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Executive-legislative relations and good governance

At the foundation of well-administered governments lie great systems and efficient governmental relations.

Mayowa Olajide Akinleye with Adeoye Aribasoye Speaker, Ekiti State House of Assembly
Mayowa Olajide Akinleye with Adeoye Aribasoye Speaker, Ekiti State House of Assembly


At the foundation of well-administered governments lie great systems and efficient governmental relations. Legislative and executive relations in presidential, parliamentary, and hybrid political systems traditionally oscillate between cooperation and conflict. Policy formulation for the progress of a country is determined by executive and legislative interplay.

Some believe that conflict is a necessary and beneficial precondition to limiting and controlling government, while others believe that it makes government ineffective. They argue that a peaceful relationship between the two branches will help a society’s political institutions improve their functionality, which reinforces confidence in the government and its processes.

Nigeria has witnessed conflicts between the legislators and the executive at all levels of government, as well as periods of remarkable cooperation.

The first democratic dispensation of the Fourth Republic (1999-2007) was characterized by gridlocks over major public policy decisions and struggles in a climate of partisanship, due to face-offs between the executive and the legislature at both the federal and state levels of government.

The APC government has managed to achieve a tenuous balance in its executive and legislative relations, and the result of this is evident in the quality of legislation the country has seen in the past eight years. Strong examples include the Electoral Act and the Startup Bill.

In our local context, as growing leaders in the youth and student community, we have seen these types of scenarios in various instances.

I was once caught in the middle of this type of scenario. I presented the budget for a writing competition during my days as a student leader and the budget was shut down on the floor of the house and the program recommended to be scrapped. It was later heard that the Speaker used the tactic of shutting programs to force the president to negotiate. Because the president was rumoured to be embezzling funds.

Scenarios like these form the foundation for the discourse today. Conflict or Cooperation. Let’s delve a bit into a deeper conceptual understanding of the parties involved.

The Legislature

The legislature is a fundamental component of democratic government. The need for strong legislatures is reflected in the very meaning of democracy: “rule by the people.” For the people to rule, they require a mechanism to represent their wishes – to make (or influence) policies in their name and oversee the implementation of those policies. Legislatures serve these critical functions.

  1. A legislature “reflects in its ranks a broad spectrum of a country’s political opinion,” and as such is the principal forum for debate on vital issues.
  2. A legislature can serve as a demonstration of pluralism, tolerance of diversity, and dissent – as well as a place for compromise and consensus building. 

Its major activities include reviewing bills and enacting legislation, amendments, and regulations which are needed to support national and sub-national development programs and other oversight functions.

The Executive 

The executive is the arm of government responsible for applying the authoritative rules and policies of a society. The executive by implementing the constitution, statutes, decrees, and treaties of the land gives effect to the will of the state.

Furthermore, the executive performs two principal roles. They are:

  1. Ceremonial role:

The ceremonial role of the executive government is to represent the state and its people in official and public functions. This includes attending national and international events, hosting foreign dignitaries, and awarding honors and titles. This role is important because it helps to promote national unity and pride, and it projects an image of strength and stability to the international community.

  1. Control of governmental administration:

The executive is responsible for the day-to-day administration of the state. This includes implementing laws and policies, providing public services, and maintaining public order.

These two roles are performed by the executive as the Chief of the State and as Head of Government respectively.

In a presidential system, it is done by one person, the President. And by two individuals In the parliamentary system, the Queen and the Prime Minister.

Functions where the roles of executive and legislature intersect

The activities of intersection and collaboration between the executive and legislature in running the affairs of the country, state, and local governments are:

  1. Law-making function: The law-making function of the executive and legislature is a collaborative process. The executive initiates legislation by sending bills to the legislature for consideration. The legislature then debates and amends the bills before passing them into law. The executive then signs the bills into law, or vetoes them if they disagree with them Both branches must work together in order to create and amend laws. The executive branch cannot create laws on its own, and the legislative branch cannot implement laws on its own.
  2. Management of public funds: This is the process of collecting, allocating, and spending government revenue. The executive branch is responsible for collecting tax revenue and other government revenue. The legislative branch is responsible for allocating government revenue to different ministries and departments. The executive branch is then responsible for spending the allocated funds on government programs and services.

●     Appointments and ratification: The executive has the power to appoint government officials, but many of these appointments must be ratified by the legislature. This process is designed to ensure that the executive is accountable to the people for the people they appoint.

Factors that influence the dynamics of this relationship

There are three main factors:

●     Commonality of vision:

When the executive and legislature share the same goals and priorities, they are more likely to be able to work together effectively to achieve them. It will be impossible for them to work together when their vision is unaligned. However, it is important to note that a commonality of vision does not mean that the executive and legislature should always agree on everything. In fact, healthy disagreement can be a positive force.

●     Corruption: Corruption can have a significant negative impact on the relationship between the executive and legislature. When corruption is widespread, it can lead to a lack of trust and cooperation between the two branches of government. This can make it difficult to pass legislation and implement government programs.

●     Political interests (party politics): Party politics can also play a role in the relationship between the executive and legislature. In many countries, the executive and legislature are divided along party lines. This can make it difficult for the two branches of government to work together, especially when they have different political priorities.

More broadly, the causes of the executive-legislative feud are highlighted as follows:

  • Struggle for power and domination
  • Conflict of roles
  • Limited conceptualization and understanding of their constitutional responsibilities
  • High-handedness of the executive over the legislature
  • Greed and hypocrisy of members of the two organs
  • Lack of patriotism
  • Poor leadership skills and conflict management skills

Way Forward

The constitutional prerogatives vested in the executive and legislature define the framework for interactions between them. The legislature and executive can synergize their functions to focus on the policy-making and implementation process effectively.

Both parties must be willing to bargain and compromise to achieve policy benefits. The legislature must have the capacity to monitor the executive, and the executive must be willing to comply with legislative enactments. Dialogue and fair hearing should be adopted to resolve deadlocks. The executive and legislature should respect and strictly adhere to the tenets of separation of powers and be transparent and accountable to the public.

Cordial and reinforcing relationships between the three arms of government in a democracy—the executive, legislature, and judiciary—are essential for the effective maintenance of the constitution and the rule of law.

In conclusion, conflict can occur within cooperation. It is, in fact, a hallmark of a progressive and active partnership. Think of our best friendships or the marriages of our parents.

The lesson is simple: cooperation, which is critical for progress, can never happen in an atmosphere where conflict is the foundation.

Mayowa Olajide Akinleye, an indigene of Ijero Local Government area writes from Ado-Ekiti. He is passionate about effective governance and mobilising young people and systems to strengthen democracy across Africa. 

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