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Opinions of Sunday, 17 February 2008

Columnist: Quaye, Joshua

Rejoinder: "Odai Ayiku Do Ghana and Nunguans a Favor"

Freedom of expression must be honored at all costs, but it should not be used as a propaganda vehicle for fostering distortions, hatred, and hostility as this writer has done here. Clearly, not only do the phrases: "the blatant and arrogant decision of Nii Odai Ayiku"; "disregard all norms of civil society and the rule of law"; "Nii Odai Ayiku has caused enough trouble"; and "Go or be thrown out", etc., bring the Nungua Stool and its Occupant to disrepute, but they are inflammatory, only fostering and perpetuating hostility in the Town. Moreover, they unfairly cast Nii Odai Ayiku in a false light to all.

What trouble did Nii Odai Ayiku cause by bringing this action to the Judicial Committee of the Ga Traditional Council? How arrogant was that, and what norms of society and rule of law did he violate? He filed the action because he is the duly installed Chief, and failure to do so would have been an inexcusable dereliction of duty. The Traditional Council's ruling would have been right, if it had declined to rule on the matter and, instead, referred the parties to the courts because the Houses of Chiefs, unlike the courts, are not co-equal branches of Government in our Ghanaian constitutional set up and, therefore, lacked authority to rule on the implicated Executive Instrument. Let me be clear: by the Separation of Powers doctrine which keeps the three arms of government balanced and as checks and balances on one another, the entity authorized to adjudicate the constitutionality of Legislative and Executive enactments is the Judiciary.

With this preliminary background information in perspective, the question is: who has standing, i.e., who is the properly authorized person, to bring to the courts this action to vindicate the rights of a chief? Naturally, Nii Odai Ayiku and/or the duly constituted Nungua elders are the right people to do so. The Ga Traditional Council could also bring such an action because, under the Constitution, they are custodians over chieftaincy affairs in their respective areas. Consistently with their obligation to perform their services with the utmost neutrality, the best vehicle for such an action is for them to seek a declaratory relief, asking the courts to declare whether or not the Executive Instrument is valid and of any effect. Their failure to do so here is very puzzling, at best.

Traditionally, and by the Nungua customary law and usage, the Nungua Mantse is installed only from the Mantse We; the installers [Kingmakers] are certain selected level-headed elders of the Mantse-We; and the installation is done through arduous carefully crafted customary procedures designed to maintain and preserve the integrity of the stool while at the same time fostering Nungua's prosperity, peace and tranquility. Like any other Traditional Council, the duties of the Ga Traditional Council are, inter alia, to ensure that these traditional constitutional and customary procedures are observed and not compromised or vilified. That stewardship obligates the Traditional Council to objectively review without fear or favor any challenge to any Ga Chief's authority to see whether the proper customary constitutional procedures have been followed. Previous articles written via the Ghanaweb on Nungua all indicate that there has been no single charge by the Elders of Nungua against Nii Odai Ayiku. Nor is there any indication that he has ever been destooled by the properly constituted elders. See, for example, my previous rejoinder to the Ghanaweb article: "Nii Odai Ayiku IV Threatens the House of Chiefs" featured in the Regional section of the January 28, 2008, issue of the Ghanaweb.

A necessary precondition to governmental gazetting or ungazetting of a chief is that the chief must have been properly installed by the properly constituted elders through the established customary procedures. This certainly was not what the Executive Instrument did. See the January 28th article: no single charge was ever brought against Nii Odai Ayiku. While the Executive Instrument is thus clearly anomalous and baseless, the proper authority to rule on it is the judiciary, not the Traditional Council. Thus, the Ga Traditional Council's decision would have been correct and beyond reproach if it had stopped at the statement "the Committee's hands are tied." However, it was wrong in going further to state inflammatorily that "[t]he Government will cut of[f] the Oxygen that keeps him going . . . I can assure him no ambiguity he will face the full might and power of the state."

This statement, to say the least is unfortunate, disheartening, and suspect as it manifests all the markings of bias and arbitrariness, utterly lacking in the professionalism and neutrality that a quasi-judicial entity like the Judicial Committee of the Ga Traditional Council is required to exhibit. More importantly, it epitomizes a betrayal of the Chieftaincy institution and a dereliction of duty on the part of the Traditional Council. Apart from its additional tendency to undermine the importance and integrity of the Traditional Council itself, it is a dangerous precedent, posing grave threats to the entire Chieftaincy Institution. What all properly installed Chiefs should be mindful of is that, if allowed to stand, the decision will open the door widely for town wreckers to cause problems in their towns as the architects of the turmoil in Nungua have been doing. To ram home the enormity of the risks engendered by the decision, one only needs a recital of the adage: "the rod that hits Tete would eventually hit Tetteh if not corrected."

Clearly, no peace loving Ghanaian should condone the decision and the questionable propaganda surrounding it. How on earth could a Judicial Committee constituted to oversee chieftaincy matters threaten one of the Chiefs the Committee is supposed to support by stating that the Committee would, instead, bring the "full might and power of the state" against that chief?

Nungua deserves better, and the Nungua Stool - Nii Odai Ayiku and his Elders - should be left and encouraged to do their work and squarely face the challenges of the Twenty First Century to reap for the Town the benefits, progress, and promises of the Century. Nii Odai Ayiku and /or the Stool should seek a judicial solution from the Courts to enable the Town to progress without any more of the unnecessary impediments that are being artificially created to hamper progress by keeping him off focus. In addition, the Government should convene a fact-finding commission to investigate the situation.



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