A state is a politically organized body of people living in a defined
territory and living under a government and entirely free from external
iii. A state is a set of institutions that possess the authority to make the rules
that govern the people in one or more societies, having internal and
external sovereignty over a definite territory.
iv. A state is a political unit, structured by government and composed of
citizens, that has sovereignty within a clearly defined territory.
Thus the word is often used in a strict sense to refer only to modern political
systems. Examples of states are Ghana, France, Brazil, Nigeria, Canada, Japan,
Within a federal system, like Nigeria and the U.S.A, the term “state” also refers
to political units, not sovereign themselves, but subject to the authority of the
larger country, or federal union. Examples of such states include Texas, Florida,
California and New York in the U.S.A, and the Yoruba and Ibo states of Nigeria.
In the state, people submit to the authority of the state or the government.
Indeed, there are ways by which the citizens can express their views in the
state, through the representatives or other organs of government.
Broadly speaking, the state is a community for men who are organized, preserve
and create order for the wellbeing of its members.
CHARACTERISTICS (CONSTITUTENTS) OR FEATURES OF THE STATE
The state has the following features or characteristics:
2. Nation (people)
Illustratively, State = Territory + Nation + Constitution + Government +
Thus, the state is “a mother” of the following five features. These characteristics
or features of the state are called the cardinal concepts of the state.
EXPLANATION OF FEATURES
1. The state has a territory.
The territory of the state simply refers to the defined area occupied by
the people, and which is separate from other states. It includes the land
surface, the soil beneath and the atmosphere above it and the sea-limits
as recognized by international law. Ghana as a state (has its territory) is
bounded by states like Togo, Cote D’Ivoire and Burkina Faso.
2. The state consists of a Nation or people.
The nation is a group of people living under central government and
bound together by ties of history, language and culture. Examples of the
nations are Ghanaians, Jews, Togolese, Americans, etc.
It must be noted that, the nation commands loyalty to the authority of
the state, and its allegiance is paramount in all matters.
COMMON FEATURES OF THE NATION
As an organized community of persons, the nation has the following
characteristics or features:
a. The nation has one ethnic unity and a common awareness of
b. It has a common language, literature and religion.
c. It also possesses a common tradition, history and laws.
d. It has a common political aspiration and custom.
e. The nation is located in a defined territory.
3. The state has a government.
This is made up of people ruling as the recognized agents of the state. The
government refers to a group of people charged with the duty to make binding
rules, formulate and execute policies and ensure the effective administration of
4. The state has a constitution.
This refers to the fundamental principles according to which a state is
established and governed.
5. The state is sovereign.
In simple terms, sovereignty refers to the supreme and final legal authority to
make and enforce laws, above and beyond which further other legal authority
exists. A state’s sovereignty is usually manifested through its government and
The state is thus independent of other states, and it is capable of been
recognized by other states. Ghana, Nigeria, the United States of America and
Germany are all independent, sovereign states capable of ensuring obedience to
the laws within their national frontiers or boarders.
6. Membership of the state is compulsory, and citizenship is by birth to
7. The state is a permanent entity for its existence continues forever. It can
also compel individuals to obey its laws.
FUNCTIONS THE STATE
1. The state formulates the values of the country into laws and enforces
them through the criminal justice system.
2. It provides a framework within which decisions are made on the
distribution of scarce resources.
3. The state acts as an arbitrator between the opposing interests in the
4. It determines policy necessary to promote the greatest social good.
5. The state is also responsible for the political economic and military
relations with other countries.
6. It is the only organization which has monopoly over the legitimate use
of force within its defined territory.