Structure of Political Parties in West Africa
In most political parties, the party conference or the National Delegate’s Conference is the highest decision-making body of the organization, tasked with electing or nominating the party’s leaders or leadership bodies, deciding party policy, and setting the party’s platform and agendas. The National Delegate’s Conference elects the leader and national officers of the party and approves the party’s programmes and policies. The leadership roles include:
- Chairmanship: Chosen from within the body’s membership to preside over its business.
- Secretary: Responsible for keeping minutes of the conference’s proceedings.
- Policy committees: Responsible for setting and maintaining review of current party policy, and preparing proposals for presentation to the full conference.
The national executives are the national officers who have been elected at the National Delegate’s Conference on the ticket of the party. The National Executives are sometimes called the Central Committee. They formulate and discuss policies before they are put before the Delegate’s conference for adoption as well as run the administration of the party.
The National Working Committee is a sub-committee of the National Executive. The members include the leader of the party, its Chairman and Deputies, the General-Secretary and other members selected from across board within the party.
For example, the PDP National Working Committee, also known by its acronym NWC, is the executive committee of the People’s Democratic Party in Nigeria. The NWC is composed of 12 members, all of whom are elected to a four-year term at the party’s National Convention. The NWC is headed by the Chairperson who also functions as the party’s National Chair. The NWC has the responsibility for the day-to-day governance of the party as well as oversight of its national activities.
There is also the National Secretariat which is supervised by the leader of the party and General-Secretary. This is the office or officials entrusted with administrative duties, maintaining records, and overseeing or performing secretarial duties, especially for the party.
Political parties in West Africa also usually have regional, constituency and ward branches. The constituencies are created by the Electoral Commission and the party creates branches in all these constituencies. Subject to the approval of the regional and national executives, the constituencies elect candidates to contest a general election.
Depending on the demographic spread of the party membership, party members form local or regional party committees in order to help candidates run for local or regional offices in government. These local party branches reflect the officer positions at the national level.
A ward is a local authority area, typically used for electoral purposes. Wards are usually named after neighbourhoods, thoroughfares, parishes, landmarks, geographical features and in some cases historical figures connected to the area. In Australia, Canada, Monaco, New Zealand, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States, they are an electoral district within a district or municipality, used in local government elections. In the United States, wards are usually subdivided into precincts for polling purposes.