By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.
I just finished reading Dr. Agyenim-Boateng’s apercu of the just-delivered Supreme Court decision on the 2012 presidential election; and for the most part, I agree with his observations, suggestions and conclusions (See “Blame Chief Justice Theodora Wood” Ghanaweb.com 9/11/13). What I believe his article woefully lacks is a contexually critical historical appreciation and a comprehensive overview of Ghana’s judicial system in the post-independence era. In other words, the former Deputy Attorney-General of the U.S. State of Kentucky would have served his readers much better, particularly those who are too young to remember or untutored in the checkered and turbulent political history of the country’s judicial system since 1957, if he had also taken a critical account of why the country finds itself in such amateurish delivery of judicial justice.
You see, what I am driving at here is that one cannot expect an efficiently run judicial system within the perennially pathological context of both civic and military dictatorships, with only a smattering of woefully shortlived liberal-democratic reprieves such as were witnessed under Drs. Kofi Abrefa Busia and Hilla Limann. And during the last twenty years that the country has undergone a remarkable semblance of constitutional governance, except for the J. A. Kufuor-led New Patriotic Party government (2000-2008), not much that is remarkably progressive has transpired on the Ghanaian political landscape, the propagandistically stentorian rhetoric of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) notwithstanding.
In the area of healthcare and the country’s economy, in general, the Kufuor administration notched remarkable gains. However, when it comes to electoral reforms, the same administration was dispiritingly AWOL. This latter dismal state of affairs appears to clearly verge on an embarrassingly palpable level of parochial self-centeredness on the part of the major players of the New Patriotic Party government.
For example, there is credible evidence that some key players among the top-echelons of the “revolution”-oriented National Democratic Congress (NDC) attempted to abort the sovereign mandate of the Ghanaian electorate in 2000, but for the timely intervention of the then-Deputy British High Commissioner to Ghana. And yet, a curiously complacent President John Agyekum-Kufuor appears to have been too engrossed with his hardwon new status as a political legend, and a hero in the pantheon of Ghanaian premiers, to be even half-concerned with radical and far-reaching reforms.
A widely reportedly threatened Dr. Kwadwo Afari-Gyan (his family had reportedly been held hostage at gunpoint during the peak period of Election 2000) had, somehow, quickly overcome his sense of personal insecurity as to readily chuck his sense of decency and dignity to the wind, as it were. Needless to say, had he been possessed of any remarkable sense of dutifulness and/or patriotism, the former University of Ghana political scientist would have promptly resigned is post, thereby making it ineluctably imperative for the then-President-Elect Kufuor to establish a blue-ribbon investigative panel into the Election 2000 abortive coup detat.
The question of whether Chief Justice Georgina T. Wood ought to have presided over the 2012 presidential election petition is pellucidly a toss-up. There were clear conflicts-of-interest cases regarding some of the judges seated on the Atuguba-presided Supreme Court panel which time does not permit me to delve into presently; for instance, and as widely and publicly decried, Justice William Atuguba ought not to have been afforded a seat among the panel of nine jurists that heard the Akufo-Addo/New Patriotic Party presidential petition, let alone be appointed president of the same.
On the latter score, though, I am far less concerned about the irredeemably embarrassing and amateurish conduct of Justice Atuguba than the fact that experienced and knowledgeable lawyers like Dr. Agyenim-Boateng do not appear to have personally reached out to Chief Justice Wood at the beginning of the jurist-selection process, when their expertise mattered most and could have guaranteed the delivery of a sounder and more intellectually and morally professional verdict in the end.
As it stands, Dr. Agyenim-Boateng’s post-verdict harangue reeks of what is called “Monday-Morning Quarter-Backing” in American-Football parlance. It almost comes as too little and too late. And, then, as of whether the combined volume of the written opinions of the nine Supreme Court judges who heard the 2012 presidential election petition totalled a humongous 855 pages, while clearly qualitatively comical, is decidedly beside the point. What makes the entire volume of written opinions reek of the abjectly absurd, and even preposterous, is the fact that they have been clinically determined by legal experts like Dr. Agyenim-Boateng to be patently pedestrian.
In other words, the quality of the opinions delivered by the Atuguba-presided court do not remarkably add to the enhancement of Ghanaian jurisprudence. And the Ghanaian parliament which the author-critic of the article captioned “Blame Chief Justice Theodora Wood” would have initiate radical electoral reforms is decidedly as good as nonexistent. That it took the curious initiative of the late President John Evans Atta-Mills to undertake a Constitutional Review exercise, ought to have clearly informed even an advisably wistful and skeptical Dr. Agyenim-Boateng that he is asking for the bizarrely surreal and purely magical. A rater tall order, as Americans are wont to say.
Ultimately, my call here is to invite a bevy of crackerjack jurists from the Commonwealth, as well as some progressive legal lights from the United States, under a contract spanning at least one year to thoroughly and radically reconfigure and redesign both the way that elections are conducted and electoral disputes are adjudicated in Ghana. You know several years ago, a white-American colleague of mine suggested in a conversation with me that the seemingly intractable sociopolitical, cultural and economic problems plaguing the African continent were squarely due to the fact of the hurried and premature departure of our colonial masters. I never spoke to my colleague again. Indeed, as I read Dr. Agyenim-Boateng’s article, I came to the morally sobering conclusion that, perhaps, I needed to look for my colleague and unreservedly and profusely apologize to him for bluntly and honestly telling it like it is, as it were. The truth often hurts, doesn’t it?
*Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.
Department of English
Nassau Community College of SUNY
Garden City, New York