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Opinions of Friday, 20 April 2018

Columnist: Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor

Where is the President's legal acumen to solve 'legal problems' undermining his administration?

Folks, I am very much perturbed at happenings in Ghana in our time under Akufo-Addo, someone thumping his chest as an accomplished legal practitioner but under whom there are leakages in the judicial system.

The premise for my claim here is clear: In any human situation, whoever demands a leadership position must be prepared to use his/her strengths (academic, professional, or whatever else) to steer affairs to make the desired change or impact. So it is all over the world, as history teaches us. And so must it be for Akufo-Addo, who rode the crest of bitter criticisms against his predecessor(s) to be in power, doing or failing to do what puts him in focus.

With particular reference to the use of state institutions (judicial or quasi-judicial) to hound political opponents, one wonders whether Akufo-Addo is really able to use his legal training, practice, and what-not to steer the affairs of state without causing needless tension.

He has a long history of topsy-turvy operations that he has capitalized on to become Ghana’s President. In any case, happenings under him thus far reinforce my abject disdain and contempt for him because I don’t see what solutions are issuing forth from his quarters to give us anything new. It is the same with Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia who was all over the place while campaigning for political power, claiming to know all that bedevilled the Ghanaian economy under Mahama but can’t offer a single solution to such problems.

As has just been reported, Ghana has joined the league of countries whose debt burden is really frightening (See: https://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/business/Ghana-joins-countries-with-high-risk-of-debt-distress-World-Bank-report-644291).

Remember that the Akufo-Addo government has borrowed more in this short time than any other government has done in Ghana’s history of panhandling but parrying off criticism by laying the fault at Mahama’s feet. Disgraceful, to put it mildly).

Akufo-Addo gave us a glimpse of what he could use his legal background to do for Ghana as the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General under Kufuor when he engineered the establishment of Fast Track Courts to deal with specific cases of “causing financial loss to the state”.

That was a novelty, regardless of the heavy blow that Tsatsu Tsikata dealt to him at the Supreme Court when that innovation was dismissed as unconstitutional but had Kufuor’s wily intervention through his packing of the Supreme Court for the late Justice Kwame Afreh to validate and have Tsatsu and the fellow accused committed to trial and imprisoned.

Kufuor’s unexpected “fiat” just a day before leaving office freed nana Konadu Agyemang-Rawlings and others being tried from further encumbrances. Too bad for jurisprudence in Ghana. A mere stroke of the “political pen” turned everything awry.

The Fast Track Courts lost vim thereafter and haven’t featured anymore in public discourse or the scheme of the Judiciary itself. Where are they today, and how does Akufo-Addo feel?

That’s just the tip of what I have in mind. Akufo-Addo moved a notch higher by pegging his fight against corruption in Ghana on the creation of the Office of the Special Prosecutor, putting Martin Amidu in charge. We know what the situation is: the infrastructure and parameters to support his work are lacking. He is holed up in some obscure corner, crouching and panting for the moment to leap out and bite those his own political bitterness has set up as enemies. His woes, not mine.

In any case, one wonders why Akufo-Addo won’t pursue his “Fast Track Court” initiative but switch to an Office of Special Prosecutor. Does that speak well of him as a lawyer in charge of affairs in Ghana to be trusted as pursuing a cause for public good and not for mere personal aggrandizement?

What is bad about the Fast Track Courts, which he mooted and brought into being, that is good for the Office of Special Prosecutor? Just a populist move to be credited with creating dry shells to dot the annals of Ghana’s judiciary?

More than that angle. What is Akufo-Addo’s purpose as far as justice delivery in Ghana is concerned? Since he entered office, many disturbing happenings have clouded his administration and raised serious questions. We will raise some of those issues for purposes of arguing that he isn’t well-cut-out for the leadership position that he has spent years craving for. And we will be blunt about it all, no holds barred, no apologies rendered.

We note that Akufo-Addo has been tolerated all these years because of the so-called perception of him as a human rights advocate and politician seeking to change the paradigm for the good of Ghana and its citizens, regardless of ethnic backgrounds, creed, or whatever.

He has a huge track record of participating in mass protests against governments that he and his backers considered as obnoxious. Could be Acheampong, to begin with. What he did under Rawlings propelled him to the heights, especially as the Alliance for Change mobilized public support to confront Rawlings.

The main motivation was to agitate against the introduction of the Value Added Tax (VAT). Nothing could help them overthrow Rawlings. The mayhem ended up propping up Akufo-Addo and his cohort.

What next? When Rawlings ushered Ghana into the 4th Republic, Akufo-Addo entered politics and emerged as an MP for 12 years, representing his Abuakwa area but doing nothing remarkable to improve living standards. Not satisfied with his MP status, he moved up the ladder to lead the NPP, losing the bid but persisting till Fate put him where he is today. Fair enough for the background account.

Now, to the real nub. As a so-called lawyer and human rights activist, how has he brought his 40 years of legal practice to bear on his performance? As the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General under Kufuor, he failed to seek justice for the 44 Ghanaians dastardly murdered by the Monster of the Gambia (Yahaya Jammeh). Very disturbing.

As the President of Ghana in our time, two major events of reprehensible import have occurred that he isn’t using the system to tackle so Ghanaians can feel the impact of his so-called legal acumen.

1. A staunch NPP MP (Joseph Boakye Danquah), probably a distant relative of his too, was callously murdered in circumstances that left no one in any doubt that something terribly went wrong. Circumstantial evidence and everything else needed to pursue this case to its logical conclusion were gathered and suspects put before court. The outcome? Really shocking!!

The Attorney-General’s Department shortchanged everything by filing a “nolle prose4qui” that freed the accused. A statement from that noxious set-up that the accused would be arrested and re-tried angered us more than assuaged doubts that there might be an insider job therein. So, such an important personality could just be murdered and nothing done to his murderers under Akufo-Addo, a human rights activist? Wherein lies his bent as a lawyer?

Of course, we don’t expect him to bulldoze his way through the terrain, but we expect that he would use his sense of human feeling (if he has any at all) to ensure that justice is done to the deceased. So far, the dust is settling on this case as it doesn’t feature any more in public discourse. Probably, the docket that has been reported as missing from the pathologist’s office will resurface in the outer world. Is this the mark of a President claiming to be a human rights activist?

We bring in Rawlings here. When a nephew of his was acquitted, he rejected the verdict and called for re-trial, whereupon he was found guilty of murder and executed. It might be seen as a shock to his Agbotui family, but it served its purposes because the facts spoke loudly about his guilt. No manipulation of the situation.

What is Akufo-Addo doing about J.B. Danquah’s murder case, at least, to prove his credentials as a human rights activist? Or the deceased has no human rights to be fought for by the very political front that he sacrificed everything for? We are not done yet.

2. The hocus-pocus going on about the murder of Army Major Maxwell Mahama and the government’s lackadaisical attitude toward the trial of the culprits hit Raw nerves really hard. What more does the “system” under Akufo-Addo need to proceed with the trial and conviction of the perpetrators? No doubts exist. We all saw the video clips of what happened, which explains why we cringe at the foot-dragging.

Obviously, there are very terrible political underpinnings here. That Denkyira-Obuasi area is an NPP stronghold; and those who murdered Major Mahama haven’t hidden their intentions for what they did. The DCE of the area made it all clear. (All talk of an anti-galamsey operation inflames passions all the more).

Akufo-Addo visited the area and announced a scholarship scheme for school-going children there. My heart bleeds. Why is it difficult for him, then, to ensure that the judiciary does its work properly and in a timely manner to serve justice so the relatives of Major Mahama and those of us sympathizing with him and them can have a closure? By speedily taking his wife away on a so-called ambassadorial mission outside Ghana, the Akufo-Addo government has simply stoked the fire, not doused it.

If it had pursued with tenacity this misplaced zeal being used to hound NDC MP’s who doubled as Ministers/Deputy Ministers over this phantom “doubnle salary” mirage, it could have found a decent closure to the murder of J.B. Danquah and Major Mahama to claw back some lost goodwill. Empty talkers, mischief makers of their kind!!

Folks, there is more to say; but let me end it here with a strong warning to Akufo-Addo that history has the tendency to repeat itself. As I have gathered from the celebrated Kenyan scholar (Ngugi wa Thiong’o), history comes twice; first as a tragedy, and second as a farce (but may not have people to laugh when it does strike). Enough for now, even as we reiterate: where is the legal acumen of Akufo-Addo to solve "legal problems" undermining his administration and Ghana's integrity?

I shall return…

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