Principles and politics
Orangeburg, South Carolina.
Monday, 24th June, 2013
Last week, I read an opinion piece by one of Ghana’s legal luminaries that set me thinking. Mr. Tsikata, whom I have admired since my days at Legon, wrote, “Five years ago, on June 18th, 2008, a judge, without any advance indication that she was going to deliver a judgment, pronounced a sentence of five years imprisonment on me. I was taken that afternoon to begin serving my sentence. Within five months of that day, however, I was out of prison and alive in circumstances that were anything short of a miracle.” He went on to describe how the prayers of his church and his wife’s vigilance combined to save him. By the end, I was in joyful tears for the miracle that may have saved his life. Unfortunately, throughout the 1980’s, Mr. Tsikata served as one of the most influential advisors of Mr. Rawlings during one of the most brutal suppression of our rights. During the period, many were marched to prison and sometimes to be executed without due process. When all this was happening, what did the legal luminary and man of faith do? Why did he not speak up for those whose rights were being denied? Why did he not pray for or work for miracles for those people. I asked these questions, not to accuse but to seek understanding.
Just in this month, under the rule of the NDC, which was founded on the principle of probity and accountability, Ghana needed the admirable efforts of former Attorney General Martin Amidu to get the courts to order Waterville and Isofoton companies to repay over 47 million USD that were paid to them improperly by our government. Indeed, Mr. Amidu, who was the only government official trying to prevent people from fleecing the public in the “judgment debt saga” was the only person who was fired over the scandal. After his victory, the government that fired him is even claiming that it was on his side all along. Really? What happened to separate the NDC so tragically from accountability? Not to be outdone, the NPP that is unhappy with its own dissenters has been hailing the former Attorney General. Indeed, former MP Appiah-Ofori has opined that if Nana prevails in the Supreme Court, Mr. Amidu would return as Attorney General.
In the last couple of weeks, the NPP, which is in court seeking justice rightly for “having our tilapia stolen” in the 2012 elections, has put on display a legal process that we all hope the Supreme court will not follow. The party leadership invited Mr. Wereko-Brobby to a hearing to determine his culpability for making remarks allegedly prejudicial to the party’s interest. In the end, Tarzan, as he is popularly known, had to be rescued by the police from party extremists intent on exacting vigilante justice. The party has neither condemned the conduct of the vigilantes nor apologized for failing to ensure the safety of the witness or our own committee members. To add insult to injury, some of the members of the Disciplinary committee have already made prejudicial comments on the case they are supposed to hear and adjudicate impartially. Would we accept this kind of justice from the Supreme Court?
There are many more instances of inconsistencies in adhering to principles in our body-politic;
The Electoral Commission had the NDC attacking it for biases and other defects at every turn leading to the 2008 elections but now, the NDC cannot seem to find any fault with it. The NPP’s conduct was the exact opposite of this—we generally found the EC credible when we were in power and started bastardizing them when we lost power.
The NPP resented the use of National Security operatives when we were in opposition but then we started using them to intimidate when we got power. Of course, the NDC whined about abuse of power when they were at the receiving end of the National security boys and girls but happily dished it out as soon as they regained power.
Why do we all ignore the golden rule—to do unto others what we wish them to do unto us?
Why did Tsatsu not stand up for those whose rights were abused under the PNDC?
Why did the NDC not maintain its fidelity to the principle of accountability in Waterville, Isofoton and so many other cases?
Why would the NPP not do unto Tarzan what we rightly expect the Supreme Court to do unto us?
Why can’t we all agree that it is wrong to use the National Security operatives to harass political opponents when we are in power?
The issue of inconsistent actions and actors was what President Obama was addressing when he called for strong institutions rather that strong men and women.
In addition to strong institutions, we need to encourage our leaders to stand for principle, even when it may be unpopular to do so.
Furthermore, we must bring our faith and our humanity to bear on our politics. The wheels of politics do turn with the result that those in power today will be out some day. Therefore, we must remember, all of us that what goes around does have a tendency to come around.
We must insist that whatever is wrong under the NPP is also wrong under the NDC. Our morals and principles must not depend on which party is in power.
While our political leaders are most at fault, often they need active and passive accomplices to undermine our country and our values.
The judge who authorizes the wrongful payment of a judgment debt betrays his country nearly as much as the politician who wrongly pays it just as the newspaper which fails to expose the inconsistency is an accomplice.
Let us all, together, stand on principle, remember our humanity and our faith and strive to build the Ghana that Nkrumah and Danquah dreamed and died for.
Arthur Kobina Kennedy