Having chosen a compelling name like ‘montie’, which in Akan can be translated as ‘listen up!’ or ‘folks, listen!’, it’s a pity that Montie FM’s name is now stamped on people’s minds for the wrong reasons.
And there are so many appalling elements in their Supreme Court case that one risks overlooking that the Montie trio have other charges pending as well.
The Daily Graphic reported that sentencing Alistair Tairo Nelson and Godwin Ako Gunn, and the host, Salifu Maase, alias Mugabe, for comments made during a discussion programme on the Accra station on June 29, 2016, “the court, however, did not sentence the trio for the threat of harm and death that they made against the judges, explaining that (those) constituted another matter for another branch of government to take action (on)” (Emphasis mine).
Not only were there death threats made against the Supreme Court Judges on June 29, incidentally the eve of Martyrs Day, there was also the scandalous warning that someone was “ready to marry” the Chief Justice, Mrs Justice Georgina Wood, in the event of turmoil in Ghana.
A clear threat of rape!
Yet, incredibly, there are people who have signed a petition pressurizing President Mahama to pardon them! Gender Minister Nana Oye Lithur is the last person I expected to sign such a petition; but she did. As did Education Minister Professor Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang!
Listening to even snippets of what landed the trio in court, one could only conclude that they spoke with the confidence of people who knew that they had protectors in high places. Indeed, ‘Mugabe’ is reported to have claimed that he was working for President Mahama –with no denial from the presidency.
Another shocker was the statement issued on July 28, by the Chairman of the ruling National Democratic Congress, Mr Kofi Portuphy, describing the sentences as “an excessive censure of the right to free expression.”
Is it Mr Portuphy’s, and the NDC’s, position that free expression has no limits?
For the background, as reported by the Daily Graphic of July 28:
“The Supreme Court (on Wednesday, July 27, 2016) (sentenced) two radio panellists and a programme host to four months imprisonment each for scandalising the court ….
“Alistair Tairo Nelson and Godwin Ako Gunn, and the host, Salifu Maase, alias Mugabe, were also to pay GH¢10,000 each or in default serve an additional one month in prison.
“The two panellists, spurred on by Maase, threatened the lives of judges of the superior court, especially those who heard the case on the credibility of the country’s electoral roll filed by Abu Ramadan and Evans Nimako against the Electoral Commission ….
“They were found guilty of scandalising the court, defying and lowering the authority of the court and bringing the name of the court into disrepute.
“The sentence was read by the presiding judge, Ms Sophia Akuffo. Other members of the panel were Mr Justice Gabriel Pwamang, Mr Justice A.A. Benin, Mr Justice Anin Yeboah and Mr Julius Ansah.”
The court pointed out that Nelson and Gunn had been particularly “reckless and insensitive in their comments” as their threats were made on the eve of Martyrs Day.
(High Court Judges Mr Justice Fred Poku Sarkodee, Mrs Justice Cecilia Koranteng-Addow, a nursing mother, and Mr Justice Kwadwo Agyei Agyepong, together with a retired army officer, Major Sam Acquah, were abducted on June 30, 1982 and murdered during the Provisional National Defence Council administration of President Jerry John Rawlings. Thus, the judiciary marks June 30 as Martyrs Day,)
It is instructive that when the justices asked for the recording of the programme to be played in the court, the lawyers for the accused reportedly pleaded with the court not to play it, evidently fearing its damning effect on their clients’ case. However, the court insisted that it should be played for a full appreciation of what they were accused of.
The trio who had apologised, all pleaded guilty with explanation for scandalising the court.
Memorably, the outrageous excuse offered by Nelson was that he had been possessed by, as he put it, the “kpokpogbligbli disease”, which apparently makes its victim say indefensible things.
The Court’s historic sentence was doubtless a relief to campaigners for freedom of speech with responsibility.
Earlier in the saga, following the emphatic call by the Ghana Bar Association on July 1 for the panellists to be arrested for their June 29 utterances, which included the ominous statement that they know where the judges live, and also “when we finish them”, the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI) had issued a bizarre statement on July 7.
It said that after interviewing the panellists, the Bureau had concluded that they were not capable of carrying out their threats – as if capability to cause an alleged offence had ever been a consideration for people arrested by the BNI.
Thinking about what led to the contempt charges one could only wonder, in traditional parlance, whether the trio have no elders in their families’ (to advise them).
The unimaginable disrespectfulness of Nelson threatening that “Nash of Mataheko was ready to ‘marry’ the Chief Justice (if) war breaks out”!
It’s baffling that there are people who are saying that the judges were too harsh.
However, many think otherwise. Notably, eminent lawyer and former GBA President, Mr Sam Okudzeto, has said that in his view, they should have been imprisoned for at least six months,
Not too long ago, the Member of Parliament for Assin North, Mr Kennedy Agyapong, attracted widespread censure for his obnoxious statement that Electoral Commission Chairperson, Mrs Charlotte Osei, got her appointment through sexual favours.
Furthermore, some women’s groups as well as queenmothers, went on demonstrations against him for his sexist statement, seeing it as an insult to all women, especially those occupying high office.
Similarly, surely a threat of rape against Her Ladyship Chief Justice Georgina Theodora Wood should equally be viewed as a threat against all women.
So when are those women taking to the streets against the threat to rape Her Ladyship?
And what about the loud silence of President John Mahama? The nation needs to know his position on this sorry saga which could have been avoided if the presidency had made it clear to Mugabe and Montie FM that the President doesn’t need their kind of support.