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Opinions of Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Columnist: Acolatse, Charles K.

Re: Election Petition To Collapse Ghana

Try the Alternative.

I could not help but pen this reaction to Mr. Bernard Ohemeng Baah and his organization’s claims on Multi TV’s (Joy) PM Express, 22-4-13 edition, archived on, that the election petition will collapse the nation. His propositions are based on seriously flawed assumptions.

First, he or his organization points to what partisans deem as justice, with regards to the eventual outcome of the election petition. Indeed whatever the eventual verdict of the Supreme Court will be, a party to the petition will be disheartened. That is not to say we should not submit ourselves to the courts when we feel aggrieved and have a cause of action. As a nation, we chose this path when we elected to have constitutional rule instead of military dictatorship. In any dispute in Court, there is only ONE eventual winner, unless the parties elect to settle the dispute out of court, through mediation, arbitration, negotiation or some other form of dispute resolution. To claim that the election petition will collapse the country because parties have conformed to the dictates of the constitution is rather harsh, unfortunate and ill examined.

As an Attorney, I find it unfortunate when people suggest that a judicial proceeding will lead to a collapse of the country. It is such statements, coming from so-called policy organizations that foster such polarization. Rather than making these pronouncements, these organizations should direct their resources towards educating the populace on role of our institutions and the need to submit ourselves to the legal process, (a consequence of our collective decision to govern ourselves democratically) and also accept the outcome of such legal proceedings (assuming the populace did not know).

It is important to note that our institutions exist to perform specific functions in accordance with the terms of the constitution, legislative instrument or laws/statute that created them. Our institutions do not exist to be “loved”. In the discourse of the role of our institutions, the focus should not be on whether they are loved or insulted by the masses, but rather whether these institutions are performing their functions as dictated by the constitution, or the law, and/or whether these institutions are acting Ultra Vires. It is not the role or duty of the Supreme Court to compete for the affection of Ghanaians. Rather it is the province and duty of the Supreme Court to say what the law is, regardless of whether the people for its interpretation of the law will “bastardize” or “love” it. To this end, the fear of whether some Ghanaians will “bastardize” the Supreme Court regardless of the outcome of the election petition, is not well premised.

In every democratic or constitutional dispensation, depending on which side of the political divide you belong, you may or may not like the Court’s decision on a matter. Politicians, journalists, and the masses, and even sitting Presidents, attack the Supreme Court for their decision, in every democratic country. Take the US for instance, in 2010, President Obama, during his State of the Union address to Congress publicly chastised the US Supreme Court for its decision in Citizen United. This did not force the US Supreme Court to reverse itself, just because the President did not like its decision. Likewise, the same Supreme Court, to the chagrin of most Conservatives, upheld key provisions of President Obama’s landmark legislation, affectionately called "Obamacare". The point here is that the Supreme Court exists for a reason, and it behooves us, the so-called literates, to educate the masses on the roles of our institutions and what is required of us vis a vis these institutions, assuming the masses do not know.

Second, I do not understand the basis for his claim that half of the country is not committed to the development of the country due to the ongoing election petition, especially when such a claim is unsupported by any studies. He only cites Boston in the aftermath of the notorious Boston Marathon bombing. What he fails to mention or note is that in Boston ALL SHOPS AND BUSINESSES WHERE THE BOMBING TOOK PLACE WERE CLOSED, AND FOLKS WERE ASKED TO STAY INDOORS FOR SECURITY REASONS. Unless there is an upheaval in Ghana for which the security capos have asked folks to stay indoors, thereby affecting commerce, I do not understand where such a comparison stems from. Is it Mr. Ohemeng’s claim that in Ghana commercial activities have ceased? Or is it his case that NPP or NDC traders have ceased commercial or economic activities? He should spare us this illogical comparison. You can’t compare apples to oranges. In any case what is his definition of development. It is disheartening when these so called policy think tanks make such unfounded statements. It is one thing to gain traction, but one has to be careful what they gain traction for. Once you hold yourself as a Policy think tank, the standards of review for your proposed policies are rather high and rightly so. One should therefore be careful and circumspect in analyzing the on-going election petition before the Supreme Court, simply for its impact now and for the historical context within which it may be referenced at a future date.

In life every decision one takes has its own cost. The cost of the decision to accept democratic rule is to abide by the dictates of the constitution. What is happening in Ghana now in terms of the election petition before the Supreme Court is laudable and must be encouraged. I’ll be the first to admit that the process has been fraught with some challenges, given the magnitude of the undertaking and the fact that these are uncharted waters. What is important is for us to draw meaningful lessons from the process as to how to improve the processes to make is less cumbersome and prolonged.

I rest my case.

And to the litigants in the petition, I say to them, “may the odds be in their favor”. Hunger Games.

Charles K. Acolatse, Esq., MSW
Principal/Managing Attorney,
Acolatse Law Firm, LLC.
Atlanta, Ga USA