Unofficial policy-makers refer to those who, though they participate in the policy-making process and play important roles, do not possess legal authority to make binding policy decisions. The unofficial participants in the process include political parties, interest groups, and individual citizens. The policy-making process will not be complete without recognizing and discussing the contributions these groups can make in policy-making.
Political parties play the important function of interest articulation. This means that they convert the particular demands of interest groups into general policy alternatives which they implementon winning power. Through their interest aggregation function, parties bring together the political interests and views of a large number of people, thereby giving weight to each of the separate views or interests. By this act of interest aggregation, parties become one of the primary sources of public policy, particularly under democratic setting. The interests which are aggregated form the public policies which the parties seek to implement when the win control of the apparatus of government. Thus, political parties constitute important agents for the emergence of policy issues.
Political parties advocate certain policies and make their programmes public from time to time. Parties appeal to different segments in the society. The ideology which a party promotes will determine its policy orientation and the segment of the society it will appeal to. A political party with socialist orientation will support and cause to be implemented, social welfare policies and programmes when it wins control of the machinery of government. This orientation will endear to the poor, under-privileged, and minority groups. This way, parties make meaningful impact on public policy-making.
Pressure/ Interest Groups
Interest groups play important roles in the policy-making process. Groups express demands and present alternatives for policy actions. In addition, they supply public officials with much information, often of a technical nature, concerning possible consequences of policy proposals. In doing so, they contribute to the rationality of policy –making.
Interest groups usually bring pressure upon the official policy makers such as the legislature, administrative agencies, and the executives, and by this pressure, cause these institutions to adopt policy alternatives preferred by them and which have the capacity to favour their members.
Interest groups facilitate the implementation of public policies through their support, cooperation and participation. They also monitor the implementation and performance of public policies that affect them, by ensuring that such policies are properly implemented and the objectives are achieved. It is important to note that the cooperation of interest groups is required for successful implementation of public policies. They can make powerful representation to appropriate government authorities, and protests by the groups sometimes affect the implementation of some policies negatively.
Pressure or interest groups include those representing organized labour, such as National Public Service Negotiating Councils (NPSNCs), Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT), Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), among others. They also include those representing the organized private sector, such as the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Nigerian Employers Consultative Association (NECA), and the National Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA).
The effectiveness of any of these groups in influencing the policy-making process will depend on a number of factors, such as leadership, financial base, organization and cohesiveness, the presence or absence of competing groups, the attitude of government officials and the arena of decision-making.
Some of the methods adopted by groups to participate in policy-making and thus pushing their interest include:
· Pressure on members of the legislature to pass certain laws;
· Pressure on the executive to initiate certain legislation or to refuse to sign some that might have come through the legislature;
· Pressure on the political parties to incorporate certain programmes into their manifesto;
· Pressure on civil servants;
· Appeal through the media for public opinion in support of the group;
· Demonstrations and mass rallies to state the position of the group; and
· If all these fail, the group may resort to strikes, riots, and violence to make its case.
Individual CitizensIndividual citizens influence the policy-making process significantly. Those who have the gift of intellect can become policy think-tanks and through their intellectual activities, including research findings, contribute new ideas and directions to the policy process. Besides, individuals who have wealth and connection can influence the course of public policy.