You are here: HomeWallOpinionsArticles2008 01 26Article 138158

Opinions of Saturday, 26 January 2008

Columnist: Atta Akyea

Akufo-Addo's enthronement and the theatre of the absurd

On 23rd December 2007, majority of Ghanaians had the best Christmas gift ever, when the discerning New Patriotic Party Delegates enthroned Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo as the Party's Presidential Candidate.

The race to the throne was very hot and extremely agonizing because save an infirmly of the mind or some inexplicable consideration, nobody enters a race to lose. The will to win, even if misguided, can trigger off all manner of problems, including the deployment of evil weapons to achieve results.

So it was, that 17 men, locked up in their own self-beliefs, fought for that enviable throne against the reality that was only one was bound to be enthroned. Long before each of the contestants was born, the Bible underlined this undeniable and painful reality thus:

"Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it." (1 Corinthians 9:24) When the votes were cast and eventually counted the results were as follows:

1. Nana Akufo-Addo - 1,096 - 47.90%

2. Alan Kyerematen - 738 - 32.30%

3. Aliu Mahama - 146 - 6.40%

4. Osafo Maafo - 63 - 2.70%

5. Dan Botwe - 52 - 2.30%

6. Owusu Ankomah - 34 - 1.50%

7. Hackman Owusu-Agyemang - 28 - 1.20%

8. Addo Kufuor - 22 - 0.96%

9. Mike Oquaye - 20 - 0.87%

10. Obetsebi Lamptey - 20 - 0.87%

11. Konadu Apraku - 19 - 0.83%

12. Frimpong Boateng - 12 - 0.52%

13. Boakye Agyarko - 10 - 0.43%

14. Owusu Agyapong - 9 - 0.39%

15. Kwabena Agyapong - 9 - 0.39%

16. Adjei Barwuah - 6 - 0.26%

17. Arthur Kennedy - 1 - 0.04%

Even if you are mathematically-challenged as I am, it is eminently clear that Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo did not secure the 50%+ of the votes cast in terms of Article 12(7) (iv) of the Constitution of the New Patriotic Party. Let me reproduce the article under reference: "Where, however, no contestant obtains more than 50% of the votes cast, there shall be a run-off between the first two contestants and the contestant with a simple majority shall be the Party?s Presidential Candidate."

A tie has occurred in terms of Article 12(7) (v) which provides as follows: "In the event of a tie between the two contestants, the run-off will continue until one contestant obtains a simple majority."

Was Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo ready for the run-off? The answer is undeniably "yes." But his only contestant, Alan Kyerematen, in honour, elegance and political maturity, (I will not use the phrase conceded defeat), acknowledged Nana Akufo-Addo?s victory and openly said he would not contest a run-off.

NPP is too rational to plunge into the theatre of the absurd, as you do not need Socrates to assert that a man cannot compete against himself. I believe most of the right-thinking members of NDC will concede that it would have been an abnormality to print ballot papers with only the name of Nana Akufo-Addo on it to test whether or not he would secure a simple majority.

But in politics, as a pastor friend of mine once told me, some of the big players need psychiatric attention because in that feverish realm, 2+2 is not 4 but -4. Some detractors are singing a war song that the NPP has no flagbearer because Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo did not obtain 50+1 of the votes cast.

I will attempt to address this non-existent problem. In the first place, Nana Akufo-Addo was not enthroned by acclamation because he was not the sole candidate in terms of Article 12(7) (i) of NPP Constitution.

On this point, I share the views of my learned senior, Gloria Sophia Akuffo, the current Minister of Aviation and, by all standards, a very distinguished lawyer.

The NPP Constitution is very silent on the Nana Akufo-Addo?s situation where a non-50%+1 winner with no contestant must be both the de facto and the de jure automatic winner.

This is when judicial reasoning will prevail over the political noise. The principle of law is that one should not interpret a constitution, legislation or any document to yield absurd results. (See the Supreme Court case of Republic v High Court, Accra, Ex-parte Adjei [1984-86] 2 GLR 511).

Mercifully, we have had a judicial precedent similar to the Akufo-Addo situation decided by the current Chief Justice Georgina Theodora Wood some twenty years ago. I am referring to the case of Eshun & Another v Poku & Others [1998-90] 2 GLR 572. The case is about the election of officers of the Ghana Hoteliers Association. One of the issues for determination was whether in the face of a candidate being returned unopposed, there is the need to go through the motions of a secret ballot. Lutterodt J, as she then was held that:

"In the interpretation of statutes, the statute was to be given its ordinary meaning if it led to no absurdity. Otherwise, reading the bare words and giving them their grammatical literal meaning would kill the spirit of the law rather than give it life. The modern approach was to apply the purposive approach that would promote the general legislative purpose.

"In the instant case it would be absurd to construe article 9(d) literally as meaning that the association should go through the rituals of a secret ballot where a candidate has been returned unopposed. On the contrary the correct interpretation to be placed on that article as that where a candidate was returned unopposed, he should be declared elected by a simple majority. The very fact that he had been returned unopposed was a clear indication of having obtained a simple majority. The elections were therefore properly held."

The judge adopted the purposive approach to give sense, meaning and life to the constitution of the Ghana Hoteliers Association. Her ladyship adopted the reasoning of Lord Denning MR in the English case of Nothman v Barnet London Borough Council [1978] 1 WLR 220, CA at page 228 as follows:

"I have read the passage at large because I wish to repudiate it. It sounds to me like a voice from the past. I heard many such words 25 years ago. It is the voice of the strict constructionist? It is the voice of those who adopt the strict literal and grammatical construction of the words, heedless of the consequences. Faced with glaring injustice, the judges are, it is said, impotent, incapable and sterile. Not so with us in this court. The literal method is now completely out of date. It has been replaced by the approach which Lord Diplock described as the 'purposive approach?? In all cases now, in the interpretation of statutes, we adopt such a construction as will ?promote the general legislative purpose? underlying the provision. It is no longer necessary for the judges to wring their hands and say:

"There is nothing we can do about it.? Whenever the strict interpretation of a statute gives rise to an absurd and unjust situation, the judges can and should use their good sense to remedy it by reading words in, if necessary, so as to do what Parliament would have done, had they had the situation in mind."

It seems to me that in recent times the Supreme Court has hallowed the purposive approach to interpretation of the National Constitution and by necessary implication statutes, documents and private constitutions of associations. In the Supreme Court case of Agyei Twum v A-G & Akwetey [2005-2006] SCGLR 732. In holding 2, the highest court of the land postulates as follows:

"The purposive approach in interpretation of the 1992 Constitution required that in the context of the instant case, implicit words be read into the Constitution to avert a manifest absurdity. Thus there was room for the unwritten in a written constitution. The fact that a country had a written constitution did not mean that only its letter might be interpreted. The courts had the responsibility for distilling the spirit of the Constitution from its underlying philosophy, core values, basic structure, the history and nature of the country?s legal and political systems, etc in order to determine what implicit provisions in the written constitution would flow inexorably from that spirit." Kissi Agyebeng, lecturer of law at the University of Ghana, Legon, educated me that his mother told him a proverb which defines the spirit of detractors and I will quote it with approval:

"asa biara akokc besa no, enye akrcma fe" (which translates that whatever dancing prowess the chicken will put up, it will never be pleasing to the hawk).

I know that detractors work with an inverted logic. They enjoy the theatre of the absurd. They can even assert in their myopia that Abuja is the capital of Ghana when they know it is Accra.

As my custom is, may I conclude this write-up by quoting a scripture:

"To turn aside the justice due a man before the face of the Most High or subvert a man in his cause, the Lord does not approve" Lamentations 3:35-36.