Presidential System of Government: Characteristics, Pros & Cons

The presidential system of government is one of the world’s most popular systems of government today. It is because of its peculiar features. On the other hand, some States do not like it due to its disadvantages. In other words, instead of adopting the presidential form of government, they prefer other types.

Nigeria is one of the countries that operate the presidential type of government. But is it really working here in Nigeria?

In this article, we shall examine the meaning of the presidential form of government, its features, advantages and disadvantages.

What is presidential system of government?

The presidential system of government is a type of government where Executive powers are in the hands of one man called the President. The President is both the head of State and also the head of government. He is also the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces. In other words, the forces are under him and they obey his laws. For these reasons, the president is referred to as Executive President.

Unlike the parliamentary system of government where these powers above are shared between two heads. One serves as the head of State while the other serves as the head of government.

Nigeria tried the presidential government under Shehu Shagari from 1979 to 1983. 1979 marked the second republic of Nigeria.

Under the presidential system, powers are concentrated on the President. However, its under check by the Constitution and other arms of government. The fact that he is both the head of State and the head of government does not make him autocratic or a dictator. He still gains his powers from the Constitution and can still be impeached if he mismanages his powers.

The major thing a presidential government tends to express is that both Executive and ceremonial powers are in the hands of the President.

Characteristics of presidential form of government

From the explanation above, it is easier to note the characteristics of presidential system of government.

  1. The president is both the head of State and the head of government.
  2. He performs both the Executive and ceremonial functions.
  3. He has the power to make appointments and also to dismiss it. He appoints other members of the Executive known as the ministers. The president also makes other appointments, such as foreign ambassadors and heads of government corporations.
  4. The president and his ministers are not members of the Legislature.
  5. Powers are shared between arms of government (Separation of power).
  6. The President is the head of the executive arm of government.
  7. He is not a member of the Legislature.
  8. He has veto power. He has the power to override some decisions made by other arms governments. With his veto power, he can grant amnesty.
  9. The principle of checks and balances applies in a presidential type of government.
  10. There is the principle of individual responsibility. The principle of individual responsibility means that any minister guilty of a wrong act has to resign.
  11. The President can be impeached by the Legislative arm if found guilty of gross misconduct.

From the features listed above, the presidential system is the opposite of the parliamentary type of government. That means we need to examine the difference between the presidential and parliamentary system of government. (Will soon be posted here).

Advantages of presidential system of government

  1. Free choice of Ministers
  2. Separation of Powers
  3. Individual responsibility
  4. Avoidance of clash of Heads

Let’s examine each of these advantages one after the other.

Free choice of ministers

The president has the Constitutional power to choose his ministers from any part of the country. These ministers form members of the Executive.

If the president appoints a person already in the legislative house as a minister, such a person would have to resign before becoming a minister.

However, the appointment of ministers by the President is subject to approval by the Senate.

Separation of Powers

The presidential government observes the principle of power-sharing between the arms of government. The arms of government include the Legislative, Executive and Judiciary.

The Legislature makes the law, the Executive implements it, and the Judiciary interprets it. These are the major functions of these arms.

Each of these arms has its peculiar functions. No arm of government interferes in the affairs of other arms of government. The only thing it does is to watch against the mismanagement of powers by other arms of government. This is where the principle of checks and balances comes in.

Individual responsibility

The principle of individual responsibility is of the opinion that each minister and even the president is accountable for any wrong in his office. In other words, any minister guilty of a wrong act must resign.

The same thing applies to the president. The Legislative arm impeaches the president if found guilty of gross misconduct.

Avoidance of clash of Heads

Clashes may exist in a State where there are two or more heads. Where the head of State is different from the head of government, conflict is bound to occur between the two operating as heads in the same government at the same time. So, to avoid such, it is better to vest both powers in one man, the President.

The best practice is to vest such powers in his hands and regulate it using the Constitution.

Disadvantages of the presidential system

  1. Lobbying
  2. No clear separation of Powers.

Let’s briefly examine each of these disadvantages one after the other.


Lobbying is one of the common features of a presidential type of government. Very often, corrupt methods are used to influence the decisions of the members of legislature, especially in developing countries like Nigeria. Lobbying arises as a result of the separation of the Executive from the Legislature.

When a President or a member of the House initiates a bill, he has to lobby the members of the House to ensure that such bill will be passed. Without such lobbying, the bill may never be passed, and that can cripple the intention and initiative of the Executive.

No clear separation of Powers

Separation of power is a principle in theory. In practice, it can be easily abused.

The Executive has the main function of implementing the law. But we see that it also has the power to grant amnesty. With this power, he can release people in prison who were sentenced by the Judiciary. Looking at it, they have jumped from their functions to the function of the Judiciary. This kind of function is called a Quasi-Judicial function.

Furthermore, the Legislative House investigates the president for any allegation of gross misconduct. The Legislature also takes the final decision and removes the president from office. One shocking thing about the removal process is that no court is competent to entertain it. In other words, the president cannot sue.

The Legislative arm is making decisions that the Court should have taken. That means there’s no clear separation of Powers.

In another development, while the Legislature makes the law, the Judiciary’s judgments also form part of the law. In other words, if a judge of a superior Court passes judgment, it is binding. It becomes a yardstick for making subsequent decisions.


Nigeria and USA are good examples of countries that practice the presidential type of government. The Nigerian president has the same powers as mentioned here. So is the American president.

Their powers are derived from the Constitution. The Constitution lists the powers of the president, and he cannot act beyond that. If he does, he will be punished in line with the law.

Moreso, in his appointments and dismissal of appointees, he also acts according to the provisions of the Constitution.

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