Opinions Thu, 15 Aug 2013

Judiciary must stop irresponsible politicians from holding Ghana to ransom

By Kofi Thompson

Today (14/8/2013), Ghana's judiciary finally served notice, to all those in our country, who it appears will stop at nothing in their quest for political power.

Justice Atuguba, the president of the 9-member panel of Supreme Court judges, who have been hearing the December 2012 presidential election petition, spoke so eloquently on behalf of all the citizens of Ghana, when Mr. John Owusu-Afriyie and Mr. Hopeson Adoryeh appeared before them, for statements both had made that were deemed to be in contempt of the nation's highest court.

In today's hearing, the Supreme Court judges showed the world, just how conscious they are, of the important role the judiciary plays in preserving Ghanaian democracy, and ensuring the rule of law in our country.

Justice Atuguba was spot on, in his observation - made when responding to pleadings by Mr. Ayeekoi Otoo, a former Attorney General during the tenure of President Kufuor, on behalf of his clients and fellow New Patriotic Party (NPP) members, Mr. John Owusu-Afriyie and Mr. Hopeson Adoryeh - that some of our nation's politicians seem oblivious of the possible repercussions of their utterances, and the danger their irresponsible statements pose, to the stability of our country and the maintenance of law and order across the nation.

Sadly, it says a great deal about the nature of our nation's politics, that, what, if it had been repeated by a leading politician in any Western democracy, would have immediately drawn a chorus of demands for his resignation, from his position as general secretary of his party, was met instead with deafening silence in the Ghanaian media - and hypocritical noises from his party colleagues, who instead of condemning their irresponsible utterances, rather chose to mount an overnight vigil and say prayers for John Owusu-Afriyie and Hopeson Adoryeh.

The time has come to end the impunity enjoyed by our educated urban elites - in a nation in which the rule of law is said to prevail: and where all are supposed to be equal before the law.

It has become obvious to the discerning in Ghana that the ability of our ruling elites to escape punishment for wrong-doing is gradually ruining our nation.

It is an outrage that whiles prisons across our country are jam-packed with the poor and marginalised in society, serving long prison sentences for petty crimes - such as the theft of mobile phones and goats - the rich and powerful, who regularly steal billions of cedis of taxpayers' money, constantly get away with their nation-wrecking white-collar crimes.

As a people, we must demand that our country's politicians, and other members of our educated urban elites, behave responsibly at all material times - and insist that those of them who break the law, are tried and punished, as prescribed by the laws of our nation.

Justice Atuguba and his colleagues - who tempered justice with mercy in this particular instance - must be congratulated for their judgment-of-Solomon, in punishing John Owusu-Afriyie and Hopeson Adoryeh, in the most appropriate of fashions.

The judiciary in Ghana must not relent in its determination to ensure that practical effect is given to the hackneyed phrase "all are equal before the law" - by making sure that the rich and powerful in Ghanaian society, also pay for their crimes, like the poor have always done.

Above all, judges in Ghana, must not allow selfish politicians to destroy our nation, because they want power at any cost - by severely punishing those of them who fan violence in society : either in pursuit of power or in order to hold on to power.

It is time it was made clear to the leadership of all the political parties in Ghana that they will be held directly responsible for the actions and inaction of the violence-prone amongst their membership.

The Ghanaian nation-state must not be allowed to be destroyed, because of the inordinate and overweening ambitions, of a small group of ruthless and self-seeking individuals - who do not care one jot about the effect of their actions, on the lives of millions of their fellow countrymen, in their quest for political power and its handmaiden - in the Ghanaian context - super-wealth.

The judiciary in Ghana must stop irresponsible politicians from holding Ghanaians to ransom.

Columnist: Kofi Thompson