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Opinions of Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Columnist: Asare, Kwame Ohene

An irredeemable presidency!

By Kwame Ohene Asare

I was horrified to hear the President of the Republic add his voice to speculations and accusations from other members of the NDC as to the cause of the recent spate of fires. He said in very fine Twi that whilst he did not wish to blame his opponents for this, any deep thinking person would agree that these fires appear to be the handiwork of arsonists wishing to make his Government look bad. It was shocking!

Was the president’s accusation simply based on the frequency and timing of these fires or does he have highly probative evidence to come up with such a serious accusation against his political opponents? Furthermore, the statement preceded his announcement of investigations into the matter and the offer of a whopping 25,000 New Ghana Cedis to the person able to provide information leading to the arrest of the culprits.

It does not take any deep thinker to figure out who the President was referring to as his comments came on the back of the earlier statement of the chairman of the NDC party; he was more specific in laying the blame at the doorsteps of the NPP. Secondly, it becomes clear what the main focus of his investigations is: to ‘catch NPP’ in the act.

The President’s open declaration of his suspicions against the NPP is much worse than the suspicions some elements of the NPP expressed about him; that he might have been behind the unfortunate demise of the Late Professor Mills as he is the biggest beneficiary of this misfortune. There was more deep thinking in that speculation than the shallow speculations relating to the spate of fires. The problem is that, there is a multiplicity of reasons why these markets are burning. Besides, even if the fires were deliberately started, the person or groups of persons with a motive to do so are many. Why rush to announce your suspicions as a Commander in Chief of the Nation before your ‘Imported Experts’ provide you with a more definitive answer?

The President’s statement is inappropriate for 2 main reasons. Firstly it is a highly inflammatory statement; some over-enthusiastic members of his party or market people can take it as a call to retaliate. Secondly, it could just stick like mud just because the President has said it which is unfortunate for Ghana’s body politic; I can confidently suggest to the Country that we have a Propagandist for President.

Again His Excellency’s recent pronouncements about the possible outcome of the on-going Election Petition were also unimpressive. He said it will prove that NDC won the 2012 Presidential polls cleanly and ‘fairly’. Most importantly, he said that the Court could not come to any other conclusion but to exonerate his party. Again this statement comes fast on the heels of another made by the loquacious Deputy Minister for Information, which was of an even rather incendiary character. The young man may be quite vociferous but he could not have issued such a statement, without, at least the implicit blessings of His Excellency. Does he know what is on the minds of the Judges at this stage as to allow the young man to bet the outcome on his life? Does the comment arise from the face of the Pink Sheets or does it arise from a genuine belief in his innocence? There is one source of possible leakage between the Judiciary and the Executive though. The President’s Secretary!

Is it not a palpable case of contempt to discuss the merits of the case in such terms? If the president knows of anything that will exonerate him and his party, I would have thought that the appropriate recourse would have been to apply for permission to file an affidavit and/or seek leave of the Court to testify under oath. Given what the Supreme Court did for Afari Gyan, I believe the President would not have had any difficulties. Though, I cannot guarantee that his reputation will be left intact after he has been passed on to Phillip Addisson and his team of incisive and energetic Barristers.

What any idiot can bet his life on is that irrespective of the outcome of the on-going petition, the elections could never have been ‘cleanly’ and ‘fairly’ won when the President, in yet another seemingly reckless moment during the December 2012 polls, actively encouraged the perpetration of an illegality at the election – ‘Voting without Biometric Verification’ – by openly asking for the Commission to do so. From that moment onwards, the 2012 Presidential elections were damaged beyond redemption and irredeemably tainted.

Why can’t the presidency act with the circumspection that is required of his office? Who advises him? Who writes his speeches? These comments are inappropriate of the office.

I am however not very surprised because the Presidency’s recent comments come on the back of Afari Gyan’s self-indicting answers to his cross-examination. This has been the methodology that His Excellency’s Legal Team appears to be deploying in the on-going petition. In Court they always appear to launch into a tirade of accusations against the Petitioners anytime Mahama’s defence seems to come under any serious threat. It seems to me that when push comes to shove, the President will make statements, even if reckless, contemptible or contumelious, just as his team will do in Court. It seems like an orchestrated plan designed for maximum impact.

2 Thursdays ago, there was quite a performance in Court and I was overwhelmed by the extra-ordinary provocation which Phillip Addisson came under due to the rather unfunny theatrics from the Respondents’ Barristers about a pink sheet that Afari Gyan was about to be questioned on.

On that Thursday afternoon, there was a sudden flurry of activity around the desks of the Respondents and there was quite an elaborate effort on the part of the respondents to stop Phillip’s cross-examination. The Respondents’ team were making such a song and dance of the celebrated ‘duplicate Pink Sheets’. Someone run from the back of the Court room with a Laptop, passing it to the Respondents’ Barristers and Solicitors.

It was clearly not a time for any idiot, although one of the Judges called it a storm in a tea cup.

Accusations of untruthfulness which even His Lordships did not find funny were flying across the Court room all with one single purpose, to disarm Mr Addisson and his team of energetic Lawyers.

Yet for most part of the show, Mr Addisson sat unprovoked and kept his focus.

When the storm was over, Counsel for the Petitioners calmly stood up and resumed cross examination of the Electoral Commissioner with such great aplomb and accomplishment that will make even the English Bar envious.

It was not until the bell went that everyone realized what the ‘whirlwind’ was about.

Addisson: Can you answer this last question for me Dr Afari Gyan? Afari Gyan: Yes I would……….Addisson:…… Would you agree with me that there was over-voting? Dr Afari Gyan: Yes there was. Voila!