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Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Election Petitions – Admonitions Not Enough

By Kwame Osei-Prempeh (former MP)
Dr. Afari GyanGhanaians are justifiably anxious of the aftermath of the verdict of the election petition currently pending before the Supreme Court. Having gone through the 2012 election peacefully despite the closeness of the election and the fact that he major opposition party, the New Patriotic Party had very serious reservations about the election, we have every reason to be thankful to God that the peace of the country was not breached in anyway. Frankly speaking, we must be grateful to Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo for choosing the courts instead of the streets.
This singular step assuaged the anger of the supporters not only of the NPP but of other minor parties like the PPP.
The court option opens a new chapter in the political development of the continent. After independence the mode of getting power was through military coup d’états. This is mainly explained by the fact that the first generation leaders after independence unfortunately adopted systems which made peaceful change of power through the ballot box impossible. Most of the military men who seized power also turned dictators and sought to perpetuate themselves in power. The result was the many civil wars and violence that the continent witnessed. Talk of the Presidents Doe of Liberia and Museveni of Uganda and others.
At the turn of the century, following the new wind of change across the world African States adopted elections as a means of changing governments. Whilst this is plausible it also came with its problem of rigging. This in the past resulted in wars, leading to loss of lives. The Kenyan experience being the most devastating as a result of which the current president and his vice have been indicted by the International criminal court and the Ivory Coast upheaval are still fresh in our minds.
All the above have been part of our development as a continent and as a nation. Gradually we seem to be putting the bad past behind us with the new urge to resort to the courts to settle electoral disputes. It has happened in Uganda, Nigeria, and Kenya, and there is the one currently pending before the Supreme Court challenging the results of the 2012 presidential election. What this means is that the Judiciary has assumed the role of consolidating our democracy. However, the same way the first generation leaders, the military dictators who followed them, the so called democrats whose election riggings led to civil wars and loss of lives and property had negative effects on our lives, if the judiciary do not make a conscious effort to build confidence in the rule of law, the impact of the judiciary would also be negative.
The judiciary is perhaps the last hope to save this continent and its people from political upheavals, civil wars and instability.
If confidence is built in the judiciary and aggrieved people believe they would get justice they would always go to the court if they feel cheated after elections and those with the propensity to rig will find it very disincentive to rig. If however the situation becomes as espoused by Bernard Mornah that after election if you feel cheated and go to court, the result will always be the same, the victor will have his victory irrespective of the means through which the victory was procured, the continent risks slipping back to the era of civil wars and political upheavals. The judiciary should be able to look at each and every case within its own merit so that the victors and the vanquished will feel they have got justice. It has to prove that the name of the game is not vigilance as Dr. Afari Gyan says and that if your opponent can outsmart you he can steal. It is in the light of the above that I find the numerous appeals to President John Mahama and Nana Akufo-Addo to accept the verdict as incomplete. I know the judiciary is independent and do not take directions from anybody. I believe the men and women on the judiciary are capable of deciding the matter before them.
Nonetheless, I believe all the personalities admonishing the leaders to accept the verdict would not be breaching the constitution if they tell the NINE JUSTICES of the Supreme Court that the current and future stability of the country is in their hands and they should rise above partisan, ethnic or any other interest and determine this case based only on the facts and figures before them.
I believe the Supreme Court is capable of delivering a verdict in which both the vanquished and the victor would believe they have got justice there will be the peace that we all want for this country. T S Elliot, the celebrated poet warns ‘’discontent boils bloody’’. When people feel discontented to a certain level, it becomes difficult to control their reactions and it is therefore important to eliminate issues that result in anger and dissatisfaction. Through the ‘magnanimity’’ of the Chief Justice, the proceedings of the Supreme Court are being viewed worldwide. The advantage is that whatever is being done and said in the court is being watched by everybody.
Every move of the justices would be subject to interpretations by the public and therefore the Lords need our prayers not only to be fair in the final judgment but to exhibit fairness in the hearing of the case in order not to send signals which will undermine the integrity of their final judgment. It does not take any legal training for any person to see bias if it is being exhibited. If you have patience for one counsel but not for the other everyone sees it.
While commending the eminent citizens – chiefs, politicians, the clergy and all the well meaning individuals for expressing their views on the need for President Mahama and Nana Akufo-Addo to accept the verdict of the court, they should extend the admonition to the justices of the Supreme Court. The acceptability of the verdict will be easier if the parties see them as being fair in the hearing of the matter and see their verdict as fair. Yes President Mahama and Nana Addo Akufo-Addo may accept the results but if the rank and file feel peeved that the court was biased and that their judgment is not fair, it may be difficult for the leaders to urge acceptability on their people and that is where the danger lies. Nana Akufo-Addo passed the test after the election when he chose the courts to seek redress instead of the streets. The onus now lies on the court to justify the confidence reposed in it. Yes, I know the court is independent but nobody would be breaching the independence of the court by admonishing the justices. Ghana needs peace but the foundation for the peace is justice.
My humble appeal to all the eminent persons and institutions genuinely admonishing the parties to accept the verdict is to take a necessary gargantuan step and tell the justices that the peace of this country is in their hands and they dare not put this country into any precarious situation.
The good book, the Bible says ‘’condemning the innocent and acquitting the guilty the Lord detests both’’ Proverbs 17:15. Let the pastors drum this home to the Lords of the Supreme Court.
Again Proverbs 17:14 says ‘’the beginning of strife is like releasing water, therefore stop contention before a quarrel starts.’’ Let justice help to nib in the bud what can harm the nation. My final appeal is to the churches, the pastors, Women Aglow and all those who pray to organise prayer sessions and fasting for the judges for God to give them the wisdom and boldness of Daniel in giving the judgment.
(The Author is a former Member of Parliament)

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