Is Dr. Bawumia the stink-bug ....

Mon, 2 Sep 2013 Source: Bokor, Michael J. K.

.... in the NPP’s political cabal?

In discussing the NPP’s petition and its implications, we have glossed over the consequences to Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia, the second petitioner. We now want to assess his role in this matter with the view to predicting his future political direction, that is, if he will have any at all. Without any reservation, we forcefully say that the negative outcome of this petition hearing will spell doom for his political career. We consequently advise him to take caution and redefine his strategies for survival.

We mince no word and opine that the ruling against the NPP has brought him to the cul-de-sac that will end his political career. He’s been tottering toward the precipice; and after August 29, he will either be forced by circumstances to tumble down into oblivion or regain his composure to face the vicissitudes of Ghanaian politics. We are, however, more inclined toward predicting doom for him because of our strong conviction that the end has not justified the means for him. The reality is that he is an outsider in the “Mate me ho” political family but used for political (in)expediency!! No surprise that his name hasn’t even been mentioned so far in this post-verdict period.

Forget about Akufo-Addo because he has reached the banks of the Rubicon and will cross over soon, not to be saved by any amount of prayers or witchery. His only advantage, though—which Dr. Bawumia lacks—is that he belongs to the inner circle of the “Ma te me ho” political culture and has thick tap roots to prop him up even in defeat. Dr. Bawumia doesn’t belong there and has been coopted only for political convenience—a convenience that has now metamorphosed into a tormenting regret in view of how counsel for the respondents used his testimony to discredit the petition and effect a second defeat for Akufo-Addo and the NPP cabal.

For Dr. Bawumia, then, the crossroads are inescapable. But he can redeem himself if he acts decisively. For him particularly, he seems hamstrung by the intrigues of the political family into which he has been ensnared. That is a special problem for him and all others who are more inclined toward positioning themselves as pawns to be used in the political chess game that faceless power brokers play with their destinies. My opinion piece is built around this premise into which Dr. Bawumia rightfully fits.

Gradually, the import of the verdict is sinking. Now that the NPP’s doom has been sealed tight, there is this rude awakening that the ebb and flow of the proceedings hinged largely on the testimony provided by the petitioners’ star witness, Dr. Bawumia. And he had a lot to say, which set him up for the hatchet job to be done by the three counsel for the respondents.

We watched the live telecast of the proceedings and monitored closely the intricacies of everything that characterized the hearing and can say with measured certainty that the fate of the petitioners depended on how Dr. Bawumia’s testimony was weighed by the judges.

Counsel for the respondents had already tore into it and put Dr. Bawumia’s credibility on the line. I reproduce three instances in the oral submissions made to buttress my claim:

1. Tony Lithur (counsel for President Mahama, first respondent) said the petitioners formed a task force (chaired by Dr. Bawumia) to compile evidence to have votes annulled and pored over paper-novel propositions like duplicate serial numbers and wanted legitimate votes unduly annulled. He said that the petitioners limited this serious exercise to what happened only on the face of the pink sheets with Dr. Bawumia only confessing during cross-examination that “You and I were not there”. He said that they did not even include the polling agents in the task force that they set up to investigate the alleged irregularities.

He cited Dr. Bawumia’s discounting of the relevance of the polling agents and asked: What did the agents do in the face of the alleged irregularities? Lithur said that the polling agents are mandated by law not to sign pink sheets when there are clear violations of the law. That is basic; yet, they signed those pink sheets. And we are being told there were irregularities and the only evidence is on the face of the pink sheets?

2. James Quarshie-Idun (counsel for the EC, second respondent) referred to Dr. Bawumia’s testimony that after the first day of voting (7th December 2012), the party (NPP) thought that they were winning. He quoted from that testimony and added that Dr. Bawumia claimed that everything changed after 8th December.

He quoted further from Dr. Bawumia’s testimony that after he was questioned whether the basis of his party’s confidence of winning on the first day was based on pink sheets, Dr. Bawumia responded that it was based on assessments from their polling agents across the country.

Quarshie-Idun, then, asked a rhetorical question: What changed after the first day? He said Dr. Bawumia couldn’t tell the court what exactly changed; but he (Quarshie-Idun) said nothing changed. The votes were still being counted openly after the close of voting. This, he said, was the first level of verification. The results were then taken to the collation centre, which was the second level of verification. The third level of verification was in the EC’s strong room, where everything was checked by the accredited agents of all parties.

3. Tsatsu Tsikata (counsel for the NDC, third respondent) said that Dr. Bawumia had asked for over 4 million votes to be annulled, which was a retroactive penalty for those who stood in queues and voted. To him, the law is quite clear on the retroactive penalty: The right to vote is fundamental and there cannot be retroactive penalties. He said under the terms of the Evidence Decree, somebody who lacks understanding and knowledge of what happened cannot proceed to make claims and demands; so, if Dr. Bawumia was not present at the polling stations and would say "You and I were not there", his evidence should not be taken seriously.

Tsatsu had pushed Dr. Bawumia to admit during cross-examination that the NPP had dropped allegations concerning fraud in the elections, the quantum of pink sheets, and anomalies/miscategorization of pink sheet exhibits; that is, the petitioners committed errors and were acting in bad faith. Based on these admissions, Tsatsu succeeded in using Dr. Bawumia’s inconsistencies to ask for auditing of the petitioners’ pink sheet exhibits. The result of the KPMG’s work frustrated the petitioners and dented their credibility. The furore has persisted to date and was captured in Addison’s last-ditch attempt to revisit those issues in his oral submission. He ended up being belled out without concluding his submission.

Clearly, everything pointed to the fact that Dr. Bawumia’s buzz statement of “You and I were not there” and many others featured in the written addresses and oral submissions by the respondents’ counsel were detrimental to the petitioners’ cause.

The Court didn’t miss these intricate aspects at the evidence-gathering stage. And as Justice Atuguba reminded Dr. Bawumia, the Court was not interested in any “rally ground talk” but evidence to guide it in its determination of the case. The court was interested in FACTS (gathered from first-hand experience or reported by someone and cross-checked, confirmed, and adduced, not on desk-top analysis of entries in pink sheets—far removed from the reality on the ground—which was the import of Dr. Bawumia’s reference to his “analysis” of data. No wonder the Court declined his appeal to tender CD-ROMs).

Dr. Bawumia’s foundational statement that “You and I were not there” set the parameters for assessing the impact of his testimony on the case. And it was not an innocuous statement; it carried legal weight.

For the fact that no practical evidence was adduced by the petitioners to prove that voting was characterized by malpractices and the results doctored to suit President Mahama, they had a tough call to respond to. And certainly, that was what emerged at every stage. Ambivalence is dangerous in legal matters!!

I pity Dr. Bawumia for playing the game without knowing its rules. He made utterances that returned to haunt him. Being their star witness, his credibility had long been at stake; and from what emerged in the end, he stands to suffer much tongue-lashing now that the verdict has gone against the petitioners. I wonder how he will fair hereafter in the rough waters of the NPP’s internal politics. He won’t be their darling-boy anymore. I know for sure that he can’t be seen anymore as the “God” that Kwadwo Owusu Afriyie constructed him to be worshipped anymore. Where does he go next?

I shall return…

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Columnist: Bokor, Michael J. K.