Why Akufo-Addo Should Not Take This Huge Gamble!

Sat, 26 Jul 2008 Source: Pryce, Daniel K.

I first saw Nana Akufo-Addo one sunny afternoon in May 1996 at the U.S. Embassy in Accra. Outfitted in a simple batik shirt and a pair of beige slacks, Nana Akufo-Addo was at the Embassy to conduct official business on behalf of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), the latter the main opposition party in the country at the time. I had gone to the U.S. Embassy that day to attend an interview that was part of requirements by the U.S. Department of State for the issuance of my Diversity Lottery Visa. While I did not speak directly to Nana Akufo-Addo, a few of his party’s stalwarts who recognized him did, and Akufo-Addo graciously acknowledged them. Notably, Akufo-Addo’s mannerisms and poise conveyed to the keen observer that the man was destined to become a major player someday in Ghana’s sociopolitical advancement. With a gratifying capacity to both speak the English language with unmistakable lucidity and woo onlookers with his foreign twang, Nana Akufo-Addo today is on the verge of achieving his greatest political dream, with about a fifty-percent chance to become Ghana’s third democratically elected leader in the Fourth Republic.

Back in 1988, I witnessed an attack on a middle-aged man by three younger men (they probably were in their mid-twenties at the time), one of whom had accused the older man of seducing his wife. But for the middle-aged man’s wittiness, sagacity and quick thinking to aggressively deny the allegations being purveyed by his accusers ? the former had given proof of his whereabouts on the said day that the seduction purportedly took place! ? he would have been beaten to a pulp, or even murdered, via instance justice, Ghana-style. Even with his ostensibly placatory explanation, the three hooligans inflicted a scratch or two on this middle-aged man, perhaps to serve as a reminder of how much damage a rumor alone could inflict, even while an absolving statement was in the offing!

With the preceding allegory in mind, the recent allegations of records-embellishment hurled at Nana Akufo-Addo by Nana Konadu Agyeman-Rawlings, wife of former Ghanaian strongman, Jerry John Rawlings, should not be trivialized by the Akufo-Addo camp. Most Ghanaians were truly dumbstruck by that July 9, 2008, news item ? seen on Ghanaweb.com and other pro-Ghanaian Internet portals and titled “Akufo-Addo is not a Lawyer” ? attributed to Nana Konadu Agyeman-Rawlings. In the aforesaid piece, Nana Konadu wrathfully enunciated “gaps” in Nana Akufo-Addo’s educational qualifications and professional achievements: Nana Konadu claimed [that] “she had enough evidence to prove that the former Attorney General and Minister of Justice, and flag-bearer of the ruling National Patriotic Party is not a Lawyer after all, contrary to what his curriculum vitae beams with.” What a serious accusation!

Then on July 10, 2008, Nii Osah Mills, the current President of the Ghana Bar Association (GBA), in a forceful rejoinder to Nana Konadu’s allegations, “confirmed that the New Patriotic Party flag-bearer, Nana Akufo-Addo[,] and President Kufuor are qualified Lawyers registered with the Association.” But what I thought was particularly interesting about Nii Osah Mills’ remarks was the following statement: “[Nana Akufo-Addo’s and John Kufuor’s] qualification to the Bar was based on the pertaining requirement needed to be admitted to the bar at their time since the requirements varies (sic) as time goes” (Ghanaweb.com). Nii Osah Mills further expatiated that one ought not to have a first degree in law to qualify as a lawyer in Ghana. Nii Osah Mills then added that an individual with “a first degree in any discipline could go to the Ghana Law School in Accra, and after completion could be called to the bar.”

Well, the preceding explanations by Nii Osah Mills were unarguably correct, except that the real issue Nana Konadu had spoken about on July 9, 2008 ? how Nana Akufo-Addo became qualified to practice law in Ghana ? was not addressed by the GBA boss. The question thus remains: If, indeed, Nana Akufo-Addo was admitted to the Ghana Bar Association in 1975, with enrollment number 1190, under what category was his admission to the Ghana Bar Association classified? Was it under the classification whereby any lay person could simply sit and pass an examination administered by the Ghana Bar Association and then is admitted to the bar? Was it under the classification whereby someone with a first degree in, say, Geography or Political Science, could also just take and pass a Ghana Bar Association-administered examination and then is allowed to practice law in Ghana? Or was it under the classification of someone who obtained a law degree from an accredited law school, who then took and passed the Ghana Bar Association-administered examination?

I believe it is this lack of clarity on the part of Nana Akufo-Addo ? and the Ghana Bar Association that has come out to vehemently defend him ? that is making this story remain a front-page news item! Ghanaians simply need to know the truth, as Akufo-Addo, because of his desire to lead the nation, cannot hide under any privacy laws and just wish the matter away! It is a political matter and not a legal one! And to anyone who says that Akufo-Addo will produce the evidence when compelled by a properly constituted court of law, my question is this: Are these judges going to get Akufo-Addo the votes he needs to become president? Will the votes not come from the Ghanaian electorate?

And to further stoke the embers of confusion in the Akufo-Addo-is-not-a-qualified-lawyer yarn, the NPP flag-bearer’s own law firm, Law Chambers of Akufo-Addo, Prempeh & Co., came out on July 11, 2008, to flex its muscles in the ongoing saga (see Ghanaweb.com articles of the afore-referenced date). Speaking for the firm, Alex Quaynor and Akoto Ampaw, both partners, bemoaned the veracity of the Nana Konadu story, alleging that the rumor had started with other National Democratic Congress (NDC) apparatchiks, before becoming Nana Konadu’s “pet project.” Alex Quaynor and Akoto Ampaw then added the following statement: “…Nana Akufo-Addo is not just an ordinary Lawyer with over 30 years of experience but also a notary, publicly appointed by the Chief Justice of Ghana.” The two lawyers further reminded Ghanaians that no one could practice law in Ghana, unless such a person was officially a member of the Ghana Bar Association, adding that the attendant qualifications to the bar were clearly delineated. It is this delineation of qualifications ? particularly the one under which Akufo-Addo gained admission to the Ghana Bar Association ? that people are now interested in, not whether or not Nana Akufo-Addo has successfully practiced law in Ghana since 1975, a fact that we are all aware of!

Even as the aforementioned lawyers took on Mrs. Rawlings for aspersing their boss [Nana Akufo-Addo], they, like Nii Osah Mills, completely failed to address the pertinent question on the minds of Ghanaian voters: How did Nana Akufo-Addo gain admission to the Ghana Bar Association? A succeeding question then is this: Did Nana Akufo-Addo get some type of preferential treatment in gaining entry to the Ghana Bar Association?

Nana Akufo-Addo is, undeniably, an honorable man. In fact, all of my previous articles on Nana Akufo-Addo ? I predicted that he would become the NPP flag-bearer, and I have always respected his poignant approach to embracing all sections of the country ? were very positive, so no one should accuse me of simply joining the fray of naysayers to castigate the NPP flag-bearer. It is my respect for Akufo-Addo, and the likelihood that this serious records-embellishment allegation could damage his chances of becoming the nation’s next president, that has compelled me to call on the man to come out to defend himself.

Admittedly, unless this issue of records-embellishment is addressed by Nana Akufo-Addo, the NPP flag-bearer is actually opening the door to lawsuits from all those who lost their cases under his guidance. Yes, it is possible! If, indeed, someone can prove that Nana Akufo-Addo is not a qualified lawyer, then every case that the man has ever handled could be brought back to the courts for re-adjudication! So, this issue is bigger than Nana Akufo-Addo’s personal integrity alone! Conversely, if Mrs. Rawlings’ allegations are as odious and preposterous as some have argued so far, then Nana Akufo-Addo ought to slap the former First Lady with a defamation lawsuit, in order to prove to the electorate that the NPP flag-bearer has nothing to hide! For Nana Akufo-Addo to take the trajectory of ambivalence on such an incendiary matter is simply imprudent at this time!

Yes, there are those Nana Akufo-Addo epigones out there who have sworn to take on anyone who disagrees with the NPP flag-bearer in the records-embellishment matter, but are these people incontestably correct? I will dare say no. Why? Because this salient Akufo-Addo-tied rumor, because it is of such gargantuan proportions, will simply not eviscerate, but will, at a future date, become fodder for the NPP flag-bearer’s political opponents. In fact, an opportune time for this allegation to re-surface is early November 2008, unless the matter is clearly and aggressively addressed and quashed now, to the satisfaction of the voting public, the people with the real power to effect change in Election 2008.

I call on Nana Akufo-Addo to make the important decision to address his detractors now, as this matter will simply not go away by wishful thinking. To those who are unaware of the Swift Boat conundrum that wrecked the chances of John Kerry in the 2004 U.S. Presidential Elections, please visit any major Internet search engine and read about this sad story. In fact, although the Swift Boat story was damning enough to John Kerry, more damning, surveys would later show, was Kerry’s ambivalence to it: John Kerry’s refusal to denounce the allegations of exaggerated valor leveled against him is said to have played a major role in his eventual loss of Election 2004 to George Bush.

Finally, Nana Akufo-Addo must realize that those epigonic characters singing his praise today will be the same people who will join in composing dirges for him, should he lose the elections due to this let-us-wait-and-it-will-all-pass attitude that the NPP flag-bearer’s camp appears to have adopted. Nana Akufo-Addo has been in politics long enough to understand that offense is always the best option in politics, and good, honest offense at that! Ignoring the tactics ? diabolical or otherwise ? of political opponents is a surefire recipe for disaster, so Nana Akufo-Addo must act now before this rather surmountable problem becomes too late to salvage!

The writer, Daniel K. Pryce, holds a master’s degree in public administration from George Mason University, U.S.A. He is a member of the national honor society for public affairs and administration in the U.S.A. He can be reached at dpryce@cox.net.

Columnist: Pryce, Daniel K.