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Opinions of Sunday, 15 September 2013

Columnist: Ata, Kofi

RE: SC Verdict Exposed Polarised Bench

“SC Verdict Exposed Polarised Bench”, A Rejoinder

By Kofi Ata, Cambridge, UK September 12, 2013

The above article by Prof George Ayittey, the renowned Economist based in the US appeared under the General News section of Ghanaweb on Wednesday September 11, 2013. The over 150 comments the article received were an indication of the interest it generated. I was personally disappointed and to say the least, shocked by some of the contents of the article and I felt that there is the need for a rejoinder to challenge some of the false, misleading and baseless conclusions drawn and the suggestions by Prof Ayittey. In this short article, I will analyse three of such false conclusions and suggestions.

I consider it necessary to do so because some Ghanaian foreign based experts and intellectuals peddle falsehood as solutions to some or all of Ghana’s problems, but on the contrary they lack full diagnosis and understanding of the challenges facing Ghana. They often do so under the cloak of party political blindness though in reality, they are the recruiting sergeants of the two leading political parties in Ghana and in so doing, undertake half baked analyses and recommend solutions that serve their political interests but pretend to be serving the national interests.

According to Prof Ayittey, “it is important to distinguish between short-term partisan interest and long-term national interest. The national interest is supreme and should trump partisan interests. Political parties come and go but Ghana, as a nation, endures. Unfortunately, the August 29 ruling serves short-term political interest but not the supreme national interest. As such, there is still unfinished business to accomplish. It would have made little difference if the Justices had ruled the other way, i.e. in favour of the petition”.

From the above quote, it is not clear if Prof Ayittey was implying that had the decision been a 5-4 majority in favour of the petitioners that would have served the national interest. He stopped short of making that claim, though he cleverly says “it would have made no difference had the Justices ruled the other way”. If allegations in many of the comments that he is pro NPP are accurate, then it would not be wrong to draw inference from it that, that is what he intended to say but disingenuously avoided doing so.

He continued, “I would have preferred, not a re-run but a re-vote of both the presidential and parliamentary elections in a year’s time to allow vital reforms at the EC to be carried out. The parliamentary elections were beset with irregularities too. Currently, there are 38 challenges in the courts. It would have served the national interest if the SC had kicked the issue back to EC to fix its own problems”.

Does Prof Ayittey sincerely believe that a re-vote of both the presidential and parliamentary elections in a year’s would have served “the supreme national interest”? Sadly, the Economist failed to provide any reason/s why such a proposal would have served the national interest. What national interests would have been served apart from giving candidates who were rejected by the voters, a second chance? Who is Prof Ayittey fooling, Ghanaians or himself? Such a revote would only have served the interest of a few but particularly, would have inured to the benefit of the NPP Presidential candidate who would have been given a lifeline of achieving his political ambition.

Did Prof Ayittey as an Economist consider the cost to Ghana of such a revote (both financial and societal costs)? I appreciate that democracy is not cheap and dictatorship is extremely expensive but could Ghana afford to organise another general elections in twelve months from now when there is no money to pay lecturers, nurses, doctors and other essential public workers? What about the cost of investors postponing investment decisions because of uncertainty as a result of another political tension in Ghana? Has he assessed how much the uncertainty from the petition caused Ghana’s economy by delayed investment decisions, jobs lost, etc? Is he aware that such revote would further cause political tension in Ghana? I do accept that the SC verdict will not necessarily end the political tension in Ghana but their verdict best serves the national interest than his proposed revote in a year’s time.

Prof Ayittey made another hollow suggestion and according to him, “ruling either way was bound to displease half the electorate. But knowing this reality should have necessitated thinking outside the narrow Constitutional box by referring the issue back to the EC. As it stands now, the ruling will have some blowback. It will cost the Justices some loss of credibility as they have inserted themselves knee-deep into the political imbroglio. Further, in their precedent-setting ruling, they have thrown their doors wide open to adjudicate all future electoral litigation”.

This is the most ridiculous and baseless argument I have ever read from an intellectual of Prof Ayittey’s calibre. I must admit that I have never read any of his books or articles but this was a shock to me. That the 5-4 majority rejecting the petition has “thrown their doors wide open to adjudicate all future electoral litigation”. Where is the evidence (in Ghana, US or which country)? To the contrary, his suggestion that there should have been a revote of both presidential and parliamentary elections would have opened the floodgates for future losers to run to the courts for a second chance since the courts could order a revote as suggested by Prof Ayittey. With a majority decision, future or potential electoral litigants will think twice before rushing to the SC if presidential elections do not go their way. They will be mindful of the fact that if they present unreliable evidence such as “28 unknown polling stations” when they sent their part agents to the same unknown polling stations, it would be rejected unanimously.

Prof, you got this one totally wrong and I give F minus for it. This is either intellectual dishonesty on your part or you were blinded by your party political objectives and that does not do you any good, except discredit your goodwill. I am sure even undergraduate students could have made better analyses and drew a more objective and evidenced base conclusions to make better suggestions than you did.

Prof Ayittey also made another unbelievable statement that “there was no unanimous ruling on the three most cardinal elements of the electoral rules: Biometric verification, over-voting and signatures of presiding officers”. I am not sure whether by this statement he was expecting unanimous decisions on all the three claims or what was wrong with divided decisions of the Justices?

Prof Ayittey must be reminded that in the US where he resides, Supreme Court Justices are most of the time divided on cases that go before them. A typical example was the Al Gore versus George Bush presidential petition in 2000. It was a majority and not unanimous decision in favour of Bush.

Whilst I agree with Prof Ayittey on the urgent need for reforms of the EC to make it more effective and efficient in order to avoid repetition of the mess made by some of the temporal staff during the 2012 presidential election, I totally disagree with him on the issues I have raised above. Unless he comes back to provide evidence to support his claims and suggestions, his article will continue to lack credibility and the proposals contained therein should be treated with contempt that they deserve.

Unfortunately, the Ghanaian media often give priority and credence to such preposterous ideas from the so-called foreign based experts, when in reality some of them are nothing less than political opportunists who are doing the bidding for their political parties clothed in intellectual dishonesty. Prof Ayittey’s article is typical such political conundrum and should be taken with a pinch of salt.

There is no doubt that the presidential petition has further polarised Ghanaians and it should not be surprising that the SC Justices were also divided or polarised because they reflect the macrocosm of the Ghanaian society.

I am not an Economist and in fact, I only did “O” and “A” Levels Economics and Development Economics as part of postgraduate studies. Nonetheless, I am certain that the apparent leadership vacuum created by the presidential petition caused Ghana millions if not billions in lost investments, jobs and businesses, though there were other factors such as energy and water shortages as well as high interest rates that restricted economic activities in Ghana. There is also no doubt in my mind the proposed revote in a year’s time would also have cost Ghana millions or billions. However, for a world renowned Economist to suggest that a revote of both presidential and parliamentary elections would have been in the best national interest of Ghana without considering the direct financial impact on and indirect financial loss to Ghana by way of the costs of presidential and parliamentary elections and delayed and lost investments beggars belief. Prof, I throw you a challenge, you must come back to explain yourself.

Kofi Ata, Cambridge, UK