By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.
I do not seek, in any way whatsoever, to excuse the rhetorically abject misbehavior of some media operatives and political activists who have in recent weeks become prime grist for punitive sanctions by the Atuguba-presided Supreme Court panel hearing the Akufo-Addo/New Patriotic Party (NPP) Election 2012 Presidential Petition. But it clearly appears that those in staunch support of the dictatorial powers assumed by the Supreme Court, vis-a-vis the definition and degree of accepatable public speech, are flagrantly ignoring the fact that the current crisis surrounding free speech, as it were, was indisputably induced by the culture of crass disrespect for authority impudently championed by the Rawlings-led regimes of the so-called Provisional National Defense Council (PNDC) and the National Democratic Congress (NDC).
In the main, it was the dastardly decision of Messrs. Rawlings and Kojo Tsikata (actually the two most notorious Tsikata cousins), culminating in the brutal abduction and summary execution of the three Accra High Court justices - they had routinely presided over cases with superior adjudicative powers - that caused a virtually irreparable denudation of the sort of dignity casually associated with the institution of the highest court of the land.
Indeed, as recently as 2008, Mr. Rawlings, then campaigning for the now-deceased President John Evans Atta-Mills, then a third-time presidential candidate of the National Democratic Congress, repeatedly and scornfully referred to Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, the presidential candidate of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), as "That Dwarf," to the convulsive delight and thunderous cheers of his supporters and sympathizers. And so it comes as rather curious for the distinguished likes of Mr. Sam Okudzeto, past president of the Ghana Bar Association (GBA), to be pretending as if the current foully charged atmosphere of indiscriminate verbal abuse just happened in the wake of the Election 2012 impasse (See "I Was So Happy With Supreme Court Ruling On Kuranchie, Atubiga - Sam Okudzeto" JoyOnline.com/Ghanaweb.com 7/3/13).
Of course, some form of radically constructive method has to be devised as a means of creating a new and salutary dispensation of cultural and moral respectability. But whether such a system ought to entail the assumption of peremptory and extra-constitutional powers by the Supreme Court of Ghana, in the dubious name of the greater good of the Republic, remains to be seen. And on the latter note, let it be somberly observed here that the same logical forces that successfully rebelled against the various post-independence tyrannical regimes, may yet resurface if the Supreme Court fails to remarkably restrain or discipline the application of its new-found peremptorily punitive custodial powers.
Among the Akan, there is a maxim which runs as follows: "If a frog over-gorges on water, it pukes." In plain terms, there is a limit to the endurance of repression and oppression, even "legitimate" and constitutionally sanctioned oppression. I also firmly believe that the Supreme Court cannot force any section or group of Ghanaian citizens to servilely defer to it. That is not the kind of worthwhile understanding of "dignity" that I was afforded by my Ghanaian grandparents and parents and custodial relatives at large.
We may, indeed, be all geopolitically a unified polity; but we come from a diversity of cultural backgrounds; and where I some from, as my maternal grandparents often used to say: "Respect is behaviorally earned; it is not extorted." If, indeed, the Atuguba-presided Supreme Court is serious about commanding the respect of all Ghanaian citizens, then, perforce, it needs to promptly undergo a clinical process of moral self-examination and reorientation, and stop conducting itself with imperious temporal lassitude.
One thing is also limpidly clear - all it takes to radically wean the Atuguba Court off its new-found punitive custodial toy, as it were - or to stop the Court in its tracks, in American parlance - is to have each and every Ghanaian citizen charged with "disrespecting" the Court and daring the latter to incarcerate each and every one of the 25 million, or so, people constituting the Democratic Republic of Ghana.
*Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.
Department of English
Nassau Community College of SUNY
Garden City, New York
July 3, 2013