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Opinions of Monday, 4 November 2013

Columnist: Okoampa-Ahoofe, Kwame

Be That "Visionary" You Crave, Madam Chief Justice

By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.

A couple of weeks ago, when a delegation from the Ghana Journalists' Association (GJA) paid an invitational courtesy call on Chief Justice Georgina Theodora Wood at her office, she pointedly admonished her guests to learn the cultured art of commenting on the recent scandalous verdict delivered by the Atuguba-presided panel of Supreme Court jurists, that presided over the Election 2012 Presidential Petition, devoid of insults.

Back then, I had wanted to fire off a rejoinder but never quite got around to the task. In the main, I had wanted to remind our nation's chief judge that she had done absolutely nothing to rein in Justice William Atuguba, when the latter abruptly and flagrantly assumed the extra-judicial powers of the Attorney-General and the Inspector General of the Ghana Police Service, combined, by summarily rounding up his media critics and having them jailed without the benefit of the due legal process, as clearly spelled out in Ghana's Fourth Republican Constitution.

That was the highest level of insult and abuse of the media by the executive operatives of the highest court of our land. Once again, Justice Wood did absolutely nothing even when several Ghanaian legal experts resident in the Diaspora, and their professional coordinates on state side, petitioned Mrs. Wood to promptly intervene in what was fast degenerating into a judicial circus, and a patent distraction from the real matter before the court.

To his credit, it was Justice Dotse, one of the nine Atuguba-panel members, who correctly pointed out that summonsing media operatives suspected of a contempt-of-court misdemeanor breach was the duty of the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice. To-date, the "mystery" surrounding the summonsing and summary prison sentencing of Mr. Kenneth Kuranchie, editor of the Daily Searchlight, has yet to be unraveled by the Chief Justice and her associates on the Supreme Court.

In the main, the "mystery" regards the identity of the complainant whose apparent notification of the court about an editorial critical of the Atuguba panel having been published in the Daily Searchlight, prompted the summonsing and judicial sentencing to a prison term by the panel president and his eight associates. You see, the acceptable legal practice is that when one is brought up on any charges bordering on a legal infringement, it is the duty of the prosecutorial court to inform the accused of the nature of the charge(s) and the identity of the plaintiff(s) making the charge(s). As of this wrting (11/3/13), we are reliably informed that the Supreme Court has yet to apprise Mr. Kuranchie of the identity of his accuser(s) and the barometer by which charges against him were formulated, preferred and executed.

As one legal expert resident in the Diaspora rightly pointed out during the course of the proceedings, it appears as if Justice Atuguba and some of his associates on the bench were more interested in appropriating their peremptory powers in silencing their most vocal and effective critics, rather than affording their rapt attention to the case at hand. What I have generally, and wistfully, noticed about highly positioned Ghanaian professional like Chief Justice Wood and Justice Atuguba, is their conspicuous and obnoxiously cavalier attitude towards non-executive level professionals, especially Ghanaian journalists. The sort of travesty that occurred under the watch of Mrs. Wood almost certainly would not have occurred here in the West. Which is not to imply that the judicial systems hereabouts are absolutely devoid of any bottlenecks.

In the main, Chief Justice Wood's keynote address to the hosts and participants of the 18th Annual Awards Ceremony of the Ghana Journalists' Association bordered largely on the raging judgment-debt contretemps. And on the latter score ought to be emphasized the fact that the largely unpatriotic judges who have presided over these cases of wanton and unconscionable fleecing of the Ghanaian taxpayer by politicians and their business associates, are as guilty as the criminal suspects they presume to chastize. This is the ugly secret of Fourth Republican Ghanaian political culture. Where I come from in Ghana, it is called "Abject Hypocrisy."

Chief Justice Wood is quite apt to note the dire need of "visionary and decent leaders" in Ghana. The question, though, is as follows: Has Mrs. Wood, herself, measured creditably up to the code of ethics of her profession to warrant passing pontifical judgment on the conduct of others?

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*Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.

Department of English

Nassau Community College of SUNY

Garden City, New York Nov. 3, 2013 E-mail: okoampaahoofe@optimum.net ###