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Opinions of Friday, 4 July 2008

Columnist: Zaato, Joshua Jebuntie

The Ambrose Dery I Know.

This article is in reaction to an earlier one by one Mr. Francis Dery that sought to tarnish the hard won reputation of an opponent. I seek to correct certain erroneous impressions, halt-truths and in some cases complete fabrications that the author has peddled all with the aim or destroying an opponent.

In a pluralistic political society like ours, it is not only good, but imperative that we agree to disagree. So, I would have personally been very disappointed if everybody accepted and swallowed hook, line and sinker whatever analysis Mr. Pul made in his article. It is also a truism that, much as we will not want to admit it, we all have our biases, which we bring to bear on all that we do. Mr. Pul might have his biases, just as you have yours and I have mine. But, the fact still remains that we can express our biases, skew the discussion and analysis, and present our case in the best possible frame and in our different trajectories without distorting the facts. Therefore, much as I know that you have the right to disagree with Mr. Pul, you also owe it as a duty to your readers to present the facts as accurately as possible. It is only under such circumstances that we can proceed with this discourse in a very enlightened, educative and informed manner. Unfortunately, you chose to let your emotions cloud your judgments. And in the process misrepresented the facts. My duty here is to address certain erroneous impressions you might have caused in the minds of the reading public, especially with regards to the legal practice of Ambrose Dery.

You were right that mostly, people do not necessarily vote for a candidate because of his vice or running mate. Hence, I do not want to add my voice to the cacophony of voices about who is the right vice-presidential candidate or who is not. What I can speak to however, is the professional practice of Ambrose Dery. This is because it does not matter how thick your lenses are, the facts speak for themselves that Ambrose Dery has a pedigree in his legal practice that is outstanding and unquestionable. You may disagree with him politically, but give him his due. My people have a saying that before you kill a fowl, you at least give it some water to drink.

His Legal Practice

It is interesting that you chose to use the Malam Issah case as the yard stick to judge and make your case against Ambrose Dery as if that is the only legal case he has ever handled. But, the facts speak for themselves. I believe that if Malam Issah had a raw deal as you will want us to believe, he would have at least demonstrated it or commented on it in the numerous interviews he granted the media after his release from prison. And if Ambrose Dery forced himself on him as you are alluding to, he would have made that public. I am sure you will be surprised to know that he has never, in any of his pronouncements, made such a claim. If Malam Issah had such feelings about his defense team, he would have at least petitioned the parliamentary vetting committee when Ambrose Dery was being vetted. However, he did none of these things. In fact, he thanked his legal team for a job well done.

But that is not my main argument here. What is of great interest to me is your claim that “Mr. Dery has an excellent reputation for devising out-of-court-settlements, which leave his clients on the losing side or in jail”? Come on!!! Mr. Francis Dery, you can do better than that. A cursory look at some of My Dery’s clients over the past decade proves contrary to your assertions. I believe that Abedi Pele in (Abedi Pele vs. International Commercial Bank) will disagree with you on this. I am also sure that Hon. Edward Salia, former Minister of Transport and Communication under the NDC in (Edward Salia vs. Ghanaian Chronicle) will disagree with you. I also think that Yoni Kulendi (of Kulendi @ Law), Hon Alban Bagbin (Minority Leader in Parliament), and Vice-President Aliu Mahama will all disagree with you. That is because contrary to what you will want us to believe, these clients of Ambrose Dery were NOT LEFT “on the loosing side or in jail”. In fact, they we all left on the wining side when it seems all the odds were against them.

You might also want to consult Hon. Benjamin Kumbuor and Mr. Larry Bimi about their practice in the law firm Bimi, Dery&Co. Despite the fact that they are political rivals now, they will attest to the fact that Ambrose Dery’s legal practice does not leave his clients “on the loosing side or jail”. And if these references are not enough, try contacting Water Aid, IFAD, Action Aid, and the Upper East Regional House of Chiefs. You might want to explain to your readers why such prominent bodies and NGOs will want to retain a lawyer who leaves his clients “on the loosing side or in jail” until he (Ambrose Dery) decided to end his relation with them when he became a Minister of State as the law required. Are you telling us that Water Aid, Action Aid and IFAD could not get a better lawyer in Ghana other than Ambrose Dery if he was actually not performing? Plus, I don’t think that Ambrose Dery was one of the longest sitting presidents of the Upper East branch of the GBA because he leaves his clients “on the loosing side or in jail”. And surely, he could not be the sitting chairman of the Mole Series ( an annual platform of major players including government agencies, INGOs, local NGOs and civil society organizations in the water and sanitation sector) until he resigned when he became a Minister of State because he leaves his clients “on the loosing side or in jail”. That is a tough one to sell, Mr. Francis Dery.

In an answer to your question, “wondering whether he ever won a case in court on the merits of his legal arguments”? My answer is, why not let us ask some of his clients? For instance we could ask Yoni Kulendi, Abedi Pele, Hon. Edward Salia, Hon. Alban Bagbin and Vice-President Aliu Mahama? Or still, we could ask IFAD, Water Aid, Action Aid, and the Mole Series. May be we could refer to the ethics committee of the GBA. Let us find out from these clients and institutions whether throughout his practice any client or even an opponent lawyer has ever questioned his practice or if he has ever been investigated or cautioned in his practice that spans from Bolgatanga to Wa, Tamale, Ho, Kumasi, Accra, Tema, etc in private practice and in New York, Washington DC and London among others on behalf of the Government of Ghana?

As Deputy Attorney General

Mr. Francis Dery, in your rush to crucify Ambrose Dery, you either misrepresented the facts, concocted some or ignored them all together. That does no good to your case nor does it do any good to your readers. A cursory check would have shown that when Ambrose Dery assumed office as the Deputy Attorney General, Nana Akuffo Addo WAS NOT the Attorney General. In fact, Ambrose Dery was appointed after this Tsatsu brouhaha when the A-G Department was in turmoil. It can be argued that the President, in his attempt to stabilize things and provide the A-G’s Department with some fire power and teeth, brought in Papa Owusu Ankoma as the A-G and Ambrose Dery as his deputy. Is it a coincidence that we have not seen any major embarrassment of the government either in court or in the A-G department since? Maybe it is, maybe it is not. Whatever it is, your claim that “when it mattered most to represent the people of Ghana, through its Government, in a case against an individual, with all of the nation’s resources at their disposal, the Ministry of Justice, of which Mr. Dery was a prominent part, failed Ghanaians” comes nowhere near the truth. Ambrose Dery was not a part of the Tsatsu debacle. Hon. Gloria Akuffo was the deputy.

As Upper West Regional Minister

Political appointments in particular and the political process in general is a subjective process. It is steeped in history, social, cultural and economic circumstances and events. Hence, rationality and objectivity are desired and expected, but the reality is mostly different. It is the same with interpreting the achievements of individual politicians and even governments. Therefore, since I am not an authority on the economic, social and political achievements of Ambrose Dery when he was the regional minister, I will not want to comment on that. However, you seem to know so much about developments in the Upper West Region. Don’t you think that you would have done your readers a great deal of service if you provided us with some figures, statistics, or a performance and developmental record of the region before and after Ambrose Dery’s appointment? In that case, we would have been able to compare and contrast his performance and come to a better and more informed conclusion. Since, you claim that he under-performed and under-achieved, the onus of proof is on you. I do not have to prove anything, since I did not allege anything. You alleged, so prove.

I can see that you are very good with statistics. You provided a vivid picture of the ratings of Mr Pul’s article by stating that “a whopping 65.1% were against the article”, and concluded that “this is not only an emphatic rejection of Mr. Pul’s article, but a strong repudiation of Mr. Dery’s pretensions for running-mate status”. Why don’t you provide similar figures and statistics to back your case of non-performance against Mr. Dery? Is it because the figures and statistics will prove other wise? Are you afraid that a comparative analysis of his achievements as a Regional Minister will collapse your case against him?

Ambrose Dery as a PNC Man

You did also claim that Mr. Dery was originally a PNC man. In fact you stated categorically that “the records do show that Mr. Dery was originally a PNC man”. Mr. Francis Dery, I challenge you to provide this record. I challenge you prove to your readers with documentary evidence that Mr. Dery was a PNC man. Provide any document, either a PNC Membership Card or form that shows that yes, Mr. Dery was a PNC man. I can say with all authority that no such document exists. But, once again, since I did not allege, I do not have to prove. But, if it comes down to the wire, I will. Like most Northerners, Mr. Dery adored Dr. Hilla Limann. He literally worshiped the man. He believed in his philosophy and his dreams for Ghana. I can also state that he contributed money to the course of the PNC. Maybe, even led some of their efforts especially in Bolgatanga. And on occasions, was prevailed upon by certain huge personalities in the PNC to even lead the party. Once again, I can prove this. But he declined. My main question, however, is: does deep association with the PNC, or for that mater, a political party make one a member of that party? In other words, does association with a party without being a REGISTERED AND CARD BEARING MEMBER, translate into membership of that party? If yes, then Ambrose Dery was an original member of the PNC. But, if you answer in the negative, then he was not. Let me elucidate on my logic with some examples.

1. President Kufuor served as a PNDC cabinet member under Rawlings. Is he, or was he an original member of the PNDC? 2. Dr. Paa Kwesi Nduom served in President Kufuor’s Cabinet in a number of positions. Does that make him a former or an original NPP member? 3. Professor Kassim K., a stalwart in the PNC was a member of president Kufuor’s cabinet. Is he, or was he an original NPP member?

What do these personalities have in common with Ambrose Dery? They all worked with political parties or regimes, but had their loyalties somewhere else. In the case of Dr. Nduom and Prof. Kassim K., working with and defending NPP policies did not make them original NPP members. If this distinction can be drawn between the association and membership of these personalities with other parties other than their original parties, why can’t and shouldn’t the same be done for and in the case of Ambrose Dery?

I define a member of a party as some one who is a registered and a card bearing member of that party. And since Ambrose Dery has never been a card bearing member of the PNC, it will be erroneous to refer to him as an original member of the party. This issue came up in his vetting and he nailed it. But, it just wouldn’t go away, not with you around, Mr. Francis Dery. In his entire adult life, Ambrose Dery has held membership and has been a card bearing member of only one political party. And that is the NPP.

Ambrose Dery can be accurately and correctly described as a former sympathizer of the PNC. He could even be described as a former supporter. But, he was surely not a card bearing member of the PNC. That is the fact.

Some concluding thoughts

The choice of running mate is completely that of the flag bearer, in this case, Nana Akuffo-Addo to make. Until he does that, Ambrose Dery, like any other Ghanaian and NPP member, has a right to aspire to be a running mate. He also has a right to even lobby for it. And if there are people out there who believe in him and want to use mediums like this to make their case, it is perfectly legitimate. Disagree with his political achievements and performance. But, his legal practice speaks volumes. He has fought numerous legal battles, has won numerous cases from the tribunals up to the Supreme Court, has chambers in about 5 of the 10 regional capitals in Ghana and has handle some of the most high profile cases in our Nation’s recent history.

Disagree with him, but give him his due. The principle of natural justice, the concept of fairness, and the dictates of an informed political discourse demands it. And you owe it to your readers.

Thank you,

Joshua Jebuntie, Zaato

Ottawa, Canada.

jzaat040@uottawa.ca