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Opinions of Sunday, 20 January 2013

Columnist: Abugri, George Sydney

Or a tale of one king and his disputed crown

You need to take a few steps back from the story and survey it from a distance to appreciate how with a little help from a panel of Supreme Court judges, the New Patriotic Party managed to save us all from what threatened to become the wildest ever legal circus in our judicial history:
The NPP disputes the results of the 2012 presidential election and joins the Electoral Commissioner and President John Mahama in a petition at the Supreme Court, seeking the annulment of the results. The NDC promptly files an application requesting to be joined to the NPP’s petition as respondents, since the president contested the election as a candidate of the party.
The NPP races back to court with a second petition asking the Supreme Court to decline the NDC’s petition to be joined to its petition seeking an annulment of the results of the presidential election. A panel of Supreme Court judges is set to hear the NDC’s petition. The NPP says “wait a minute, everyone...” The party wants the chair of the panel of Supreme Court justices, Justice William Atuguba off the panel.
Why? Apparently because Justice Atuguba is a relative of Dr. Raymond Atuguba who was last week appointed Executive Secretary at the presidency by defendant, President Mahama.
Are you following this boring story? Good! The court adjourns hearing of the NPP’s second petition to enable the party prepare and file a motion explaining the reasons for the petitioners’ demand that Justice Atuguba recuse himself from sitting on the panel.
While the NPP is on its way to undertake the task, some grumbling and murmuring goes up among legal and non-legal minds alike in the corridors of the NDC, threatening counter legal reprisals against the NPP. It is suggested that the NDC file yet another petition at the Supreme Court asking that some panel members known to have strong links with the NPP be taken off the panel.
It is claimed that one of the Supreme Court judges on the panel is a former regional chairman of the NPP. Another is known by all except to a recent tourist to Jerusalem, as a member of the party some activists claim. }Some go on to volunteer to make a generous contribution to the confusion by indicating against the name of each justice on the panel the names of his/her relatives and close associates who are leading members of the NPP.
Then right out of the blue, the NPP saves the day all by itself: It says it is withdrawing its motion for reconstitution of the Supreme Court panel “in order to facilitate an expeditious determination of the petition against the NDC 's application to be joined in the NPP’s petition seeking an annulment of the results of the presidential election..
After hearing the NDC's joinder application yesterday, the court fixed Tuesday January 22 to rule on the application.
Reporters are in the meantime reaching for newsroom legal dictionaries which I suspect, do not exist: Lawyers say we have in our coverage of the case of the dispute so far, whipped up words like “motion”, “application”, “joint defendants’, “joinder”, “recuse”, “defendant”, “respondents”, etc. into one concoction of legal language misnomers.
The Ghana Bar Association says it is embarking upon a programme to educate the public on the functions of the Supreme Court. Fantastic, Jomo. Absolutely fantastic. The GBA, I might add, is doing much more than that:
Some interested parties have been engaged in a brazen usurpation of the hallowed powers of the highest judicial institution of the land, conducting a public hearing of the NPP’s Supreme Court petition at press conferences, on radio, television, newspapers and the internet, parading on grand display, the manner, quantum and details of the evidence that is being made available to the court by the interested parties.
The GBA it appears, only wised up to the infractions this week and is reminding its members that it is wrong for them to grant media interviews on cases before the courts or try trying their own cases in the public sphere.
When the hearing of the substantive petition of the NPP gets underway with or without the NDC as joint respondent, President Mahama is billed to call a brigade of 4,800 witnesses! Throw in the witnesses of the NPP which says it has evidence from 20,000 constituencies to back its claim of rigging and witnesses of the Electoral Commission and you could have at least 10,000 witnesses billed to testify.
Some of the witnesses will call in their own witnesses and after testifying, some witnesses will be called back to the stand for cross-examination and then a further cross-examination of those already cross-examined. At the rate of a conservative five witnesses taking the stand per sitting, the case will probably travel the millennium and end when we wake up on the other side of Time.
Talking about time, Jomo, there is so much work to be done as far as the urgent task of improving the quality of life and living of the people is concerned and yet so little time. It requires that the nation leave the Supreme Court alone to dispose of the case and concentrate on the task ahead.
The idea of a house sitting on a plot of land waiting to be built sounds eerie or spooky if you like but there are indeed many hospitals, roads, schools, clinics, affordable housing estates etc waiting to be built.
The expectations of the people are certainly very high and the promises made by the president during his campaign will raise them even higher. If campaigning presidential candidates have failed to fulfill their promises, it is usually not for lack of trying.
When a campaigning presidential candidate makes promises, he needs to qualify his pledge by explaining that he is making it in the context of a social contract with the people.
He provides the leadership, draws up the programmes and the initiatives for their implementation and the people lend their support irrespective of political affiliation. It is a subject we might hopefully return to when the dispute over the king’s crown has been disposed of.

Website: www.sydneyabugri/