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Opinions of Friday, 13 September 2013

Columnist: A-Ugidimah, Clement

Questionable verdict for peace

By Clement Ananvuraborigo A-Ugidimah

I thank God for giving Ghanaians the peace of heart to conduct themselves very well after the much disputed declaration of the 2012 presidential election and also during and after the trial of this case as well as after the verdict and most especially the classy concession speech by the vanquished. It is my hope that as I write, I will not stray into areas that may bring me contempt charges.
There were so many critical mind bugling questions that need answers on how the panel was constituted and its attendant mode of trial.
Before the trial, the judges set out four main areas to look out for and these were whether or not there were violations, omissions, malpractices and irregularities during the 2012 presidential elections and if they did, whether or not these said violations, omissions, malpractices and irregularities affected the declaration of the results.
Yes, the court has declared the first respondent validly elected, maintaining the status quo. However, the 5/4 ruling on three categories of over voting, voting without biometric verification and absence of signatures of election officers can be said to be very close. Can we as a people ignore this clear indication entirely without absorbing its lesson? I doubt if that will exactly help us going forward.
To start with, article 128 (3) says that the Chief Justice shall preside at sittings of the Supreme Court and in his absence, the most senior of the justices of the Supreme Court as constituted shall preside. If that is the case and given the landmark nature of this case, I wonder why her ladyship excused herself from this trial. If rumors that her ladyship excused herself from the trial because she was appointed during NPP’s administration or better still she is in one way or the other related to a steward of the NPP party – if these rumors are anything to go by - then the same can be said of Justice William Atubuga who is also a direct cousin to the Executive Secretary Dr. Raymond Atubuga to H.E President John Dramani Mahama. Therefore, if there was nothing wrong with Justice Atuguba presiding over the case, the CJ could have equally presided over the supreme petition without prejudice. After all, we all, - priests or judges,civil or public servants, business men and women – we all are inherently partisan politically natured. That political nature must not necessarily take away our professional and patriotic judgments.
If 4 out of the 9 justices saw the statutory and constitutional violations of over voting, voting without biometric verification and absence of polling officers signature based on cogent evidence provided by the petitioners is anything to go by, then it lives much questions lingering in the minds of many objective minded people. When the petitioners filed their case and included that the Biometric Verification Machines(BVM ) were not used in some instances, couldn’t the court have asked for custody of all BVM before the commencement of the case to confirm or otherwise of the petitioners case?
Now let’s look at the manner in which the ruling was presented. The battle of evidence and counter-evidence, the examination and cross examination of star witnesses of various parties, the argument and counter argument of council as well as their oral submissions and clarifications by the judges from various councils lasted for 8 good months. Again, ruling on the 3 contempt charges alone lasted for more than 20 minutes. It was therefore intriguing to have the final ruling being delivered within 5 minutes without any reasons for the verdict. Four days after the verdict we still didn’t have the reasons for the verdict.
I am questioning the moral competence of the judges, if after rebuking lead council for the third respondent for failing to submit his written address earlier, then they themselves will hold the whole country and for that matter the world over for 3 good hours before coming out with an ‘error judgment’.
The presentation of the ruling was flawed with errors and I believe this has cast a big slur on the integrity of the judges locally and internationally. Justice Baffoe-Bonnie’s vote was listed as having been upheld and at the same time dismissed the claim relating to voting without biometric verification. How come such a glaring error was not detected by the presiding judge and or the judge whose vote was mistakenly taken as being dismissed and was presented to the public only to be corrected in the next 24 hours? Was the error a clerical one, intentional or a substantive error? If substantive, are they rules in the court to cure such errors? Was it intentional to get the first petitioner to quickly accept defeat and congratulate the president to achieve our much propagated peace evangelization and not to think of a review having seen the closeness of the verdict? Did the Justices reconvene to correct the blunder? Did the presiding judge abuse his power by going past this alleged error? Couldn’t Justice Baffoe -Bonnie intervened when his vote was deviated in open court to correct the anomaly?
Again why did the Presiding Judge give a global ruling when it was obvious that there was a majority and a minority view? My thinking was that the presiding Judge or a Judge in the majority side could have read that view and vice versa. In all of these, I thought their judgment would have been ready and a copy given to all the nine Justices and even including the Chief Justice before the day of the judgment for each one of them to confirm the verdict. In furtherance to that, I will want to question the motive to the famous statement made by Justice Dotse that ‘’ after this case elections in this country will not be the same’’, was he impugning reforms without violations, malpractices, irregularities and omissions with or without material effects on the declarations of the 2012 election results as declared by the EC chairman.
Again, the overall judgment made nonsense of the whole exercise and especially on the side of the petitioners because the Judges refused to tell the parties and for that matter Ghanaians of the importance of the whole process and it attendant usefulness and this explains why the lead council for the EC boasted of being vindicated, meaning they did nothing wrong as well as the lead council for the NDC accusing Justice Anim Yeboah of bias towards the respondents.
The Court’s failure to condemn the EC openly on that day on TV irrespective of the dismissal of the case on some of the glaring infractions exposed during the trial will only give people the license to practice some of these infractions because after all the Supreme Court endorsed it. For this reasons I am totally surprised that the Court and particularly justice Atuguba will suggests reforms in the electoral process.
Prior to election 2012, the EU refused to help Ghana and said that we are now a middle income country but just Friday, a day after the verdict, the same body is pledging to help us on election reforms if any because of the way our democracy is been deepened once again. I don’t think the EU would have changed its stance if this case had not exposed some infractions.
While I, very much commend both the first petitioner Nana Akuffo Addo and H.E President John Mahama for the matured and unifying speeches, I will not hesitate to condemn the comments made by the Vice President Kwesi Amissah. The Vice President’s speech was injudicious and in fact it defeated the whole statement made by the president.
I can only conclude that, per the accusation by the lead council for the NDC Mr. Tsastu Tsikata that Justice Anin Yeboah was bias towards the respondent he knew from the beginning that they had no strong defense to this petition and therefore they asked the judges to sacrifice justice for peace. It also goes without saying that if the verdict had gone against the respondents, you could imagine the chaos that will have engulfed this country given Tsastu’s attack on the integrity of the Judiciary.
Much as I disagree with the verdict, I also think that the procedure leading to the trial and the final verdict itself was flawed and needed much attention.
Once again, has the Supreme Court of Ghana maintained the cliché in Africa that, the vanquished, no matter the preponderance of evidence available to him, taking presidential elections to the Supreme Court is only of academic and legal importance by this ruling? One would have thought that Ghana once again was going to defy the cliché and make a citadel example in Africa. But alas! Africa can always be predicted.
Long live Ghana! Long live our democracy!