Ghana's version of a business tycoon, Eddie Annan, 61, is probably the winnable presidential candidate but who, unfortunately, has not done enough to convince his party of this since he announced his intention to contest the flagbearership of the National Democratic Congress back in May.
Yet, among all the four candidates who go for before the NDC's 1720 delegates tomorrow, he may very well be the kind of political neophyte who can convert a significant number of that almighty congregation of swing voters to the opposition party in December 2008.
This was a point generously made by a former Minister of state, Nana Akomea at the weekend on a local-based radio station. To his most fervent supporters, many of whose path to his door was initially cash-directed, Mr Annan is not just another NDC tainted politician—he's the non-political superhero waiting in the wings to fly the NDC back to the Castle. He sees himself as the only man who could potentially reenergise and reunify the NDC and send the clearest signal to Ghanaians that his presidency would not be politics as usual, but serious business.
The good news is that the party founder is cool with him. He has no enemy of note within the NDC. For the wider electorate, people like to associate with success and his is one of Ghana's acclaimed business success stories. But is his party ready to offer Ghana its first opportunity to have a businessman for President?He has an even more daunting task: winning against more experienced rivals. And the real battle is not to maintain merely the nearly 43 percent of the national vote won by Prof Mills in 2004, but to overturn the preference of nearly 10 percent of voters.
To what extent will the choice of NDC delegates at the party's national conference this week be affected by this consideration? He promises to re-arrange the social and economic structures of the country for the better. He knows of his appeal, which he describes as a new face, "whose presence on the country's political scene would present a credible alternative to the old ways traditional politicians had adopted in solving the country's problems,” he told the Daily Graphic recently.What are the other candidates offering? Prof Mills is a man of presumed peace, unfortunately a peace many feel is only threatened by his mentor, Jerry John Rawlings.
He is simply a known but rejected commodity of unconvincing quality, whose best hope may be to rely on the sympathy and generosity of the electorate, for his tiring attempts.Ekwow Spio-Garbrah, the king of blogocracy, came in as the only challenger of note, but he is ending by amassing powerful enemies within the NDC instead of delegates' support. More importantly, he has managed to put non-NDC people off by his ill-conceived attacks on Prof Mills, which have done him no good on the trustworthiness scale.The youngest of the candidates, Spio exudes confidence but he also exhumes a character trait that is electorally off-putting - vanity.
He even brags on his campaign leaflet about the fact that he is “the only NDC member to recognise and state that being in opposition is like being in hell.” Iddrisu Mahama, the veteran politician, is a safe pair of hands, an acknowledgment which has personified his political profile for over three decades. But, the NDC, and indeed Ghana, requires more than that. His UP tradition may make him begrudgingly 'acceptable' to the NPP, but his major obstacle is his apparent lack of appeal to the imagination of the floating voter. They want a politician who can be expected to make the weather, not one who can artfully avoid the storm.
Eddie Annan could end up being a first in Ghana, but by no means the only businessman to swap the boardroom for the campaign platform. Togo's Nicolas Lawson lost miserably but to the late Etienne Gnassingbe Eyadema in May 2003. The recently ousted premier of Thailand, Thaksin Shinawatra, represented the new breed of businessman-turned-politician who became rich in telecommunications. Another of that breed is the flamboyant Japanese Internet tycoon turned politician Takafumi Horie, 32.Then, of course, the controversial and brash entrepreneur-turned politician, Silvio Berlusconi, who first served as the Italian prime minister first between 1994 and 1996 after the Christian Democratic party, which had dominated Italy's post-war politics, collapsed amid corruption scandals.
He again served as prime minister from 2001 to 2006, when he was succeeded by Romano Prodi. He is today facing fraud charges himself. Just this year in the US, the businessman Ned Lamont beat three-term Senator Joe Lieberman in the Democratic Senate primary for the November mid-term elections. Eddie Annan does not cut a powerful political figure, but that could change with time. His voice, as he tut-tuts to bash the NPP and portrays the Rawlings regime as corruption-free, is as reliable as an electronic appliance from Melcom. Mr Annan declared in September at Cape Coast: “All the gains the nation made under Rawlings' [P(NDC)] regime have been derailed by the Kufuor administration.
What do we see today? It's about mass unemployment, inadequate healthcare systems, poor education system… Our economy is not expanding and companies are collapsing. Ghana has become a cocaine country.”But, almost sounding like an NPP candidate, he went further to indicate that to reverse the situation there is the need to have a more practical way of moving towards economic freedom. “There is the need for a strong private sector led economy and we have to enforce proper accountability on Government to ensure that the people's interests are protected.”The MD of Masai Developers Ltd, Annan says he has analysed the country's problems and come up with a diagnosis.
The remedy is the injection of high doses of “sound business principles and accountability in governance.” But, he's keeping his reconstruction roadmap close to his chest in his briefcase, “My first task is to win as the presidential candidate in NDC before I will lay bare my development agenda for the country,” he said in the Upper West Region in July.He accuses the NPP government of crippling his group of companies – an accusation which make his message that he is not in the race for money “but the commitment and passion I have for the job… my financial independence is a major political asset that makes me the best candidate to lead the NDC,” somewhat less convincing. The presidency could certainly serve as a time to create jobs and wealth for Ghanaians, which he certainly is one.