By Kofi Hene
To say the nine justices of the Supreme Court of Ghana empanelled to hear the 2012 Presidential Election Petition are set to render the most consequential decision in Ghana’s political history and jurisprudence, is an understatement. The Court’s decision will have political ramifications and test the temperament of Ghanaians because there will be winners and losers. How the losers in particular accept defeat and deal with their disappointment will, to a large extent, depend on the rationale behind the Court’s ruling. In other words, it is not just what the nine justices say but, more importantly and critically, the reasoning behind what they say: the Justices must convey their verdict such that ordinary Ghanaians would understand it.
By allowing Ghanaians unprecedented access into its chambers, the Supreme Court exposed its deliberations to the court of public opinion. As expected, public opinion is sharply divided along political lines with each side believing that their side has made a compelling case to sway the justices for a favorable disposition. With the stakes so high, the Court’s opinion cannot – and should not – be a take-it-or-leave-it decision. Only an impartial, and well-reasoned verdict would prevent the nation, gripped by palpable tension as it awaits the verdict, from bursting into chaos and instability.
In keeping with the transparency demonstrated by the Court in this landmark case, the Court should publish both the majority and dissenting opinions. Publishing its decision will preserve the integrity of the court, and give Ghanaians the opportunity to read the decision themselves, which will prevent conspiracy theories and false accusations.
The Court has enhanced its reputation because of how it handled certain politicians who made disparaging remarks against the bench. By imposing fines and prison terms to certain politicians for contempt of court, the Court demonstrated that it would not be cowed by politicians who have been taking Ghanaians for a ride. Furthermore, the Court sent a clear message to politicians that it would not stand aloof to allow politicians to plunge the country into chaos for their own selfish interest; and that the Court was willing and ready – when presented with the opportunity – to use its constitutional authority to protect the interest of the nation. As Justice Williams Atuguba, president of the nine-member panel noted, “We have the mandate here and if we don’t exercise our mandate properly we will not be doing our work well. We will be letting the state down.” The Supreme Court is cloaked in immense powers and this panel, through its handling of the Election Petition proceedings, has gained moral authority and credibility from the public and must not abuse the confidence Ghanaians have placed in it. The Court should seize the moment in announcing its verdict to remind Ghanaians that any individual who, for his or her own selfish interest, is found inciting actions that would potentially breach the peace in the country would be held accountable. Ghanaians took notice when certain politicians were reminded they were mortals, and made aware that the interest of the country supersedes their selfish interests.
The fate of Ghana is in the hands of these nine Justices and they have the constitutional mandate and moral obligation to discharge such a monumental task without fear or favor. We hope that they will be guided by their moral convictions and the confidence Ghanaians have placed in them to render a sound verdict.
God bless our homeland Ghana and keep the Black Star shining.