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Opinions of Tuesday, 22 January 2019

Columnist: Caroline Boateng

Honourable lawyer, inspired by Member of Parliament

Chief Justice, Sophia Akuffo Chief Justice, Sophia Akuffo

When I saw the billboard with the words: Honourable Lawyer Adwoa Safo wishes you a merry Christmas, while driving through the Dome/Kwabenya, Constituency, I smiled.


Honourable lawyer?

I wondered bemused.

Why qualify lawyer?

l mused...

Why not merely say, "Your Member of Parliament...?

Is it that Members of Parliament (MPs) are not enthused by the title MP?

Or is it also that lawyers are not particularly enchanted by their "book long" profession and some need to spice up the boredom of their trade a bit by the addition of titles?

So why honourable lawyer? I found myself wondering aloud!

Then I thought of an incident at the Supreme Court (SC) in December 2017, when Chief Justice Sophia Akuffo scolded two MPs on the use of the tittle.

The two MPs, Messrs Ernest Norgbey of the Ashaiman Constituency and Kwabena Mintah Akandoh of the Juaboso Constituency had gone to the SC to seek an annulment of the appointment of Gender, Children and Social Protection Minister, Otiko Afisa Djaba, over her failure to undergo the mandatory National Service.

Chief Justice Akuffo, when the case was called, realised the two, characteristic of Ghanaian MPs, had on the writ, Honourable Ernest Norgbey and Honourable Kwabena Mintah Akandoh.

She said the use of honourable as a title was “dishonourable.”

She then had to school them a bit about how dishonourable the manner of their usage of the title was, further teaching them that the right manner of usage was to write their names first, before adding "Honourable Member of Parliament and the area to it".

The ensuing debate after that was fairly divided.

While some agreed with her views, an equal number did not, but most importantly, our "honourable" MPs did not batter an eyelid at all and have continued with the practice, until the use of "honourable" has become preposterous, like what was on the billboard at Kwabenya.

It is as if MPs do not think much of their job functions as picture perfect enough for difficult Ghanaians to be awestruck, so they have to add on all the titles they have under educational, social and honorary belts, to be truly dignified and acclaimed before people.

The little I know about representation from my Assembly Member of the West Adentan Electoral area, is that it takes some mettle to represent the interests and aspirations of diverse groups of people residing in an area.

It takes fortitude, an ability to mobilise consensus around a common and greatest need, among several competing needs.

It takes oratory skills, diplomacy, patience and wisdom, and anyone having these skills is already really, really, gifted and stands tall among all other professionals.

How much more MPs who represent constituencies?

Unless, these skills are mostly lacking with our MPs and thus, they have to compensate in layering on titles!

I would have thought that the good of a person was seen in his or her impact in whatever sphere that person was operating in.

In fact, Chief Justice Akuffo's prescription of the right usage of "honourable," alludes to that.

One is honourable not merely because the person is in Parliament, but because he or she is able to represent his or her constituency well for needs to be met in an environment of equally compelling challenges.

I wonder why the court clerks decided to allow the two to use the title as such on the writ.

I remember in my early days at the Daily Graphic, when an MP/ minister's personal assistant called the offices to complain about the fact that I had not properly designated the Minister as "honourable" in a report I had written that was published.

Good old Mr Kofi Yeboah, now Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) General Secretary, who responded to that grievance in my absence, told him off on phone: "even the President, we do not use 'excellency' in our write-ups about him."

That ended the discussion.

The preposterous use of "honourable" is getting nauseating.

It would be nice to see our MPs selflessly represent us for a change, instead of their insistence on accolades.

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