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Opinions of Saturday, 7 September 2013

Columnist: Kennedy, Arthur Kobina

Undermining our national institutions

Orangeburg, SC
3RD SEPT., 2013
August 29th, 2013, was, against all odds, a very good day for Ghana. Despite the disappointment in the Supreme Court judgment for nearly half of Ghana, there was peace and for once, our leaders rose magnificently to the occasion. Unfortunately, within a few hours, we were back to our old bad ways of imputing bad motives to one another and undermining our institutions.
That day, after some delay, got off to a good start with a brief but elegant reading of the Supreme Court judgment in the election petition. Shortly afterwards, the first petitioner, Nana Akufo-Addo stepped to the microphones and in a few brief minutes, immortalized himself as a statesman in the eyes of Ghanaians, many of whom had regarded him, unfairly, as too ambitious and too partisan. After accepting the Supreme Court verdict, he told the nation that, “We shall not be asking for a review of the verdict so we can all move on in the interest of our nation.” Then President Mahama followed with a graceful speech. The President declared that, “Strong institutions are the bedrock of strong nations.”
Despite the President’s performance, it was clear that the stars of the day had been the Supreme Court and the first petitioner, Nana Akufo-Addo. Unfortunately, the shine started coming off immediately. It began with some self-inflicted wounds by the Supreme Court. It turned out that the verdict read had contained an error that had one judge voting on the opposite side of one of the issues that were adjudicated. The court had to issue a correction the next day. To make a bad situation worse, it turned out that the written opinions of the justices were not available at the court registry as announced. Then the lawyer for the NDC, Mr. Tsatsu Tsikata dropped his bombshell. Despite being on the winning side, Mr. Tsikata opined that partisanship had been the driving force behind the votes of Justice Anin-Yeboah, a Kufuor appointee. With that unfortunate charge, the learned advocate had put the credibility of the entire court and the judgment in question. If, according to Tsatsu, those who voted against the respondents may have been motivated by partisanship, others reasoned, quite logically, that those who voted against the respondents may also have been motivated by partisanship. Then others went on to characterize the judgment and/or the judges as “corrupt”. Aside from the public accusations, there were unfortunate and outlandish rumours about arm-twisting and monies changing hands. What got into all these people? Gbesie?
To compound our descent into the depths, the hero of the day, Nana Akufo-Addo, started walking away and/or being pushed away from his concession within hours. The Ashanti Regional NPP Chairman, Mr. Antoh, told an interviewer that he had complained on behalf of the Ashanti regional NPP that Nana had not cleared his concession and his “no review pledge” with party leaders and that Nana had apologized. A day later, the media reported that, “According to Mr. Owusu Afriyie, (the NPP General Secretary) the flag-bearer was not the only one who took the matter to court so his decision cannot hold down that of his running-mate, Dr. Bawumia and party Chair, Jake Obetsebi-Lamptey.” Really?
In response to the judgment, the former U.N. Secretary General, Busumuru Kofi Annan had called for election reform and the EU had pledged support for such reforms. Unfortunately, the E.C. is yet to show contrition for its errors and to accept the proffered help. Indeed, in an interview, the first female Deputy Chair of the E.C., Ms. Georgina Opoku-Amankwaa stated, in relation to the mistakes exposed by the judicial process that, “such little mistakes should not lead to the bastardization of the Commission.”
What is the way forward?
First, the Chief Justice, on behalf of Ghanaians, must have a stern word with her colleagues about their judgment day gaffes that detracted from their very hard and fine work. While at it, she must bring some consistency and due process into the contempt process.
Second, since Tsatsu cannot prove that the vote of justice Anin-Yeboah and indeed that of his colleagues were based on partisanship; he should withdraw his statement and apologize or be sanctioned. The likes of the very erudite Kakra Essamuah should stop defending the indefensible. Also, it would be a mark of true leadership if the President and his party will condemn in the strongest terms, Tsatsu’s gaffe.
In the same vein, those describing the judgment as corrupt and/or spreading rumours must put forward proof or apologize and shut up. The NPP will do very well to dissociate itself from such unsubstantiated charges.
Third, Nana Addo must stand up to those trying to walk him back from his finest moment as a politician. Nana’s gracious acceptance of the verdict and his pledge not to seek a review were right and popular. He, Nana Addo, his party the NPP and Ghana are the beneficiaries--- regardless of what Nana decides to do in future. The NPP must support and applaud Nana for putting Ghana and its peace ahead of his personal and partisan interest. He deserves our commendation--- not our criticism. We should keep his word and put our nation ahead of our party—by not seeking a review of the verdict.
Finally, the EC must face up to its responsibilities and lead the way in fixing the problems exposed during the hearings, with the help of Parliament, the political parties and the EU. Despite the verdict, the mistakes were not “little” and could have led to war.
Let us, together make our institutions stronger so that our nation may be stronger too.
Arthur Kobina Kennedy