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Opinions of Monday, 19 February 2018

Columnist: Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor

As Professor Atuguba scares the mask wearers…

Prof. Raymond Atuguba's research on judges has engendered controversy Prof. Raymond Atuguba's research on judges has engendered controversy

Folks, Prof. Raymond Atuguba of the Faculty of Law, University of Ghana (Legon), has unleashed heat waves and those the cap fits have either quickly worn it (even if askew) or are afraid to wear it. We are not surprised. Facing a heat wave isn’t a pleasant experience.

As Shakespeare puts it, “Nothing is more wretched than a guilty conscience”. And when we move further on, we can say that “an insult is not more painful than when it is true!”

Prof Atuguba, on Thursday, presented a research at the 2018 GIMPA Law Conference which sought to establish that the voting pattern of judges of the Supreme Court was influenced by the political party that appointed them.

He explained that he analyzed one hundred political cases in Ghana and found that the voting patterns of the justices favoured the parties which appointed them. In his own words, "it is not a coincidence." (See

Swift vitriolic reaction came from notables listening to him:
1. Chief Justice, Sophia Akuffo and esteemed Justices of the Supreme Court have condemned Prof. Raymond Atuguba’s research seeking to establish the political leanings of Supreme court judges.

Chief Justice Sophia Akuffo commenting on the research, said that it was alien to Ghana and as such was not suitable for the environment.

“It is an American type of research that you have done...that’s fine, but please be careful what you are importing into our environment.

“They [Americans] are used to that, we are not. I don’t think there was a single judge who agreed with what you were saying,” she said.

2. Justice Jones Dotse, who was at the conference sternly disapproved Prof Atuguba’s findings saying that the entire research was an insult to the judges.

“You are entitled to your views, but I think it is an insult of the highest order,” he retorted. (Source:

3. On his part, Justice Emile Short, former head of the CHRAJ wished that Prof. Atuguba would publish his research findings because they could provide enough material for knowledge-making and input for judicial reform.

Prof. Atuguba’s presentation immediately stood out to others as “legendary”. Support for it has come from diverse communities. A fellow academic, Prof. Stephen Kwaku Asare, lauded him, saying ““We cannot talk about quality in legal education if we put restrictions on the research of legal academics. We must start getting used to research, if indeed the claim that we are not already used to it is meritorious” (Source:

It is clear that Prof. Atuguba has stepped on raw toes. The vitriolic reaction from the Chief Justice and Justice Dotse isn’t surprising at all because it’s not meant to surprise. Will Justice Akuffo be honest to dig into comments made about her when Akufo-Addo nominated her for that position? If she does, she should know more than what motivated her to jump on Prof. Atuguba.

One would have expected her to use input from Prof. Atuguba’s research work to help her reform the Judiciary—if, indeed, she wants to do so, granted that so much rot exists therein to erode public confidence in it.

Has Justice Akuffo ever heard of public complaints about the rot in the Judiciary, anyway? Or the failed attempts by previous Chief Justices to reform the Judiciary? If she has, she would be the last to do what she did in reacting to Prof. Atuguba’s presentation.

In any case, does she see anything wrong about the Judi9ciary that she heads? Or has she ever heard of the moves made by her predecessors to reform the Judiciary that failed? How about what Anas Aremeyaw Anas did about the rot in the Judiciary that shook all, sending away entrenched judges and proving to the whole world how corrupt the Ghanaian Judiciary could be?

Added to these questions, one may ask whether Justice Akuffo has any plan to reform the Judiciary and what informs that plan. Or is she satisfied that the Judiciary over which Akufo-Addo appointed her to preside is faultless, sacrosanct, and efficient enough to warrant her maintaining the status quo ante?

Let’s cut the chase here for Justice Akuffo. Her impetuous reaction has betrayed her as either an accomplice in the rot destroying the Judiciary or she has nothing new and productive to offer the Judiciary. The truth is that the Judiciary is rotten beyond the core, and one would expect her to act prudently so she can gain public trust in any measure she takes to reform the Judiciary.

But by just a stroke of ill-motivated reaction to Prof. Atuguba’s presentation, she has succeeded in spoiling everything. She comes across as unfit for her position. We had long ago criticized Akufo-Addo for putting her there, anyway.

If she thought or felt that Prof. Atuguba’s research findings were “alien” to Ghana, what prevented her from doing her own research to prove him wrong?
After all, the substance on which Prof. Atuguba did his research is crucial to Ghana’s democracy as far as the Judiciary is concerned. It has long been held that the Judiciary is a weak link in our democracy, meaning that its contribution isn’t worth the investment made in it.

It is no secret that Ghanaians have for long viewed Justices of the Supreme Court as either stooges of the appointing authority or non-conformists who often are sidelined or ridiculed whenever any matter of political import is decided by them.

Even, Chief Justices appointed over the years have not been left out. They are deemed as puppets on strings that the appointing authority pulls at his pleasure. They are manipulated to sing the Master’s voice. Doing otherwise spells doom. Can we just recall the case of the late Justice Isaac Abban whom Kutu Acheampong appointed in the hope that he would rubber-stamp the referendum to give him the green light to implement the “Union Government” hoax?

The first Chief Justice to act conscionably, respecting the verdict of the voters, Justice Abban went into hiding after proclaiming that the “No” had the day, which shocked Acheampong. None could be as resolute and conscientious as he was. It is no secret. If you doubt it, why not look deep into how all other Chief Justices have behaved in the face of political pressure? The conclusion at this point is that Prof. Atuguba’s presentation wasn’t expected to go the way it did, which shocked Justices Akuffo and Dotse. Why only these two, anyway?

Justice Dotse is someone who should have resigned if he had any clean conscience at all. Over the years that he has been painted with the NPP political brush and condemned as such all over the place, nothing has come from him to dispel doubts and suspicions.

His coinage (“create, loot, and share”) that became the catch-phrase for the NPP to damn the Mahama administration resulted from a political stance that he had dug himself into without any concrete evidence. What does he think empowers him to paint others black and not him too, especially when research is done to prove happenings as Prof. Atuguba has done. If he thinks that only he has raw nerves to protect against being touched, he is deceived.
Fo0lks, we can go on and on to prove to these Justices (Akuffo and Dotse) that they have no grist. They have reacted violently to Prof. Atuguba for nothing and have only succeeded in deepening suspicion about their own integrity.

What are they able to do to cleanse the Judiciary of the filth that draws attention to them? What will they do to prove Prof. Atuguba wrong? We are waiting for their own intellectual and scholastic work, not mere emotions to counteract what Prof. Atuguba has set in motion. They should expect more. If that is the wake-up call they need, they should expect more.

I support Prof. Atuguba a zillion per cent. In going this way, he has opened a Pandora’s box (Yes!!) that should encourage other researchers to identify other aspects of the Ghanaian Judiciary for research. There are many fertile grounds to delve into. Let’s pick on Prof. Atuguba’s work to expose more for the good of our democracy. Those crying foul had better check themselves. The traces are all over the place. I hope none of them will go the way of the coward to attempt criminalizing such research endeavours.

Those who have nothing to hide shouldn’t run away when reality strikes. So also should they not attempt to use emotions to respond to what has been intellectually delved into. Let those who disagree with prof. Atuguba also do their research to give us new perspectives. Anything short of that is ludicrous. How can Justices Akuffo and Dotse lead the pack to ridicule themselves and the Judiciary this way?

What Prof. Atuguba said rings loud. No leader will appoint an executioner to cut his throat but those of others opposed to him. A good messenger speaks the voice of his master. A chief who wants to have sway in his community will always go for the best linguist to sing his voice, loud and clear.

What is difficult to understand in this sense that whoever is appointed to the high office of Supreme Court must be trusted to go the way the appointing authority chooses? After all, doesn’t the one paying the piper anymore have the right to call the tune? No service, no payment; then, no piping!! Common sense says it all; but in this case, Prof. Atuguba has situated everything in research. Those who believe in research should go fort proofs or rebuttals therein. No emotional outbursts will redeem anybody!!

Do these Justices even know why the Judiciary is a public service and not a private one? Or why we have private legal practitioners at the Bar and their government-employed counterparts on the Bench? Or why those in private practice can pull strings with their clients (including charging consultation fees and colluding with judges to postpone cases or even bribing their way through) while those on the Bench (in government service) cannot for fear of breaching their terms of contract and being dismissed from service?

In any case, what Prof. Atuguba has done is only a mere scratching of the surface of irritating concerns that make the Ghanaian Judiciary despicable.

How much research has the Chief Justice organized to determine the public perception of the Judiciary? Or why there is instant justice (e.g., lynching) in Ghana? No tru8st in the Judiciary, which is disturbing. Those who have the money and political connections easily get away with it all.

Too bad. On that score, one expects more reasonable reaction from these so-called “Learned Friends” feeling hurt by Prof. Atuguba’s bold research activity. He has thrown the challenge to all. Who will go next?
I shall return…