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FLASHBACK: How the venerable Dr. Bawumia displayed brilliance, wit and honesty to make a compelling case for 2012 petitioners as star witness

Bawumia.png Vice President, Dr Mahamudu Bawumia

Fri, 12 Feb 2021 Source: By Tamimu Issah

Do you remember "you and I were not there?" and "Dr Pink Sheets"?

These were the most popular catchphrase of the gruelling 2012 Elections Petition. if you don't remember, you probably did not follow proceedings of arguably one of the most engrossing elections petition on the African continent at the Supreme Court of Ghana.

During and at the end of the petition, "you and I were not there" and "Dr Pink Sheets" became synonymous with one name; Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, a co-petitioner and a star witness of the petitioners, which included Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, and Jake Obetsebi Lamptey.

AN UNLIKELY WITNESS

When it emerged that Vice President Bawumia would be the star witness of the petitioners, tongues were set wagging. Many were those who doubted the banker-turned politician's ability to withstand what was anticipated to be a rigorous cross-examination in open court by some of the nation's finest legal brains.

Indeed, there were two groups of people who had their own concerns; the critics/naysayers and concerned loved ones.

To the critics and naysayers, who had even doubted his suitability as a running mate to Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, he was, according to their preconceived notion, a wrong choice for such a critical assignment, which required someone with some considerable electoral and legal experience.

And to others, who genuinely cared, appearing in the Supreme Court box as the star witness of the petitioners, was a slippery political path for Dr. Bawumia, which in their considered opinion, could end up disintegrating his political future to an irreparable degree.

But against all odds, Dr. Bawumia became the star witness, mounted the witness box and the rest is a remarkable piece of history.

A DAZZLING PERFORMANCE UNDER MARAUDING CROSS EXAMINATION

Without doubt, the cross-examination of Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia by Lawyers Tsatsu Tsikata and Tony Luthur, must be among the fiercest cross-examinations in our judicial history.

With the Presidency of John Dramani Mahama hanging by a thread, and with Dr Bawumia determined to prove the NPP's allegations of electoral malpractices, including over-voting, voting without biometric verification and non-authentication of pink sheets by Presiding Officers, the President's lawyers, were always going to be at their ruthless best during cross-examination. Indeed, and predictably, they were. They subjected Bawumia to prolong and intense cross-examination, which led to several tempestuous exchanges, often emanating from the lawyers, who were bent on getting Dr Bawumia to contradict and implicate his evidence in order to ruin the petitioners' case.

But as it played out in court eight years ago, the more probing and relentless Tsatsu Tsikata and the respondents' lawyers got, the greater wit and cleverness Bawumia displayed.

For instance, "You and I were not there," was a potent phrase Dr Bawumia adopted to effectively rebuff the relentless Tsikata during cross-examination. Lawyer Tsikata was often visibly chagrined anytime Bawumia offered this simple response to his probings.

But how did a banker manage to excel in unfamiliar territory as the courtroom?

The answer is simple! The NPP had a very strong case! And Dr Bawumia did not appear as a clueless witness to defend the indefensible.

Throughout his cross-examination, Dr Bawumia clearly appeared as a man who was deeply involved in the electoral process, understood the electoral laws and thus, understood the NPP's case. In fact, any objective observer of the 2012 elections petition would fairly conclude that Dr Bawumia was a witness who really understood the NPP's pleadings.

He spoke authoritatively to data he was armed with, and in areas he had no information, he was honest to admit, instead of trying to force third party information through as we have seen in the 2020 election petition.

The NPP had thousands of pink sheets as evidence and Dr Bawumia precisely knew which pink sheet to rely on to advance any of the three main issues underdetermination by the court.

AN INDELIBLE PLACE IN NPP FOLKLORE

By daring whatever objection, concerns and consequences thereof to mount the witness box as the star witness, Dr Bawumia demonstrated incredible loyalty to his party by putting his reputation on the line to vigorously defend the NPP's case at the Supreme Court.

Some of the concerns raised, especially the potential of soiling his hard-won image and ruining his young political career was real. Truly, that would have been the case with a little slip up in the witness box.

In the end, even though the Supreme Court narrowly ruled in favour of then-President Mahama and the NDC by a close 5:4 verdict, Dr. Bawumia's bravery, wisdom, wit and honesty were widely acknowledged and appreciated.

He made the NPP fraternity extremely proud because of his brilliant performance under cross-examination, especially by the respected Tsatsu Tsikata, changed many minds who had earlier written off the NPP as having no case.

And the fact that 4 out of the 5 judges sided with the NPP in the final verdict, clearly demonstrated the NPP had a solid case, as well as a brilliant, fearless and a credible witness in Dr Mahamudu Bawumia.

If one makes a comparison of how some witnesses at the ongoing 2020 elections petition have fumbled and struggled to make consistent presentations in just a day in the witness box, one can only look back eight years ago and appreciate Dr Bawumia's brilliance and tenacity for excelling during nearly 8 months of gruelling cross-examination.

Unlike the 2012 Petition, where the 1st respondent, the EC, was compelled by the incriminating delivery of Bawumia to send a witness into the box, the EC, during the on-going 2020 proceedings, has boldly declined to invite a witness, arguing that the Supreme Court can go ahead and make a judgement.

Many have interpreted the EC's audacious move as an indictment on the delivery of the witnesses of the 2020 petitioner. The first respondent in the 2012 Petition could not have been this audacious after Bawumia's delivery because such a move would have been dealt a catastrophic blow to their defence.

Without doubt, by that remarkable performance in 2013, Dr Bawumia carried the NPP on his back and cemented his place in the party's great history book.

What he did remains an indelible act of loyalty and sacrifice, which I believe many NPP faithful will never forget.

Events at the on-going 2020 Election Petition hearing have proved that in Dr Bawumia, the NPP had a formidable witness, who made a compelling case in the witness box and won the hearts of many.

More importantly, his evidence, coupled with the remarkable efforts of NPP's legal team, convinced four Justices of the Supreme Court in the landmark case

Columnist: By Tamimu Issah