The former Chief Executive of the National Health Insurance Authority, Sylvester Mensah ticks many of the boxes. He is charismatic, well-spoken, good-looking and accessible. He typifies a socialist party leader – a superstar.
Sylvester Mensah started his political career as a foot soldier in the heady days of the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC).
When the military grouping transmogrified into a political party in 1992, he became the first Greater Accra Regional Youth Organiser and later Regional Secretary in 1994.
In 1996, at the age of 33, he contested the Dadekotopon parliamentary seat and won and served as one of the young MPs in that Parliament. He left Parliament in 2001 and four years later, he vied for the General Secretary of the NDC at the Koforidua Congress but lost to current chief scribe, Johnson Asiedu Nketia, alias General Mosquito.
When the NDC came into office in 2009, he was appointed CEO of the National Health Insurance Authority, a position he held until 2015 when he was removed amidst allegations of financial impropriety.
Late former Vice-President Kwesi Bekoe Amissah-Arthur ordered Mr Mensah’s arrest which was quite unusual. It is said that Mr Amissah-Arthur, himself interested in the presidency, believed the then CEO of the NHIA to be using the authority to further his ambitions and therefore ordered his arrest for alleged financial malfeasance. These have not been proven. It has been rumoured that his presidential ambitions played a part in his removal from office NHIA CEO. But they remain that. Rumours!
Sylvester’s ethnicity – Ga father and Ewe mother – makes his candidature an interesting one. This diversity certainly makes him acceptable to the core base of the NDC. Nonetheless, no notable persons from the party in these two traditional strongholds of the NDC have declared their support for him.
In fact, within NDC circles, Sylvester Mensah has actively tried to court the support of some influential persons, particularly in the Ga communities. He has not been successful. It would seem many both in Ga areas and Volta region are backing Prof. Alabi.
Party delegates may see him as too young for the nomination given the comparative ages of the other major contenders and this will negatively impact perceptions about him and dim his chances.
He may have to fight for the nomination another time. The odds are against him. Clearly.