Sylvester A. Mensah, former Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA), has become the first stalwart of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) to officially announce his intention to lead the opposition party as presidential candidate in the 2020 election.
The NDC flagged off the race on Thursday and announced that presidential hopefuls can start campaigning.
Interestingly, the party has not elected national officers to preside over the process and set guidelines for the conduct of the candidates.
Sources said the main opposition party was stampeded into lifting the ban on campaigning following declarations by Minority MPs to back John Mahama.
However, the party gave a caveat in lifting the ban, saying aspirants should notify the party before hitting the ground running.
So far, five people have declared their plans to take part in the election, which has been slated for December 7, 2018, exactly two years to the next general elections.
The presidential hopefuls are John Mahama, Joshua Alabi, Sylvester Mensah, Alban Bagbin and Ekwow Spio-Garbrah.
Interestingly, although all the other aspirants, including former president John Mahama, have hit the ground running, former Trade and Industry Minister, Ekwow Spio-Garbrah, bizarrely prefers to organize ‘Essay competition’ to test his popularity before making up his mind.
Mr Spio-Garbrah, whose leading campaign team member dumped him recently, published an advertisement in a newspaper on Wednesday and asked NDC communicators to declare him fit to lead the party in 2020.
The advert reads: Flagbearership contest for the NDC National Essay Contest open to elected NDC Communication Officers and the essay topic is: “Why do you think Ekwow Spio-Garbrah will be a good leader for the NDC and a very good president of Ghana.”
Spio’s advert said “the essay competition is open to all NDC elected communicators at the branch and constituency and aspiring regional and national communicators.”
It said that the closing date is August 15, 2018.
The winner would take home GH¢3,000, GH¢2,000 for second prize winner, GH¢1,000 for third prize and GH¢500 for 4th to 6th positions, and GH¢200 for 8th to 10 positions respectively.
Barely 24 hours after the leadership of the party released a timetable for the party’s upcoming elections from regional to national level, Sylvester Mensah, wrote a letter to the General Secretary of the party to notify him of his intention to enter the race to become flagbearer of the NDC.
“I am pleased to thank you and the entire National Executive Committee of the party for officially declaring campaign activities towards the party’s presidential primaries open,” Mr. Mensah said in the letter.
He stated: “Having engaged in a nationwide consultation on the future leadership of our dear party, I am able to confirm that I would be contesting the vacant position of flagbearer for our dear party, the NDC,” adding “it’s my conviction that this communication satisfies the initial requirement of notification of intent to the party.”
It is an open secret that even though campaign activities towards the party’s presidential primaries official began on Thursday, some of the aspirants started campaigning about a year ago.
Former President John Mahama, who wants to lead Ghana again, has been campaigning under the guise of ‘Unity Walk’ which other aspirants said has been skewed in his favour by the leadership of the party.
Already, some elders of the party, especially those from the Volta Region, which is the NDC’s stronghold, have dumped Mr. Mahama for Joshua Alabi, the immediate–past Rector of the University of Professional Studies (UPSA).
Former Foreign Minister under the Rawlings-led NDC administration, James Victor Gbeho, recently called Mr. Mahama a failure for leading the party to lose the 2016 election miserably.
The experienced diplomat, who was once MP for Anlo, said the time has come for the party to rebrand and build on its shortfalls in 2016 by electing a flagbearer, who has a better chance of leading the party to win the 2020 election.
The reality now is that we are rebranding everything. In all democracies around the world, when you go to an election and you lose as badly as we did, the leadership steps aside not because you want to sack people, but it gives the party an opportunity to rebrand itself to look at its faults and change its ways and that is what we are doing now,” Mr. Gbeho told NDC faithful at a meeting at Ashaiman.
He said the NDC would make a big mistake if it relies solely on appearance and votes for Mr. Mahama again for the next election, saying it would be wrong to just follow somebody because of his good looks.
“My brother (Hon Ken Dzirasah) and I sat down one afternoon by the riverside in Sogakope. We thought a lot about our party. We thought a lot about the younger generation. And we asked ourselves who can lead us now? After consultations, we agreed that our best hope was in no other person than Professor Joshua Alabi,” he asserted.
A former Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Ken Dzirasah, also said Mr Alabi is more marketable than former president Mahama.
“I want to say that after several reflections on the way forward for the National Democratic Congress (NDC), myself and my good brother Ambassador Gbeho conducted few investigations and came to the conclusion that the most marketable personality that could carry us into the year 2020 as flagbearer is Joshua Alabi.”