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Justice Honyenuga: Regrets, retreats and reforms

Thu, 14 May 2020 Source: Isaac Ato Mensah

Persons appointed as supreme court justices or to any office of responsibility must be of sound judgement and strict morals.

But this week we saw a quintessential ghanaian in action – Justice Honyenuga.

On 11 May, to our collective national embarrassment, the Appointments Committee of Parliament vetted Justice Clemence Honyenuga, a supreme court nominee, appeals court judge and Paramount Chief of Nyagbo Traditional Area in the Volta Region (stool name; Torgbui Ashui Nyagasi V).

Justice Honyenuga had in February been in the news for endorsing President Akufo-Addo for re-election, and had come under a storm or protest.

When that matter came up during his vetting he offered a lame pathetic explanation.

He averred that he was sitting in state as chief and reading a speech on behalf of all the chiefs of his area.

Worse still, he explained that he read the speech prior to delivering it but did not pay attention to the details contained within.

This is scandalous.

He also admitted under oath that he did not know who wrote the speech.

This is a supreme court nominee for heaven’s sake.

At such moments when my mentor cannot wrap his head around the “ghanaian way” he will gasp in his native Ga “M)?din! Ony333 m)din”.

Justice Honyenuga became a high court judge in 2003.

He told the Appointments Committee that the biggest regret of his professional life was jailing an armed robber 65 years for shooting at a female victim and her children while the husband and father was on a trip.

“….. I regret [that judgement]. I sentenced him to 65 years imprisonment because of the gravity of the offence…..I think I was too high handed…..I used to be a very hard judge when I was at the High Court, but I must speak the truth: since I took over the Justice For All Programme, the conditions in which my fellow human beings live in, the type of food they eat in the prisons and the sufferings and humiliation have changed my heart very much.”

The high point of the vetting was when Justice Honyenuga told the MPs that anytime he arrived at the prisons to hold court the prisoners cheered because they were sure once “our father has come” some remand prisoners would go home.

Yet, when he was asked about recommendations for expanding the Justice For All Programme he responded that he “may” approach the new chief justice and discuss it.

Justice Honyenuga is us: we in the Amen Corner genuflecting to a harmonious mediocrity.

The million-dollar question my mentor has yet to receive an answer to is: “So what are the consequences and repercussions so that we will all learn and ensure those same things do not occur again?”

Next time a job seeker tells you “I am going to learn on the job” know that you are placing a square peg in a round hole if you hire them, and there is abundant empirical evidence that such decisions cost human lives.

How many speeches have you read without knowing and or believing in what you were saying?

“Are you just parroting the text? Does it not mean anything to you? Does it not make any impression on you?”, my mentor often asks while trying to control his impatience and righteous anger.

“Ignore their schooling and long credentials; listen carefully to what they are saying and watch what they are doing,” he advises.

Me too, my tolerance level has gone down further, but I am not “emotional”.

We must all become intolerant of irrationality and mediocrity.

Then hopefully we can stop the downward spiral of our country.

Now, before you call me by telephone to complain about, not discuss, this article, make sure you have read the article well and have understood it.

It is what it is.

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Columnist: Isaac Ato Mensah