Raymond Atuguba Is Both Right And Wrong

Sat, 21 May 2011 Source: Owusu-Ansah, Emmanuel Sarpong


Emmanuel Sarpong Owusu-Ansah (Black Power)

We are ‘… in this earthly world, where to do harm / Is often laudable, to do good sometime / Accounted dangerous folly’ (Macbeth Act 4, Scene 2). Rephrasing Shakespeare’s words, I say: that we are in this earthly world where to tell lies is often laudable but to speak the truth sometimes accounted dangerous folly.

We will be deceiving ourselves, betraying our own ignorance, and/or exhibiting our foolhardiness if we rubbish or repudiate the claim that many if not most of the Ghanaian judges are wallowing in the mud of bribery and corruption. The renowned lawyer and educator, Dr Raymond Atuguba (the Executive Secretary of the Constitutional Review Commission), was thus superlatively right in pronouncing in a radio programme on the 29th of April 2011 that some Ghanaian ‘judges … take bribes.’ Unfortunately, he is being demonized and crucified by a considerable section of the Ghanaian judiciary for voicing out the obvious truth.

After analysing various versions of his argument which some of the judges consider as a diatribe, I have arrived at the conclusion that the angry judges probably have a case, but disappointingly hyperbolized, possibly due to their limited knowledge in Logic (a branch of philosophy) supposed to be one of the foundations or pillars upon which their profession rests. The only “crime” Dr Atuguba probably committed was ignoring a very vital rule or principle in logic (or in logical argument in public): that is, the regular but unambiguous use of what is referred to as ‘particular affirmative or negative propositions’, and the avoidance of ‘universal affirmative or negative propositions’ as much as possible.

He begins his argument by stating that ‘nobody in the country [(Ghana)] can convince [him] that judges do not take bribes.’ He adds: ‘Between 1997 and 1999, I stayed in the house of a judge, and so there is nobody in Ghana who can convince me that judges are not corrupt’. In logic, such statements are not strictly considered as universal propositions. In other words, they do not necessarily mean that ALL judges take bribes or are corrupt. They are only exaggerative way of saying that MAJORITY of judges do it.

Now let us take a look at these three pairs of particular and universal propositions:

1. Behind the success of A man there is a woman.

2. Behind the success of EVERY man there is a woman.

3. SOME women are dangerous

4. ALL women are dangerous

5. MANY men are not caring

6. NO man is caring

Proposition 1 is a particular affirmative in an exaggerated way (meaning that most or majority of men who

become successful in life, owe their success to some women, possibly their partners)

Proposition 2 is a universal affirmative (implying that it is always the case; no exception: thus, all

successful men have women as the architects of their success)

Proposition 3 is a normal or non-exaggerated particular affirmative (meaning that one or more

women in the world are dangerous; note that in logic, the term ‘some’ could refer to just

one person or entity)

Proposition 4, just like proposition 2, is a universal affirmative (implying that every single woman on

earth is dangerous; there is no exception)

Propositions 5 is a normal or less exaggerated particular negative (meaning that the allegation is not

against all men but some men)

Proposition 6 is a universal negation (indicating that not a single man on earth is caring).

If Dr Atuguba’s statements are situated within the ‘Proposition 1’ category; then what he is probably trying to convey home to Ghanaians is that a considerable number of judges do accept bribes to conceal justice. What he does not realize is that probably not all his colleagues within the judiciary took their logic lessons or modules seriously when studying for their degrees at their various universities. To avoid any such ambiguity and controversy in future, he is advised to use particular propositions employing as often as possible, words like: some, many, most, numerous, considerable number, significant number, sizable or substantial amount, etc. Universal propositions are used only when one is absolutely certain and confident of the facts and can justify beyond all reasonable doubt: e.g. all men are mortal.

My interpretation and apparent defence of Dr Atuguba’s seemingly controversial statements might be wide of the mark, as he might have actually used them in the universal affirmative sense: that is, ALL judges in Ghana do take bribes and are corrupt. If this is the case, then his own subsequent testimony during that radio programme that he knows an ‘upright judge’ who drives away people who try to bribe him, embarrassingly, perfectly negates his own initial allegation; making his argument one of the worst illogical syllogisms ever made by a scholar or a student:

Any Ghanaian judge who takes bribes is corrupt

(Only) one Ghanaian judge does not take bribes

Therefore, all Ghanaian judges are corrupt.

Such an unsound argument or a supreme contradiction could tarnish the reputation of any lawyer or top educator on earth. My position is that such a massive discrepancy can easily be made by many people, but certainly not a Doctor of Philosophy and Professor of Law.

Emmanuel Sarpong Owusu-Ansah (aka Black Power) is a PhD student in Media Communication, an investigative journalist and a lecturer in London, UK. He is the author of Fourth Phase of Enslavement: unveiling the plight of African immigrants in the West. He could be contacted via the following email: es.owusu@yahoo.co.uk

A link to one of the articles on Dr Atuguba’s comment: http://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/artikel.php?ID=208587

Columnist: Owusu-Ansah, Emmanuel Sarpong