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Opinions of Saturday, 28 September 2019

Columnist: Iddrisu Abdul Hakeem

‘Illegalizing’ legal education in Ghana; The Chief Justice has a lot to answer

There's been public outrage following mass failure of the law exams There's been public outrage following mass failure of the law exams

Fellow Ghanaians, article twenty-one (21) of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights postulates that the will of the people must form the basis for the authority of the government.

This article is affirmed and confirmed by the political theory known as the Consent of the Governed Theory which espouses that the aspirations of the people should always lay the foundation for the exercise of authority. Nonetheless, this fundamental governmental principle seems to have been circumvented and subverted by our principal custodian of the country's justice system, her ladyship, madam Sophia Akufo.

It is ridiculous and bites in the butts to note the "massive" failure that has hit the Ghana School of Law again, especially, LLB students who sat for this year's Professional Law Examination into the Ghana School of Law, has really got some well-meaning Ghanaians popping champagne corks. Probably, nobody would be happier and broke into a kumbaya song and dance over this national embarrassment vis-a-vis madam Sophia Akufo, the country's greatest legal grandmother and the custodian of our very battered Justice system.

What is likely to be the cause and inducement for such a gloating of the Chief Justice over the pain of these fatigued law students who only didn't waste their energies studying but time and money, may not be known; what's clear is that the country's legal luminaries supervisor (the Chief Justice of Ghana) had actually made a vow not to allow "mass production of lawyers" in the country. Hence, her benefits of relief and happiness, wishing and watching the numerous applicants "fail" woefully. I think Ghanaians begrudge her not.

She does not have to be blamed. She started schooling in the then Gold Coast and graduated in Ghana. A period of time in our history only few people had interest in education and who were the nation's bourgeoisie and intelligentsia.

However, the question many of these ambitiously deflated students and their parents and other loved ones are asking is that did they really deserve to fail or it was because of the half-baked thoughts and views of the Chief Justice, that have led to this academic catastrophe and national shame? In order words, did the examination council of the Ghana School of Law decide to fail students deliberately at the behest of the greatest legal Lord, madam Sophia Akufo because she doesn't want many lawyers in the country, or Ghana's LLB students were so poorly trained and equipped at the various law faculties across the country that, the twenty (20) only objectives questions and two theory questions out of the six, were simply "headache" to those who couldn't provide what was needed of them?

The Chief Justice has a lot on her plate to purge herself from an accusation that she could have intentionally failed these students who sat in that examination because of her natural abhorrence for more lawyers and Judges like herself in the country.

The only persons in the Akufo-Addo-Bawumia led government who obviously pass the three Cs (Character, Charisma, and Competence) leadership test and who have generated admiration for themselves from both friends and foes, are the Chief Justice and until recently, the Speaker of parliament including some few ministers who couched a niche for themselves.

However, latest events involving the CJ of Ghana are likely to make this widely and roundly loved Judge rudely dragged to the public square.
Perhaps, that's why our elders say a person has never been hated for nothing.

President Akufo-Addo and some of his boat-load of plenty of ministers are not being made captives of the mightiest pen of many concerned citizens for nothing. If the luminary madam wants to be part of these recipients of the poisonous venom of Ghanaians, there are other ways to defaming herself to citizens, and certainly not by belittling and mocking our rule of law and democracy in this country.

I am not a Judge but my logical resources tellingly tell me that it is morally frowned upon to shortchange others in any form.

Worst it is that the CJ is not only shortchanging these students and their families who laboriously supported them, but our very Justice system, our democracy, our rule of law, and Ghana at large.

Inasmuch as we don't want to have quack legal workers in the country, which I wouldn't personally have a problem with if that was the ambition of the CJ, it wouldn't be harmful to have many Ghanaian lawyers who are competent. And for the record, not all Ghanaian lawyers are practising in the country. In the second place, this move of failing and denying ambitious lawyers the opportunity to exist has a precarious tendency in the country.

At least, it can scare international legal students away and that has a special negative impact on the hard-earned reputation of the country at large. Because the fact that Ghana may not need more lawyers must not be applicable to Nigerian students in our midst for example. I personally have friends from our neighbouring countries who are solely in Ghana to become lawyers and who were part of this examination.

I think it will be unfair to disqualify these international students, too, because of this warped view by our Chief Justice. Equally, it wouldn't have been fair and reasonable to pass the international students because they are not part of us and fail their counterpart Ghanaian law students who might have studied well and written well in that examination.

Looking at the magnitude of the failure unless we decide to suspend common sense, it is clear that it was not lacking of proficiency on the part of majority of these disqualified students. It was a titanic attempt to pursue somebody's parochial interest and uncomplimentary view.
For me, if that was the case which led to the so-called abysmal performance, it is a betrayal of conscience if not treasonous to have deliberately extinguished the legal dreams of these ambitious citizens.

Of course, some of the reasons that could have prompted the Chief Justice's infamous rhapsodized statement may not be farfetched. One is the obvious risking of the profession's prestige and fortune that members enjoy if the membership increases. Again, there's going to be, perhaps, competition which many lawyers can't survive. Two, there's a higher tendency of admitting quack lawyers to the bar. Three, the likelihood of losing the profession's pristine reputation due to the aforementioned possible challenges that might hit the legal landscape if there's mass production of lawyers.

However, these reasons in my humble opinion cannot in any dramatic manner be brought about due to inclement of lawyers in the country.

For me, if there are many lawyers in the country the untold competition will enhance our rule of law. Lawyers who want to practice can decide to hunt for cases. The million disregarded and neglected cases such as defilements, spousal abuses, and many other covered cases abandoned to die natural deaths in this country, could have been pushed to courts by hungry lawyers.

Again, it is not compulsory that everyone on the bar must practice. There are many lawyers who don't practice and who are equally useful to the country like their colleagues who practice the law.
Her ladyship, the Chief Justice should also understand that legal knowledge is very important. Sometimes, the rigorous nature of the study of law often discourages citizens to learn it without anticipation of any remunerational incentives in the end.

Therefore, production of mass lawyers may not be, after all, inimical and regrettable in a country few people resort to the law courts.

This is the time to have more lawyers in the country because our president is a lawyer himself. Students who wish to role model President Akufo-Addo, Chief Justice Sophia Akufo, must not be denied the opportunity.
Let's not illegalize our legal education for Ghana and the rule of law would be the losers, and in effect, Ghanaians!

Long Live Ghana,

God Bless us all.