In a 10-man race to lead the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) into the 2020 elections, an aspirant Sylvester Mensah has explained why the frontrunner, John Mahama, should be a benchwarmer.
According to his interpretation of the 1992 constitution, the NDC will be in “a very awkward position” if former President John Mahama wins the 2020 presidential elections because he can only run for one term.
Article 66(2) of the constitution states “a person shall not be elected to hold office as President of Ghana for more than two terms”.
Sylvester Mensah picked President John Kuffuor’s second and final term in office from 2005 to 2009 as an example to predict a potentially awkward Mahama presidency.
He said government business came to a standstill two years to the end of his mandate because his ministers and appointees “began looking into the future”.
Eventually, 17 aspirants, mainly his ministers, offered themselves for flagbearer and began political campaigning which affected government work.
The NPP, led by Nana Akufo-Addo, lost the 2008 general elections to the NDC candidate Prof. John Evans Atta Mills who later died in office.
“Essentially when you have a candidate who has one-term for the NDC, we are not going to make much progress”, he said on Joy News, analysis show PM Express Thursday.
“Effectively, you have two years to deliver on your mandate and that is not enough to guarantee a second term”, Sylvester Mensah told host, Evans Mensah.
“We need to take decisions that benefit the generality of our party, that benefit us in the future. We must not take decisions that benefit just a small group”, he said and indicated that this is the message he has been selling to the party’s delegates.
His views on the constitutional limit on John Mahama has also been echoed by another flagbearer hopeful Dr. Ekwow Spio-Garbrah.
While expressing a belief in second chances which every presidential candidate in both the NDC and NPP has had since 1992, Sylvester Mensah noted Mahama is a ‘completely different scenario’.
He explained no sitting President has ever lost an election in Ghana as John Mahama suffered in 2016.
“You have a sitting president who won an election...contested an election from a position of strength in control of all resources of this country, in control of the state apparatus...I mean real command”.
“If you lose an election from a position of strength, you don’t come back from a position of weakness”, the former Chief Executive of the National Health Insurance Scheme said.
He said the grassroots needs to consider the constitutional limits on Mahama as well as the liability he constitutes to the party as delegates consider who to choose for flagbearer in the crucial December congress.
Sylvester Mensah said he represents a winning mix of the old and the new in the NDC explaining, the old stands for the party’s core values while the new represents youthfulness.
‘Destiny is moving in my junction’, he expressed confidence.
JOY NEWS ANALYSIS: Sylvester Mensah for NDC 2020
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.