What is a constitution?
A constitution is a set of fundamental laws of a country that is used in governing the country.
A constitution can also be defined as the set of rules and regulations for governing a country.
All societies, associations, organizations, groups, etc need rules and regulations because in the absence of rules, there will be disorder and chaos. The rules control how people behave, what happens in the event that someone breaks the rules, how the leaders are chosen, etc.
These rules are used in governance. And these rules are called the Constitution.
The Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English defines constitution as “a set of basic laws and principles that a country or organization is governed by.”
Types of constitution
- Written constitution: This is where all the laws governing a country are codified into a single document or book. A good example of a country with a written constitution is the United States.
- Unwritten constitution: As the name implies, in an unwritten constitution, all the laws and regulations for governing the country are not written or codified into a single document. Here, the country is governed through customs, practices, conventions, and norms. A good example of a country with an unwritten constitution is Britain.
- Flexible constitution: This is a type of constitution whose rules or laws are very easy to amend or change. Because of how easy it is to make changes to a flexible constitution in order to suit new developments, it enables the government to act quickly during emergencies such as wars and epidemics.
- Rigid constitution: it is the exact opposite of the flexible constitution. A rigid constitution is one that cannot be easily changed or amended. Here, the procedures for changing the laws are very rigid. Rigid constitutions are good in the prevention of dictatorship since the constitution can’t be easily amended to suit the selfish interest of political leaders. The constitution of the United States is a good example of a rigid constitution.
Importance of the constitution
There are so many reasons why the constitution is very important in all countries. Below are some of the major reasons why constitutions are necessary in every country:
- Protects the rights of citizens: One of the most important reasons why every country needs to have a constitution is because of the fact that it protects the rights and liberties of all the citizens of the country. In the absence of the constitution it would be so easy for the rights of citizens to be violated since there would be nothing solid enough to protect these rights. The constitution clearly sets out the rights and freedoms of the people in the country.
- Helps in the maintenance of law and order: Without rules, it is very difficult to govern a place. Without rules and regulations there would be chaos and disorder in society. Every society needs rules in order to maintain order, and that is what the constitution provides us. In the presence of the constitution, maintenance of law and order becomes easier.
- Prevents dictatorship: The constitution helps in no small way in preventing dictatorship in a country – especially a democratic constitution that is very rigid. This is possible because in the constitution, the powers and limitations of the executive are made clear. It therefore makes it difficult for a leader to exceed the powers given him by the constitution.
- Makes people aware of the laws of the land: The constitution helps citizens become aware of the laws of their land and the consequences of going contrary to the laws. This helps citizens to become more law abiding.
- Contains rules of becoming a citizen: In the constitution are the rules for becoming a citizen of a country. These rules are important for a foreigner wanting to obtain citizenship of the country in which he or she resides.
- Makes government accountable: Another major importance of the constitution is that it allows governments to be accountable to the people they rule over. Imagine the number of things that could go wrong in a country if governments were not made to account for the things they do. The constitution clearly states the procedures for making the government accountable to the public. By being accountable to the general public, public officials are required to explain their decisions and actions to the citizens of the country. Imagine what would happen in your country if this didn’t exist!
- In the constitution are the clear details of how all the leaders of the country should be chosen. This therefore makes it difficult for someone to become president or a leader of the country if he or she passes through a channel that is not approved by the constitution.
- The constitution also contains the goals of the country.
The constitution is the highest law of the country. Any other law made in the country such as bye laws must always agree with the constitution.
3 Interesting facts about the Constitution of the United States of America
- The United States Constitution came into force in 1789.
- Since 1789, the Constitution of the United States has been amended 27 times.
- The constitution of the United States is the shortest written constitution in the world containing seven articles and approximately 4,400 words.