Laymen And Women Have a Right to be Properly Informed

Wed, 10 Apr 2013 Source: Okoampa-Ahoofe, Kwame

By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.

I don't know what the author of the Daily Guide editorial captioned "When Laymen Explain Legalese," which was posted to the Peacefmonline.com edition of April 5, 2013, meant to imply, but it clearly appears that some Ghanaian media operatives erroneously believe that the interpretation of landmark judicial proceedings, such as the one currently before the Atuguba-led Supreme Court panel, is the prerogative of just about any citizen with a modicum of legal training or expertise, except the ordinary Ghanaian citizen.

Well, that is not quite the case and definitely ought not to be the case in a constitutionally democratic culture such as Ghana's Fourth Republic. Indeed, in every viable democratic polity, the freedom of expression, especially over issues of national moment, is an inalienable right that is readily accessible to every citizen of repute and good standing, which means that practically the right to free expression is a wholesale national right.

What I firmly believe the Daily Guide editorial writer to be implying is that many a Ghanaian legal expert appears to be either lethargic or unsavorily disinterested in the New Patriotic Party's Election 2012 petition and is thus not actively engaged as a talking-head on television programs and other political discussion programs on radio, as well as writing educational columns in newspapers and on Internet websites. If my interpretation has validity, then this state of affairs rather bleakly reflects on the caliber of Ghanaian citizens being presently trained and graduated by our nation's law schools, particularly those with a specialty on constitutional law.

The notion, widely bandied about in the media, that, somehow, because the Akufo-Addo/NPP petition is presently before a panel of Supreme Court judges it ought not to be publicly discussed is patently undemocratic, particularly since the Atuguba panel has also clearly indicated that it does not take kindly to the idea of having judicial proceedings televised for the timely and/or simultaneous benefit of the Ghanaian electorate and the general public at large. Such is also the case, for the most part, here in the United States whose two-hundred-year-plus-old judicial tradition takes rather unkindly to the garish and insolent intrusion of modern technology.

And so, really, Ghana's Supreme Court, in flatly rejecting the intrusion of the media into its proceedings, has not done anything either extraordinarily curious or totally out of the ordinary. I personally resent the idea that, somehow, Ghana's Supreme Court ought to borrow a page from its Kenyan counterpart, in terms of the swiftness of the latter's deliberation over the Odinga petition vehemently challenging the political legitimacy of the ICC-embattled and ironically named Mr. Uhuru Kenyatta.

And for those of our readers who may not know this, Ghanaian jurists have played an active role in the development of Kenya's postcolonial judicial system, including service as Chief Justice. This, of course, is not to imply that I have in anyway been either pleased or impressed with the unbearably snail-paced approach of the Wood Court vis-a-vis the Akufo-Addo grievance/petition.

In asmuch as the two countries have much in common, judicially speaking, that is, we also have quite a lot that differentiate our several polities from one another. But even more importantly, I don't believe that good-quality judgment and/or verict necessarily equates with swiftness. Quite the opposite may well have occurred in the Kenyan case, although we also are not privy to the evidentiary quality or the forensic sustainability of the evidence presented to the Kenyan Supreme Court by Mr. Raila Odinga. What we do know, however, and a fact that may well have significantly and negatively impacted Mr. Odinga's petition, is the fact that KANU, the political juggernaut of a party founded by Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, Uhuru Kenyatta's father, has relentlessly dominated that country's postcolonial landscape ever since anybody can remember.

I also believe that those who know better and have an appreciable knowledge of the law but, nevertheless, refuse to step up to the proverbial plate, in American baseball parlance, or simply fail to play their part in the strengthening and development of Ghanaian democracy, have absolutely no right to fault calculating political opportunists and miscreants like Mr. Johnson Asiedu-Nketia, the general-secretary of the National Democratic Congress, for so studiously and fervidly looking towards their own partisan interests, Machiavellically speaking, that is.


*Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.

Department of English

Nassau Community College of SUNY

Garden City, New York

April 5, 2013


Columnist: Okoampa-Ahoofe, Kwame