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Opinions of Monday, 25 May 2015

Columnist: Sarfo, Samuel Adjei

Why Afoko and Agyepong Should Resign

By Dr. Samuel Adjei Sarfo

Attorney and Counselor at Law

Many laymen see the workings of the law in terms of strict construction or interpretation of what is written in the statutes. To such people, the letter of the law is all that matters, and nobody has the right to go beyond written laws to make judgments and decisions outside of their scope. But long before laws developed to where we are today, Anglo-Saxon jurisprudence took account of the inherent injustice within the facial interpretation of the laws, and made an allowance for what then became known as the rules of equity. The system went to the extent of establishing a separate chamber, known as the Court of Equity, headed by the Lord Chancellor, to cater for the instance where strict adherence to the law resulted in injustice. In such a context, the chamber applied views beyond written laws to administer justice and fairness for all. In today’s jurisprudence, both the law and equity converge to deliver justice, and there exists no separation between the two. Thus where the law is found to be inadequate in delivering justice, recourse will automatically be made to equity to make up for any deficiencies in the law.

What is the purpose of the foregoing paragraph? And how does it relate to the circumstances of Chairman Afoko and General Secretary Kwabena Agyepong in the face of the tragic death of the Upper-East Regional Chairman? It simply means that by law, they rightly occupy their positions. They are elected officials for a time who have all the constitutional right to hold on to their offices for a tenure. So in strictly legal terms, nobody can fire them except by application of the constitutional process of impeachment: something that will take a long time to accomplish and create more divisions within the NPP. And indeed in any seriously legal sense, it will be wrong to impute any wrong-doing on their part that will validate any impeachment process to remove the two from office. Afoko and Agyepong’s decision not to endorse the steering committee meeting organized by the Vice Chairman has no legal amity to the unfortunate murder of Mr. Adams Mahama, despite that it might have caused the wrangling in the party that led to their being manhandled on their visit to the Upper East Region, which in turn led to acid being poured on Mahama and which led to his death. This is because causality in law is inextricably linked to foreseeability, and as long as it is not foreseeable that a remote occurrence such as a misunderstanding concerning a meeting could cause a huge outcome such as murder, the two cannot be held culpable.

A lot have been said about Chairman Afoko’s culpability because of the probable involvement of his brother George Afoko who has been arrested for the offense. And here is where the reasonable person’s standard could be applied to examine such a claim. Can we sincerely say that Mr. Afoko, a man of standard reasonableness, will instruct his brother to go and kill Mr. Adams Mahama? For exactly what benefit to him? Such an act which will amount to political suicide will never be pursued by Mr. Afoko. Thus we can conclude that the very act is patently against his own self-interest. And in the rules of evidence, any act against self-interest constitutes part of the defenses of a defendant. Thus, it is not conceivable to even reason that Chairman Afoko has anything to do with the death of Mr. Adams Mahama even if his brother indeed thought that he was acting in his behalf. Thus viewed from a purely legal standpoint, Mr. Afoko cannot and will not be held culpable for the murder of Mr. Adams Mahama. That is why any legal argument made on that basis to compel him to resign must fail.

But then, here comes the dreaded “however”!

However, where it becomes virtually impossible that an elected official will be able to perform his job functions, it stands to reason that he should resign. And here, the modal auxiliary “should” is intentionally used for its advisory connotation rather than “shall” or “must” which denotes compulsion. Mr. Afoko, and indeed Kwabena Agyepong, can take a broad look at what is now happening within the NPP and decide that their continued stay in office will bring nothing to them but danger and failure of the party they now lead. And if they see that the trajectory of their leadership invariably leads to the bottomless pit, they should honorably resign to save themselves and the party from further harm.

For recent developments which culminated in the murder of Mr. Adams Mahama, inasmuch as they do not implicate the two in murder, do throw doubt on their own ability to work with all segments of the party as one team. Remember that a simple steering committee meeting made waves in the news because it was boycotted by Kwabena Agepong and disapproved by Mr. Afoko. This alone was sufficient evidence of lack of cohesion and team work, if not an actual sign of unnecessary bickering, ill-will, intense pettiness, and lack of vision and innovation. And this incident was just one in a long line of others perpetrated within the party to impede its proper operations. Thus although Mr. Afoko and Mr. Kwabena Agyepong could not have foreseen that their actions would lead to the murder of Mr. Adams Mahama, it is obvious that they have intentionally or unintentionally arrived at a place where the two can no longer function in their elective office.

They cannot sit in their offices at the NPP headquarters without danger to themselves. They cannot visit the regions and constituencies without attracting danger to themselves and others. They cannot issue directives without being opposed by angry and aggrieved members. They cannot appear in the public forum without being pooh-poohed. And they cannot speak at campaigns without creating tension and undue resentment. All these are distractions that will not advance the goals and objectives of their office, and will lead to the situation of continued in-fighting that will doom the prospects of the party in the coming elections.

That the two have failed to work with others to advance the cause of the party is tragic enough, and might well constitute sufficient grounds for them to resign. But where their inefficiency and lack of innovation has unexpectedly led to the death of a staunch member, and where that death makes it impossible for them to function or to embark on any fruitful activities to enhance the chances of the NPP, the time has come for them to resign, if only to save their honor and the fate of the party they love.

I repeat that by law, they cannot be removed from office without the long and arduous process of impeachment, something that will cause further furor and divisions within the party. And it is doubtful that as of now, there is any constitutional grounds for any articles of impeachment to be brought against the two. But by the balance of the equities, the two are better off resigning voluntarily, since their continued stay in office flies in the face of fairness to themselves and to the NPP. Their positions are no longer tenable since they are already crippled in any official functions they can conceivably perform. And the work of all those who love the NPP will be to persuade the two to resign in dignity and respect and honor, but not by threats or compulsion.

Samuel Adjei Sarfo, J.D., is a practicing attorney in Austin, Texas, USA. He writes the weekly New Statesman column “Thoughts of a Native Son”. You can email him at