Pressure Group | Definitions, Types & Functions

Pressure group is an organized group of individuals whose principal aim is to protect the interest of their members through the process of influencing government policies or decisions.

Also pressure group can be defined as an association of people organized to promote some objectives they have in common, which the objectives some-how relates to the political process. Pressure group is sometimes called interest group since it seeks to influence government policies in order to promote the interest of their member.

Pressure group has its primary aim as to influence both the government and political parties to meet up with their demands. Examples of pressure groups in Nigeria includes: Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), National Association of Nigeria Students (NANS), Nigeria Medical Association (NMA), and Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT).

TYPES OF PRESSURE GROUPS

A pressure group is an organized group of individuals whose primary aim is to influence both the government and political parties to meet up with their demands. Pressure group is of different types among them are, professional group, agricultural group, economic group, social group, religious group and educational group.  

PROFESSIONAL GROUP: Professional groups are not larger in number and may be small but their pressure campaigns may be effective since few of them have expert knowledge that helps them to achieve their objectives. Examples of professional groups are Nigeria Bar Association, Nigeria Medical Association, and Nigeria Union of Teachers etc.

AGRICULTURAL GROUPS: In England, over 90 percent of the farmers are represented by the National Farmers Union. There is also a group of the same farmers in other countries. For instance, in Nigeria, we have Nigeria Farmers Association, and in America, there is a group of farmers known as American Farmer Bureau Federation etc.

ECONOMIC GROUPS: This is a group of pressure groups whose aim is to protect the economic interest of their members by influencing government policies. Example of this group is Trade Union like the Nigeria Chambers of Commerce.

RELIGIOUS GROUPS: This group is formed to protect interest of their member’s i.e. religious interest by influencing government policies. Examples of religious groups include the National Council of Church in Christ, the American Jewish Congress, and Christian Association of Nigeria.

SOCIAL GROUPS: This is formed to protect the social interest of their members by influencing government policies or decisions. Under these groups, we have Boys Brigade, Girls Guide, Red Cross Society, Youth Clubs and Boys Scout etc.

EDUCATIONAL GROUPS: Educational groups aims at promoting and protecting educational interests of their members by trying to influence government policies and decisions. Examples of educational groups includes, Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), National Association of Nigeria Students (NANS)

FUNCTIONS OF PRESSURE GROUPS

  • Pressure groups influence government policies or decisions.
  • Pressure groups acts as watch dog on the government.
  • Pressure group main aim is to protect the interest of their members.
  • Pressure groups promote economic activities through their efforts to realize and promote specific economic interests of their members.
  • Pressure groups help to foster the achievement of democracy.
  • Pressure groups help to guide government in the formulation of policies.

MODES OF OPERATION OF PRESSURE GROUPS

In order to achieve the objectives or goals of pressure groups, they adopt the following methods such as:

Lobbing: pressure groups attempts to lobby influential officials of the state like the legislature to make law or amend law that will benefit their members. Lobbying also involves using persuasive argument backed with necessary data to influence those in the position of authority over a policy they are interested upon. 

Demonstration: demonstration could be peaceful or violent, pressure group have used this method successfully in forcing the government to drop certain policy. The group normally organize themselves in strategic locations with their members. A case in point was the one organized by Nigeria Labour Congress against the Federal Government of Nigeria because of increase in the price of petroleum products in year 2005. A few civil society groups jointed the protest which was carried ot in almost all the states in Nigeria.

Protest letters: pressure groups write protest letters in reaction to government policies that are not in the interest of their members.

Ultimatum:  pressure group sometimes, issue ultimatum to back up their demands on certain government policies.

Propaganda: campaigns are carried out most often by pressure groups especially when government takes decision that tends to ignore the interest of their members. Pressure groups can use the mass media like the press, radio, television, bulletins and handbills to persuade those in authority to accede to their demands.

They have successfully done this in the past, for instance the Christian Association of Nigeria used press release to force government to drop the Abortion Bill in the second republic in Nigeria. Similarly, the Nigerian Medical Association used press release when they demanded for better condition of service and government was forced to agree to their demand.

Other methods employed by pressure groups to press home their demands includes: work to rule action, rioting and embarking on strike action, so as to achieve their objectives.

FACTORS THAT MILITATE AGAINST THE SUCCESS OF PRESSURE GROUPS
  • Lack of finance: most of the pressure groups lack the necessary funding to carry out their objectives.
  • Poor attitude of the members: members lack respect for their leaders and the constituted authority.
  • Government intolerance: government intolerance to group activities constitute problem to their success e.g. Buhari regime in Nigeria which dissolved Nigeria Medical Association and banned Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).
  • Lack of unity among their members: disunity and acrimony has hindered the success of pressure groups.
  • Politicization: government infiltration of the group e.g. government arrest and detention of the chairman and officers of the Nigeria Labour Congress.

DIFFERENCE BETWEEN PRESSURE GROUP AND POLITICAL PARTIES

Before we go into the difference between pressure group and political party, let me throw more lights on the definition of both pressure group and political parties.

Pressure group can be defined as an association of people organized to promote some objectives they have in common, which the objective somehow relate to the political process.

Political party is an organized group of people who seek to control the government in order to put their ideologies or programmes into practice.

The major difference between pressure groups and political parties include:

  • While pressure groups have the aims of influencing government policies, political parties have their objectives as seeking to control political power.
  • Pressure groups are interested in affairs of their members while political parties tend to fight for the interests of the public or people.
  • Membership of pressure group is restricted to interest groups while political parties’ membership is open to the rich and the poor, professional and non-professional persons, men and woman, young and old etc.
  • Political parties have their manifestoes or programmes of actions while pressure groups have no manifestoes or guiding principle to their actions.
  • Political parties conduct elections to select their members into offices unlike pressure groups that do not conduct any election nor present any candidate to stand for the election.
  • Political parties conduct their affairs openly while pressure group indulge themselves in hide and seek games.
  • Pressure groups fight for the protection and promotion of specific narrow interest like better conditions of service for their members, political parties aggregate interest of everybody in the state.

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