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Opinions of Sunday, 3 August 2014

Columnist: Ata, Kofi

Did Dr Bawumia Commit Perjury in Bolga?

By Kofi Ata, Cambridge, UK

During the 2012 Presidential Petition hearing at the Supreme Court, Dr Bawumia, who was the second petitioner and star witness for the petitioners became well known for his “you and I were not there” during cross examination and in answer to questions put to him by Mr Tsatsu Tsikata, lead counsel for the third respondent (NDC). However, addressing NPP delegates at the Assembly Hall of the Bolgatanga Secondary Technical School, Dr. Bawumia was reported to have said and I quote, “when we look at 2012, we know Nana Akufo-Addo won the election, because you and I were there. After all the evidence presented, we know we won the 2012 election” (see “2016 Not a Time for Experiments - Dr. Bawumia”, Ghanweb, July 31, 2014). In this article I want to analyse the seriousness and implications of Dr Bawumia’s assertion and the potential consequences for him as a potential future Vice-Presidential candidate, the Akufo-Addo/Bawumia ticket and NPP as a whole as far as 2016 presidential election is concerned as well as offer some advice.

I know that die hard NPP fundamentalists who accuse me of being anti Akufo-Addo or an Akufo-Addo basher will without any critical examination jump to conclusion that I am here to bash Dr Bawumia. That is far from it and in fact, some of my articles on Nana Akufo-Addo have been more helpful to him politically than those of Akufo-Addo obsessed Rockson Adofo. For example, until I confirmed beyond any reasonable doubt that Nana Akufo attended Oxford University, the myth surrounding whether he did or did not, had been used as propaganda against him by his opponents. Since I demystified the matter in November 2012, the story has died a natural death. Had it not been my efforts, this albatross would still be hanging over Nana Akufo-Addo’s neck and his opponents would have continued to use it to beat him. Therefore, I took away one of his opponents’ ammunitions.

Dr Bawumia’s statement above could be interpreted in two ways, both of which do not inure to his political fortunes. Without the second sentence, the “you and I were there” would have referred to the 2012 presidential election and that would have been perjury because that statement implied that Dr Bawumia was at the polling stations on elections days. However, when the second sentence is read with the first and interpreted as a whole, then the “you and I were there” refers to the Supreme Court petition hearings or proceedings. In that case, he did not perjure himself, but and it’s a big BUT.

When Dr Bawumia says in the second sentence of the above quote, that “after all the evidence presented, we know we won the 2012 election”, what is he implying and does he understand the consequences of those words? Bawumia is directly telling party delegates and the public that in spite of the Supreme Court verdict, Nana Akufo-Addo won the 2012 presidential election. He is directly challenging the verdict and authority of the highest court of the land. Perhaps, he is also inciting the delegates and the public against the Supreme Court verdict.

Let me point out that there is nothing wrong with Dr Bawumia disagreeing with the verdict but everything wrong with not accepting the verdict as someone who represents NPP, the party of law and order whose members claim to believe in the rule of law. Unlike Nana Akufo-Addo who disagreed with the Supreme Court verdict but accepted it, Dr Bawumia by this statement has not accepted the verdict. Even in the developed democracies such as UK and the US, Prime Minister/s, President/s and ministers sometimes disagree with judicial decisions, including those of the Supreme Courts but they either appeal decisions of lower courts and seek review of those of the Supreme Courts or accept the verdicts and not publicly show contempt.

What Bawumia said is dangerous since the facts do not support his assertion. For example, even if we assumed that the four dissenting Justices of the Supreme Court were in the majority that would not have made Nana Akufo-Addo the outright winner but that President Mahama would not been the validly declared the winner. This is because they annulled the votes in question and ordered re-voting in the affected constituencies. In other words, they refused to grant the relief sought by the petitioners to declare Nana Akufo-Addo the outright winner. Bearing in mind that those constituencies were Mahama/NDC stronghold, how could Nana Akufo-Addo have won the revote? What happened in Tain constituency in 2008/2009 would have been repeated and Mahama would have been declared winner.

Dr Bawumia’s behaviour should not be encouraged because he is not only a potential Vice-Presidential candidate of the NPP but also a potential future Vice-President of Ghana. He must be careful with both his private and public utterances. He cannot and must not speak like a party foot soldier, even if he is addressing party foot soldiers. For a future Vice-President to publicly use language that would bring the highest court of the land or the judiciary into disrepute is worrying. Would Dr Bawumia have confidence in the Supreme Court if he becomes Vice-President after making such a statement on the Supreme Court verdict? Would he not use his distrust for and rejection of the presidential petition verdict to influence future Supreme Court or judicial appointments if elected Vice-President?

In that same speech, Dr Bawumia is also reported to have said that the 2016 presidential election is not an experiment. I agree with him but unfortunately, both Dr Bawumia and Nana Akufo-Addo have started their re-election campaign as if they are experimenting. They are repeating the same gimmickry that lost them the 2008 and 2012 elections. A typical example is Dr Bawumia claiming that, “the NPP is on course to win the 2016 election with Nana Akufo-Addo as the presidential candidate of the Party. I am not questioning the second part of his claim because come what may, Nana Akufo-Addo will be NPP’s presidential candidate for 2016. However, what is the basis of the first part of Dr Bawumia’s claim? Was it based any scientific research or poll conducted by Dr Bawumia, NPP or any individuals/s or organisation/s. Even if his statement is based on research or a poll, it’s nearly 30 months from the date of the presidential election. Would such poll be valid in December 2016? Is that not complacency?

Again, women were shown to be carrying stones on their heads at the official launch of Nana Akufo/Dr Bawumia 2016 campaign in Accra. Forgive me, but I do not know much and understand very little of Ghanaian customs and traditions. Could someone tell me the political significance of women carrying stones on their heads in Ghana? For me, the women looked odd and bizarre. What would Akufo-Addo or NPP gain from such acts in the 2016 presidential elections?

Such behaviours and unusual acts and omissions are signs of either complacency or desperation. Complacency has been one of the biggest causes of Nana Akufo-Addo’s/NPP’s downfall in both 2008 and 2012. In 2012, they assumed that with the challenges facing the then Mills/Mahama administration coupled with the NDC’s internal conflict and Nana Konadu breaking away to from her party, NPP would win by landslide. Even when tragedy hit the nation and Mahama became the candidate, NPP continued as if nothing had happened. In effect, they did not have Plan B and carried on playing and dancing to the same tune of music when the tune had changed.

This is being repeated and already as Nana Akufo-Addo, Bawumia and every Tom Dick and Harry in NPP is saying that Ghanaians are yearning for Nana Akufo-Addo and NPP to rescue them from the shackles of Mahama/NDC corruption, incompetence and mismanagement. They have forgotten that, first, the current situation could change in two years for better or for worst (the economy could improve, even if marginally). Second, NPP as a collective is either refusing to accept or is unaware that corruption, incompetence and mismanagement have been pervasive in Ghanaian society for decades. In fact, it may not be wrong to say that corruption is in the Ghanaian’s DNA. So for many voters, corruption is part of their everyday reality, either as perpetrators or victims. As a result most Ghanaians have probably got used to living with corruption. Banking your hopes on corruption alone may not win Nana Akufo-Addo the votes as we saw in 2012. What is your plan B if the economy improves by 2016?

My advice to Dr Bawumia is that, he should be mindful of his language and choice of words as a national politician, a potential Vice-Presidential candidate as well as potential future Vice-President of Ghana. He may be a brilliant Economist but that does not necessarily translate into a good politician. He may be a good orator but that does not make him a good campaigner. Being a good politician and a good campaigner are skills that he may have to learn and acquire if he is to achieve his political objective of becoming the future Vice-President of Ghana. So far his speech in Bolgatanga was not what is expected of a man who aspire to the second highest of office of the land (inciting the public against the Supreme Court/Judiciary, bringing the Supreme Court/Judiciary into disrepute and potentially perjuring himself).

He should avoid language that could bring his future office into conflict with, especially, constitutional bodies but particularly, endanger the independence of and separation of powers between the Executive, Legislature and the Judiciary. His speech in Bolgatanga brought him into direct conflict with the Judiciary and he should avoid repeating it because it could even harm NPP and cost the Akufo-Addo/Bawumia ticket some vital votes in 2016. Finally, their opponents could use it against the Akufo-Addo/Bawumia ticket in particular and the NPP in general. My advice is if Nana Akufo-Addo disagreed with the Supreme Court verdict but accepted it, then the whole membership of NPP must do likewise and move on. Otherwise, the Supreme Court hangover could inhibit rather than advance their cause.

A word to the wise is enough.

Kofi Ata, Cambridge, UK