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Opinions of Friday, 9 August 2013

Columnist: Ata, Kofi

Will Nana Akufo-Addo be Crowned King on August 29?

By Kofi Ata, Cambridge, UK

August 7, 2013

“There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don't know we don't know”. Who can forget this famous or infamous quote by the then US Secretary of Defence, Mr Donald Rumsfeld at a press conference on February 2002 to explain the link or lack of between Sadam Hussein and weapons of mass destruction, which was the basis of the Iraqi invasion.

Perhaps, the above quote best describes the current situation in Ghana regarding the December 2012 presidential election, the declaration and the petition challenging the declaration of President Mahama the winner by the EC. After over forty days of evidence gathering during the hearing, the submission of written addresses and 30 minutes of oral addresses to the Supreme Court, Ghanaians are no near finding a lasting solution to this case. No one is certain, and I believe even amongst the individual Justices how they will vote at the time of the oral submissions.

Among the “known knows” are that, the election was on December 7 and 8, 2012 and the Chairman of the EC as the Returning Officer, declared the presidential candidate of NDC, the winner on December 9, 2012. NPP protested and subsequently lodged a petition to challenge the declaration at the SC. Despite, this uncertainty due to the petition, the President elect was sworn into office on 9 January 2013 as required by the Constitution, etc

The “known unknowns” among others include the fact that, had it not been this petition, most Ghanaians would not have known that, the 2012 presidential election or perhaps the general elections were supervised by polling station officers who could not record information and data accurately. We now know that a document used for capturing what happened at each polling station is called pink sheet. It is also now known that many polling station officers failed to sign some of the pink sheets as well some party agents. As a result, there were potential statutory irregularities, malpractices, omissions and violations. We also now know that, the Justices will give their decision on or by August 29, 2013, etc.

The “unknown unknowns” include, whether the known unknowns as above affected the final outcome of the presidential election as declared by the Returning Officer on December 9, 2013. How the nine SC Justices consider the totality of the evidence, the law, the submissions by all the parties and the various authorities cited by them in order to come to their individual and collective decisions on that historic day of August 29, 2013?, etc.

I suspect, the big question on every Ghanaian’s mind and lips is, will Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo be declared President of Ghana? In other words, will Mahama’ presidency be short lived and consigned into the dust bin of history as the shortest ever elected president (less than nine months or a little over one year, if the unexpired term of the late Atta-Mills is included)? Your guess is as good as mine. These still remain the only unknown unknowns.

Prior to the 2012 presidential election and just over a year ago, I made a number of predictions in my article entitled “Will President Mahama Seek a Second Term” (Ghanaweb, August 4, 2012), including the fact that, if he won the then pending presidential election and subsequently won a second term he would be the longest ever president of Ghana. On the other hand, if he lost the election, he would become the shortest constitutional president to rule Ghana. The latter of the two predictions could still come true on or by August 29 whilst the potential for the realisation of the former could come closer on the same day.

Whatever the decision on that historic day, there will be a political obituary for one of the two fine gentlemen and political giants in today’s Ghanaian politics. Even a re-run decision would only postpone but not eradicate that eventuality because after the re-run the loser’s political career will come to end. Who will wear the King’s Crown of Ghanaian politics on or by August 29?

A diversion but a matter of interest on some observations on the oral addresses. In fact, that was the only day I managed to watch the whole proceedings live on the GBC website. I was of the view that, it was unfair on the petitioners’ lead counsel to deliver his oral address within the same thirty minutes as the three respondents. Why do I say so? For the simple fact that, whilst each of the three lead counsels had the task of responding to issues only raised in the petitioners’ lead counsel’s written submission that they had not addressed in theirs, Mr Addison had the onerous task of responding to matters raised in three individual written submissions. So in fairness, he should have been given at least, thirty-five minutes. No doubt, he could not finish his oral address within the thirty minutes.

Having made this observation, I must also point out that, I felt lead counsel for the third respondent, Mr Tsatsu Tsikata set a trap for Mr Addison by providing detailed figures and reopening the can of worms on the number of pink sheets submitted by the petitioners. He coerced or compelled Mr Addison to spend quite a bit of his allocated thirty minutes to also provide detailed figures to challenge Tsatsu’s claims. I am not sure if that was deliberate ploy on the part of Mr Tsikata and if so, did Mr Addison not foresee the trap?

Another interesting observation was the attempt by lead counsel for the first respondent, Mr Tony Lithur to further develop the 1992 Ghanaian Constitution into the natural realm of rights. According to him, the right to vote in Article 42 is “a God given right”. That is absolutely false. In fact and in reality, there are few natural or God given rights such as the right to life. The right to vote is a positive one that has been developed over time through constitutions and a fundamental human right in democratic societies. It is not God given.

Finally, it was worth noting that Mr Addison also introduced a totally new matter into the case. He averred that because the total number of votes secured by NPP MPs throughout the country was higher than that of NDC MPs, it must follow that the NPP presidential candidate should have won the presidency. This assertion was a shock to me because this matter was not pleaded by the petitioners and did not come up throughout the hearing. Indeed, that is neither here nor there, it is illogical and a fallacy.

It is a fact that NPP MPs won in their strongholds and in most urban centres where population density and the total number of registered voters are higher. Again, voter turnout tends to be relatively higher in NPP’s strongholds. Though Mr Addison does not believe in what is known in Ghana as “skirt and blouse”, that is a reality in every election. That type of voting pattern is most likely to be adopted by independent voters who are over-represented in urban and densely populated areas. For these reasons, there is no basis whatsoever for Mr Addison to have made this analogy and draw inference that NPP’s presidential candidate should have won automatically.

In fact, the reality is that the total number of MPs of the two parties in parliament is an obstacle against Nana Akufo-Addo’s ambition to secure the presidency because even if he is declared the president on or by August 29, he could not govern as a minority government unless he gives concessions to the majority in the house, which is the NDC. Otherwise, his government will collapse and there could fresh elections. I am not sure if NDC MPs would cooperate with his minority government in view of NPP MPs boycotting the vetting of President Mahama’s ministerial nominees. I am also not sure if he could declare a state of emergency and rule by emergency powers. The argument over the number of MPs won by the two parties at the 2012 parliamentary elections is stacked against an Akufo-Addo presidency, neither could it justify his automatic victory or potential rigging as was being implied by Mr Addison.

Hopefully, this episode in the Fourth Republic will soon come to an end and Ghanaians will get the answers to even the “unknown unknowns”. So come August 29, 2013 Ghana and the world will know the true, rightful and legally elected president of Ghana. I cannot wait for this day.

Kofi Ata, Cambridge, UK