Political Participation – Types & Definition
Political participation is the involvement of the people in political activities. It is a process by which the government engaged the people in decision-making or solicit their views on matters that affect them.
Political participation there for refers to “those activities by which members of a society share in the selection of rulers, and directly or indirectly in the formation of public policy”.
Types of Political Participation
Political participation may take any of the following forms.
- Gathering information about political issues
- Discussion of political issues
- Opinion leadership
- Wearing a badge putting a sticker on a car
- Petitioning political leaders
- Making financial donation
- Attending political meetings
- Active political membership
- Soliciting political funds
- Seeking and holding office
- Protest and demonstration
1. Gathering Information About Political Issues
A person intends to participate in politics must devote some time and energy to the collection of information about it. Information about political events and activities can be gathered by reading newspapers, listening to news on radio, watching news on television, browsing on internet and discussing political events.
Although gathering relevant political information is basic to all other political activities, yet individuals vary a great deal in their interest in politics. Why some people showing interest in the political events going on around them, some others deliberately shut their eyes to such things.
The variation in exposure to political stimulus may be due to several factors including one’s attitude towards politics and the environment in which one lives. But generally, the more political information received by a person, the more politically active he is likely to be.
Voting, as a form of political participation, has two main aspects, namely,
- The decision to vote or not to vote, and
- The decision about which candidate or party to support.
Although voting takes place only once in a while, yet it is not every voter that votes in elections.
3. Discussion of Political Issues
Personal discussion of political issues is also an important type of political participation. An individual’s knowledge of political events may be increased by the discussion of political issues.
Almost everyone takes part in political discussion at one time or the other though some people’s studiously avoid discussing political matters.
4. Opinion Leadership
The people who lead discussion of political issues or disseminate information about political activities in the community are known as ‘opinion leaders’.
For example, in many rural communities where access to the mass media is poor, the local people usually rely on teachers, letter-writers and religious leaders, some of whom are themselves semi-literate, for information and direction on political matters.
These opinion leaders shape and influence public opinion although they are usually a small minority. In the USA, they are said to be about 20 percent of the population.
The opinion leaders can be distinguished from the ‘followers’ who constitute the majority of the population and are the receivers of the information provided by opinion leaders.
5. Wearing A Badge Or Putting A Sticker On A Car
In order to identified with a political leader or a political party or even a political tendency or ideology, a person may display a button, badge or sticker of the candidate or party of his choice. This practice which is also common among religious adherents in Nigeria reached its peak during the Abacha regime when politicians, senior government officers and a few military officers openly displayed the late General Abacha badge to show their unflinching loyalty and support to the late Head of State in his attempt to transmute into a civilian president.
But many people who engage in this form of political participation seldom go beyond superficialities or eye service to campaign for their preferred candidate.
6. Petitioning Political Leaders
Petitioning political leaders and public officious on arsenal or burning national issues may be done by letter, telephone, email, or direct contact.
Unfortunately, petitioners, especially in developing country like Nigeria, may not receive a reply to their petition, as government officials do not consider it an obligation to acknowledge or reply letters. As such, a large majority of the people except a few persons who are close to political and government leaders, find it difficult to communicate with their representatives or government officials.
Public office holders and civil servants in Nigeria usually consider it a favour to acknowledge a letter or provide information on matters of public interest.
Former President Obasanjo was irked by this practice that he held a wi in 2004 for top civil servants on efficient service delivery in the public service. But such retreats conferences hardly have any impact on public officials. This problem can also be overcome by institutional intervention or by membership in special interest groups like labour unions.
7. Making Financial Donation
An individual may make a financial contribution at a political rally or party luncheon as a substitute for active personal participation in political activity. This practice is common with wealthy and busy people. Some businessmen may also give money to support a political cause.
But the people who make such financial contribution usually have a reason for doing so. They may give money to top government officials or parties in order to secure political appointments or government contracts.
A former Senate President in Nigeria during the Obasanjo administration once said that politics is an investment which must have returns. Such people may also see their contribution to a political cause as another weapon to battle against their own opposition.
For example, Mr. Aliko Dangote, a big cement and sugar factory owner, may give money to a political party he considers likely to win an election so that the party may help him deal with his competitors in the business after the election.
It was alleged, for instance that the major sponsor of the April 1990 military coup against Babangida regime was a fish magnate. The 2019 Electoral Act, for example, pegged the financial contribution to a presidential candidate at 1 Billion Naira.
Although some people consider financial contribution to politics as immoral, it is not however a widely-shared opinion.
8. Attending Political Meetings
Attending political meetings is another form of political participation. Three different groups of people usually attend political rallies. They are
- The Spectator
These are people who merely come to watch the show for a political rally is, they are called spectator activity. For some persons, it is like a film show, they are presence at the event does not imply any commitment or support. Most of the people who show up at political rallies or meetings in Nigeria fall into this category. Sometimes, these people attend political rallies in order to receive cash gifts, and other items like bag of rice, palm oil and other goods from politicians who always demonstrates a big appetite for generosity on the eve of elections.
- The Organizers
The organizers are the people who arranged the meeting or rally. Such people regularly attend meetings because they have a duty to organise and participate in them or they see the meetings as a means of identifying with their party. Paid or nominal party officials like the chairman, secretary, etc. fall into this category.
- Party Bosses
These are the power brokers who regularly attend caucus and strategy meetings of political parties.
Political campaigns usually take place when elections are around the corner. political campaign especially when it involves door-to-door campaigns or making speech usually requires a number of skills. Which include;
- Marketing skills.
- Self confidence.
- Ability to interact easily with people.
Politicians and parties in Nigeria seldom adopt the door-to-door approach largely because they are usually confident of winning elections in whether or not people vote for them.
#10.Active Political Membership
An active member of a political party does at least one of the following three things:
- He has psychological identification with the party, that is, he likes the party and he is likely to vote for it at election. According to Milbrath 1965, just about 5 percent of members of a party fall into this category.
- He has former membership of the party, that is, his name is on the party register and may have been issued with a membership card. He also pays his dues regularly.
- He takes active part in party affairs. A major characteristic of such politically active party members are identified as follows;
- He regularly attends party meeting, conventions, and caucuses.
- He holds a party office whether at the national, zonal, state, local government or ward level.
- He does all kinds of work around the party or campaign office.
- He takes part in campaigns at election time and
- He may be classified as the leader, an aspiring leaders or a follower of the party.
11. Soliciting Political Funds
Political parties require limitless funds to carry out their activities. As a result, they need to mobilize funds from all available sources. But the job of soliciting money for parties or candidates require special skills and talents e.g. social interaction and sociable personality.
In some western countries, like the USA and Britain, solicitors (lawyer) are often hired for this purpose.
12. Seeking And Holding Office
Seeking and holding political office is another form of political participation. party and public office holders are at the centre of any political structure and such persons would therefore possess certain special skills and talents including the following.
- The person must be available to carry out orders effectively.
- He must have strong energy chief and great ego strength Especially for those holding higher offices.
- Such an individual must enjoy the confidence of political leaders and party bosses.
In January 2005, for example, the theb chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Audu Ogbeh was forced to resign his office. Questions were raised about the property or otherwise of sacking him before the expiration of his term in November 2005.
The most pertinent questions, however, should have been whether the open exchange of letters between former President Obasanjo, his boss and Chief Ogbeh himself over the Anambra State political problem did not breach party discipline and undermine the confidence of the former President (the de-facto leader of the party) in the chairman of the party who was a lower-ranking member vis-a-vis the President.
Obviously, both men could not be expected to work harmoniously in the interest of the party and company after the open conflict between them. So one had to go.
In the game of politics, when two contending forces engaged in brinkmanship, the weaker power is compelled to give up.
13. Protects and Demonstrations
Protests and demonstrations are used in extraordinary or extreme cases especially where the political environment is not responsive. and situations where the citizens have easy access to government officials and the citizens’ needs are routinely met within the political system, protests and demonstrations will be considered unnecessary.
But were public officials make themselves in accessible to the people, or where the people feel that the system does not respond positively to their demands, demonstrations and protests are likely to be considered as one of the most appropriate instrument of effecting change.