When I saw the following screaming headline, I really thought there was prime sirloin to it. The banner headline, which originated from the Ghana News Agency (GNA), read: “Spio-Garbrah Wins Defamation Suit Against Chronicle Newspaper” (Modernghana.com 12/14/18). There was absolutely no prime sirloin to the story, whatsoever, because the Accra High Court judge who presided over the suit, Justice MC Abodakpi, rendered his verdict purely on the grounds of the failure of the Editor of the Ghanaian Chronicle, Mr. Ebo Quansah, and/or his assigns to file a defense.
The defamation suit, we are informed, resulted from an October 18, 2018 publication in which a Chronicle news report claimed that at a campaign launch by the former Mahama Trade Minister, Mr. Spio-Garbrah had expressed fury over the conspicuous absence of some Members of Parliament belonging to the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC), and that the aspiring Presidential Nominee had vowed to deny these absentees any cabinet or significant appointments in his government, should the former Ghana’s Ambassador to the United States be voted President of Ghana come December 2020.
I am, of course, not holding my breath because Mr. Spio-Garbrah is a longshot for the Presidential Nomination of the National Democratic Congress, which is highly unlikely to have a fighting chance at the 2020 Presidential Election, going strictly by the achievement record, or the lack thereof, of Messrs. John Evans Atta-Mills, late, and John Dramani Mahama. But I am even more interested in the abject desperation that his defamation suit reflects and/or represents on the part of the former Director-General of the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organization. You see, when the aforesaid publication hit the newsstands, all that a more buoyant and confident Mr. Spio-Garbrah could have wisely done ought to have been to release a very brief statement vehemently denying that any such threat, as had been attributed to him by the Ghanaian Chronicle, had actually been made.
Since Justice Abodakpi essentially handed down his verdict in favor of his presumable political fellow trucker or partisan, purely on grounds of default or failure by the Ghanaian Chronicle’s publisher and/or editors to put up a defense, observers did not get the chance to see if the proverbial “Test of Malice” had been established by the plaintiff’s attorneys. In the absence of the latter, readers and observers could only go by the apparent acceptance of responsibility on the part of the Ebo Quansah Group by default or failure to put in a defense.
Well, in legal protocol, that is still a win, nonetheless; but it is only a pyrrhic victory, if you, my Dear Reader, were to ask of me, since no punitive damages appear to have been awarded in favor of the plaintiff, other than the order for the Chronicle’s editors and publisher to retract, apologize and desist from publishing any such similar “fabrications.” Now, we don’t really know that the Chronicle’s publication of the afore-referenced story was pure fabrication. At least, I choose to hew closer to that old but quite credible maxim that: “There is absolutely no smoke without fire.” There very well may be some truth to the story. The defendant’s counsel may very well have wisely advised against the possibility of engaging in a drawn-out and costly trial. There are absolutely no clear winners here.
At best, this defamation lawsuit only poignantly points to the mental, psychological and intellectual levity of Mr. Spio-Garbrah. And for a man who virulently and incessantly called then-President John Evans Atta-Mills “Damaged Goods,” both behind the back of his target of vitriol and publicly to be suing for defamation actually makes Mr. Spio-Garbrah look like a prime-time comedian par-excellence. The Ebo Quansah Group, by the way, could still appeal for time to prove their case beyond reasonable doubt. But would it really be worth the effort? Now, Dear Reader, you be the judge.
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By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., PhD
English Department, SUNY-Nassau
Garden City, New York