Prof. Asare harms Akufo-Addo all the more (Part I)

By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor

Thursday, Oct. 6, 2016

Folks, the US-based Ghanaian academic, Stephen Kwaku Asare, has written an opinion piece that cried loud that Akufo-Addo has no law degree. He went on to explain why, framing his thoughts in a historical context to create the impression that it is nothing strange if Akufo-Addo has no law degree because records show that other prominent Ghanaian lawyers didn’t attend degree-awarding institutions but became notable giants in the legal field once they went through established mechanisms of apprenticeship.

I am more than excited to take him on and will do so to prove to him that he has done more harm to Akufo-Addo than imagined, especially at this time in the electioneering campaign process toward Election 2016. He has brought Akufo-Addo back into the spotlight on account of his shadiness, and we will poke his underbelly as such. The controversy surrounding Akufo-Addo’s professional status as a lawyer has nothing to do with a “law degree” but with “a law qualifying certificate” which he himself drew attention to when he said in official documents presented to the General Legal Council before his being Nicodemously enrolled into the Ghana Bar on that Saturday in 1975 that he had lost.

Here is a caveat, though. I don’t know whether Prof. Asare wrote that opinion piece with Akufo-Addo’s blessing or whether he simply thought he had knowledge about Akufo-Addo’s background and could throw it into public discourse to douse the fire burning him on his credibility all this while. If Akufo-Addo knew of what Prof. Asare wanted to do and gave him the go-ahead, then, there is more trouble for him because the opinions bandied about by Prof. Asare raise more questions than answers to deepen his (Akufo-Addo’s) credibility woes. If he didn’t know about it, then, we can say that as an NPP buff, Prof. Asare has chosen to do a yeoman’s job that harms Akufo-Addo’s image more than repairs it. We take issues with his submission on that score.

His walk down the memory lane raised interesting issues, especially regarding the establishment of the Ghana School of Law purposely to train non-degree civil servants to become lawyers. His explanation regarding the “setting up the Faculty of Law at Legon, leading to the current bifurcated legal education system, which includes the academic component at a University followed by a professional component at Makola (Ghana School of Law) or an equivalent professional school” is interesting.

Also enlightening is Prof. Asare’s explanation that “every student who enrolls in a law faculty in Ghana is deemed to have enrolled in a joint academic/professional program that starts at the University and ends at the Ghana School of Law. The only constraint is to get the LLB degree, pass 7 courses and be of good character!… Of course, even today, the law degree is not the only path to becoming a lawyer in Ghana and students with other degrees can access the professional qualification by taking various entrance exams. Similarly, the post call program continues to allow lawyers from other jurisdictions, with a legal system analogous to ours, to be called to the Bar although these days they have to pay thousands of dollars and pass exams in constitutional law and customary law.”

Join me to thank him for brilliantly clarifying issues up to this point. Beyond that point, though, his brilliance flops in the face of reality. I want to tear up these opinions within the context of Akufo-Addo’s peculiar standing vis-à-vis the main props of Prof. Asare’s arguments. I boldly dismiss outright his submission about happenings in the Gold Coast which he set up as a smokescreen to deflect attention from Akufo-Addo’s peculiar controversy. The truth is that Akufo-Addo didn’t step out to become a lawyer in the colonial era. Whatever happened then had nothing to do with him in 1971 up to 1975 when he found himself robed as a lawyer without leaving behind him any trace of his complete legal professional training and certification.

We have a lot to tackle and will begin with Prof. Asare’s premise regarding his fallacious take on “law degree”. Indeed, the mystery about Akufo-Addo’s professional standing that Prof. Asare has attempted unraveling has nothing to do with a “law degree”. The foundational issue at stake is not a “law degree” but a “law qualifying certificate” that an accredited institution is required to give its trainees at the end of their mandatory training period if they fulfill the requirements. The line of separation is clear and must be seen as such, implying that any attempt to shift emphasis is purely diversionary and inadmissible. It thickens doubts instead.

We note that no matter what Akufo-Addo might have gone through in his so-called training at the Inns Court of the Middle Temple, there was a mechanism for measuring success or failure at the end of the training session that the institution would apply to him and other candidates. In fact, the regimen established by the Middle Temple involved course work in the first two years of enrollment and a pupillage component (apprenticeship or internship) with a reputable and recognized legal firm in Britain.

Only when a trainee successfully went through the entire process and provided documentary evidence of the pupillage would he/she be deemed as having completed professional training under the auspices of the Middle Temple to qualify for certification. Pupillage in the period that Akufo-Addo entered the Middle Temple was non-negotiable. He didn’t do it. How could he, then, qualify for certification as a product of the Middle Temple? If he now claims to have done pupillage, let him tell us where and with whom he did it. Simplicita!!

Prof. Asare also made a blanket statement that “there are no universally accepted routes to becoming a lawyer” and then went on to modify the original question asked him on Akufo-Addo’s status to say that it should include “the jurisdiction (which country?) and period (what year?)”. Really funny, especially when he relied so much on the regimen in the United States system and that of Britain to cite instances that have nothing to do with what pertained in Ghana at the time that Akufo-Addo claimed to have been trained and certified to practise law in Ghana!!

The nub of Prof. Asare’s opinion piece that really irks me is located here: “Similarly, Nana Akuffo Addo, who has a degree in Economics, trained at the Middle Temple Inn, qualified as a lawyer in UK in 1971 and enrolled at the Ghana Bar in 1975 (see link below for lawyers enrolled in 1975)… Incidentally, other famous lawyers, such as Justice Marshall of USA, did not have law degrees and qualified under the same apprenticeship model, which the English exported to USA.”

Why this sudden flight into mischief? How could Akufo-Addo have “trained at the Middle Temple Inn” and “qualified as a lawyer in UK in 1971” when he was actually enrolled into that institution in 1971—that very year? The training at Middle Temple doesn’t start and end in the year of admission!! Is anybody thinking right now?

Of course, Akufo-Addo wasn’t going to practise law in Britain or the United States. So, what was the situation like in Ghana at the time (1975) that he returned to be called to the Ghana Bar under questionable circumstances? Why bring in examples from the US system to throw dust into the eyes of the people? Any talk of Akufo-Addo’s being called to the English Bar is malarkey. Where is the evidence (date and venue)? There are many missing links to alert us to what lies ahead; and we will wait for it. Once we have the ammunition, we fear no foe!!

Let’s see why. There is no doubt that Akufo-Addo entered the Middle Temple in 1969, even if how he managed to do so raises eyebrows because one of the major policies of Middle Temple was (and still is) not to admit students falling below Second Upper at the first degree level. We know that Akufo-Addo had a Third Class in B.Sc. Economics at Legon in 1967. How could he, then, have qualified for admission to the Middle Temple? Someone has already said that because his father was a product of that institution and was in good standing in the affairs of Ghana, some “protocol” allowance was made for his son. Hmmmmmmmmmmm!!

Even then, evidence provided by Akufo-Addo himself in response to Justice Kpegah’s suit opened a huge can of worms. The extract from records on his admission (attached herewith) says it all. Let everyone read that document to see things for himself/herself. The document states that he was enrolled with a “BA of Ghana University” and not the B.Sc.in Economics that he has boldly stated on his presidential nomination forms for elections 2008. 2012, 2016!! I am really not sure of what to make of this Akufo-Addo anymore, folks!!

I shall return…

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