Basic Concepts of Political Power and Authority



Subject :


Class :

SS 1

Term :


Week :

Week 3


Topic :

Basic Concepts of Political Power and Authority


Previous Knowledge :

The pupils have previous knowledge of


that was taught as a topic in their previous lesson

Behavioural Objectives :  At the end of the lesson, the pupils should be able to

  • Explain the meaning of power
  • Define power in politics
  • Say how political power is acquired and exercised in politics
  • State and explain forms of power.
  • Define authority
  • Define political authority
  • Explain the dichotomy between power and authority

Teaching and Learning Resources :  .

  • Online materials
  • Schemes of work
  • Textbooks
  • Newspaper
  • Films that are related to the topic
  • Pictures
  • Activity charts








  • Power: (a) Definition of power
  • Acquisition and exercise of power.
  • Forms of power
  • Authority: (a) Meaning of political authority
  • Sources of political authority
  • Differences between power and authority



Power is defined as the ability or capacity of individuals or group of people to influence the actions and behaviours of others through the use of force. It can also be defined as the ability to influence the behaviours of others through the use of force. It is the capacity to enforce decisions and compel obedience.


Power can be acquired and exercised as follows:

  1. THE CONSTITUTION:This is a democratic and popular means of acquiring political power from the people in a country through the conduct of periodic election. It is a formal and legal means of obtaining power by the people that hold political offices in a democratic state.
  2. POSITION OF AUTHORITY:People acquire and exercise power by virtue of the post held at a particular point in time. The position held by people usually confers power on them and the power ceases to operate as the person vacates such position of authority. E.g. the President, Governors, School Principals etc.
  3. THROUGH FORCE OR COERCION:This is a source of political power acquired through the use of force and violence to overthrow a political post. It is the application of military force to overthrow and acquire a political post through a coup d’etat.
  4. THROUGH THE USE OF CHARISMA:This is a means of acquiring power through the exhibition of personal skills, influence, enthusiasm and charismatic trait which is natural in nature.
  5. THROUGH INHERITANCE: Traditional political power can be acquired when a person ascends a throne in a royal family. It is a means of obtaining power through royal post which is hereditary in nature. It is power exercised by Kings, Emir, etc.
  6. THROUGH ECONOMIC RESOURCES:This is a means of acquiring political power and post by people who possesses economic resources in form of money, property and investment.


The following are the forms of power:

  1. POLITICAL POWER:It is a form of power exercised by people found in political offices to formulate policies, direct public resources and accomplish desired political goals. This type of power is derived from the constitution of the state and it is vested in the three organs of government.
  2. MILITARY POWER:It is a form of power exercised by military personnel through the use of instruments of decree, force and arms to influence the behaviours of others.This type of power is exercised by members of the armed forces. They sometimes used this power to take over power from a democratically elected government. Such power is also used in defending the country from internal and external attacks.
  3. ECONOMIC POWER: This is a form of power exercised by people to influence the action and behaviour of others and direct a course of action through the possession of economic resources. Through economic resources, policies of government can be influenced.
  4. PHYSICAL POWER: This is the use of physical strength to force obedience or compliance that would not have come voluntarily. The use of physical power often results in pains, injury, discomfort or even health hazards.
  5. POWER OF INFORMATION: Information is a very potent power for individuals, institutions and even states who or which would become a force to reckon with in every facet of human endeavour. Vital and relevant information may prove more potent than any form of power mentioned earlier.


  1. Define power
  2. State three ways of acquiring and exercising political power.
  3. Mention three forms of power.

Sub-Topic 2:



Authority can be defined as a claim of legitimacy which gives justification and legal right to exercise power, make laws and enforce obedience in the society.

Political authority is the formal or legal right to make and enforce laws or policies which citizens must obey.


  1. Tradition or Custom e.g. Monarchy, Chieftaincy:This right to rule is based on or derived from age long customs, traditions and conventions of the people. Here, obedience is based on respect for traditions by the people.
  2. Legality or laws e.g. constitution. The recognized legal source of political authority is the constitution of a country which entails a body of rules and regulations governing the society. It is a source of political authority to the three organs of government.
  3. Charismatic Source of Authority: This is a source of authority based on the exceptional quality and ability of an individual to influence the behaviours and actions of others or the followers.
  4. People-induced Authority: Here are individuals who have potentials for leadership but do not recognize such themselves. Influential people and perhaps colleagues stake their confidence in such individuals and encourage them to take up leadership responsibility.


  1. Power is the ability to control actions of others while authority refers to a legitimate or accepted power to exercise that control.
  2. Authority can be delegated or transferred to other person or group of persons to exercise while power cannot.
  3. In power relations, people obey because of fear of punishment while under authority, people obey because of the legality of the order.
  4. Power involves the use of force or threat to enforce obedience while in authority obedience is voluntary as a result of formal recognition of the ruler.
  5. Power may be exercised by anybody irrespective of sex, age or status while authority is always hierarchically structured.
  6. Power is often undefined and infinite while authority is mostly well defined, stated, and communicated with responsibility.


  1. What is political authority?
  2. State three types or sources of political authority.
  3. Differentiate between power and authority.


Essay Questions:

  1. What is power
  2. How can power be acquired and exercised.
  3. Outline three types or forms of power
  4. Define political authority
  5. Mention four sources of political authority.


Objective Test:

  1. Ability to enforce obedience is known as (a) Legitimacy (b) Power    (c)Influence (d) Fame
  2. Power    is    transferred    into    authority    through    (a)    Force    (b)    Legitimacy(c) Judiciary (d) Sovereignty
  3. Right to rule based on norms, customs and conventions of the people is referred to as (a) Legal authority (b) Charismatic authority (c) Rational authority (d) Traditional authority
  4. Political authority is the (a) Legitimate right to exercise political power (b) Ability to control political behaviour (c) Right to participate in political campaign (d) Right to form political parties
  5. A major source of political authority is    (a) election (b) force (c) influence (d) ombudsman

Essay Questions:

  1. Define power.
  2. Outline four sources of political authority.
  3. Explain the meaning of power
  4. Define power in politics
  5. Say how political power is acquired and exercised in politics
  6. State and explain forms of power.
  7. Define authority
  8. Define political authority
  9. Explain the dichotomy between power and authority
  10. What is power?



The topic is presented step by step


Step 1:

The class teacher revises the previous topics


Step 2.

He introduces the new topic


Step 3:

The class teacher allows the pupils to give their own examples and he corrects them when the needs arise


The class teacher wraps up or conclude the lesson by giving out short note to summarize the topic that he or she has just taught.

The class teacher also goes round to make sure that the notes are well copied or well written. He or she does the necessary corrections when the need arises.