Tribute to Justice N.Y.B. Adade

Never again
“Who do people say I am?”  Matthew 16:15
And “Who do people say N.Y.B. Adade was?”

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For my part, I cannot say anything more than how I perceived and wrote about N.Y.B. Adade in my autobiography, “The River in the Sea,” published in June 2010 almost three years before the demise of N.Y.B.

The following are some excerpts from Part Three – “My Law Practice Years 1960 - 1970” pages 107 – 159 and Part Six – “Ghana Politics 1960-2000” – pages 255-367 regarding how I perceived N.Y.B.

From Part Three –Chapter 12 under the heading “The Experience of Life” are the following:-

“I remember my law practice days not because of the “I put it to you”, “I put it to you” or the “Objection, my Lord”, “Objection, my Lord” but most importantly for the experiences of life gathered in the course of these active ten years.

“Primarily, the training I had during my law pupilage and practice days from my boss, Nicolas Yaw Boafo Adade of Yaanom Chambers, Kumasi, and the impact on my lifestyle, not only in my own law days, but most importantly, my subsequent years in politics, business and society, still remain solid in the foundation structures of my walk through life. N.Y.B., as he is popularly called, rose to become in his later years not only the Attorney General and Minister of Justice but also followed it up by his appointment as a Judge of the Supreme Court and acting Chief Justice of Ghana.

“In October 1960, N.Y.B. Adade admitted me as a pupil, yet to be called to the Bar at his Yaanom Chambers in Kumasi.

“Since I could not professionally appear before the Ghana Courts until I had been enrolled at the Bar in London and confirmed by the Superior Courts of Ghana, I had at least, three months to heat up before the race. It was at this stage that N.Y.B. Adade passed over to me all that he had acquired as a pupil at the feet of the famous advocate and intellectual Magarey of the Magarey Chambers, at the Chancery Lane, London”.

From Part Six – “Ghana Politics – 1960-2000”. Chapter 24 “The Roadmap to the Third Republic” entitled “A House Divided against Itself” – “Victor Owusu vrs. N.Y.B. Adade and others” are the following:-

“Primarily, the breakup of the Second Republic of the Progress Party frontline was regrettably the uncompromising offspring of the professional clashes between Victor Owusu on the one side against N.Y.B. Adade. This originated from their Kumasi law practice years in the late 1950s to the mid 1960s. Along the line through politics Adade was joined by R.R. Amponsah, Yaw Manu and William Ofori Atta (Paa Willie).

The clash between the two legal luminaries existed when I joined the Yaanom Chambers of Adade in the late 1960s but it kept escalating over the years and out of the court houses into the public and political arenas.

Victor Owusu originated his law firm and named it the Okomfo Anokye Chambers. The Yaanom Chambers had its roots from Sir Edward Asafo Agyei, the first Kumasi law practitioner in the mid 1930s. He later became Ghana’s first High Commissioner to the United Kingdom after the nation attained her sovereignty in 1957 and handed over the Chambers to Siriboe. N.Y.B. Adade joined Siriboe in 1957 till the latter was appointed a Senior Magistrate in 1958.  Adade renamed the office Yaanom Chambers.

In a matter of three years Adade had a renowned and reputable law chamber in Kumasi/Ashanti, putting him in professional competition nationwide with all the brilliant legal practitioners of the land, notably the Akuffo Addos, F.K. Apaloos, J.B. Danquahs, the Koi Larbis, all of Accra, the Blays of Sekondi, the Victor Owusus, the Henry Prempehs, the Effah and Totoes, all of Kumasi.

Intellectually, there was not much difference between them.  The only difference of substance between the two was one of ideology and attitude.

N.Y.B. Adade was a red hot Marxist socialist who had even some connection and training at the Communist Pravda Publication Office in Moscow, Russia, in the early 1950s. He could laugh out cheerfully, crack jokes and was easily accessible. He had many nicknames with every acquaintance, and was vocal against corruption of any sort. He was also a playboy who, notwithstanding his social traits, had a nightclub, “The Jamboree”, at Asafo Kumasi and also formed his own highlife band, “The Globemasters”, which soon became one of the leading bands of the 1960s in Ghana.

Victor Owusu, on the other hand, was arch capitalist and blue ice cold Conservative. He believed in class regimentation and made it appear even a privilege to stretch his hand to shake anybody outside his circle. His lawyers, politicians, golfers and lodge mason friends could be counted on the fingers of the left hand. There was nobody one could count on as Victors’s real and trusted confidant except maybe, “Afro” Gbedemah and F.K. Apaloo.

While between 1960 and 1965 the two were probably the best lawyers in Ashanti, Brong Ahafo and the northern sector of the country, it appeared their courtroom clashes were carried outside the court precint.

The internal conflicts between them started to peak from 1962 after the famous Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah’s “Dawn Broadcast” in which he castigated the Judicial Service of corruption and other unacceptable practices.

Adade, as I knew him as a practising lawyer and member of the judiciary in latter years, had always held the view that judges were not per se corrupt, but in most cases are led into that temptation by members of the Bar in return for undeserved judgments.

Stop these lawyers who flirt with the judges for advantage and this seemingly negative perception will die away, as ordinary litigants under normal circumstances lack the courage to approach a Judge for such judicial favours”. “This was a view not shared by Victor who resented Adade’s general views on the private lives and moralities of the judiciary”

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“In 1966 Victor Owusu was appointed the Attorney General by the National Liberation Council (N.L.C.) after the overthrow of Kwame Nkrumah’s First Republic.
Barely 18 months later, for some unexplained reasons, Victor  was replaced by N.Y.B.  The latter was made to hold this office after he became the Progress Party’s parliamentarian for Konongo/Juaso Asante Akim in the Second Republic. Victor Owusu, who had been the only Member of Parliament to have won his Agona Ashanti seat unopposed by any other party, was made the Minister for Foreign Affairs.

At this critical period, two unfortunate incidents befell the Government of Dr Busia. First was the Salah case of wrongful dismissal against the Government before the High Court, Accra, presided over by Justice Apaloo.

The Government was completely dissatisfied with the judges’ insistence on handling the case, after the Attorney General,  N.Y.B.  Adade, had raised objection to the trial Judge’s jurisdiction over the case based on bias or close intimacy of the judge and the plaintiff.  While the Prime Minister, a devout Methodist Christian and sociologist, saw everything wrong with the judge’s conduct, this was a view not shared by Victor”.

“Before any Cabinet reshuffle could be made, there was the need for a lawyer to be posted as deputy to assist Adade and this is how I found myself transferred from the Trade, Industry and Tourism Ministry to be Deputy Attorney General and Deputy Minister of Justice.

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The need for Cabinet reshuffle became inevitable. Adade was transferred to the Ministry of Interior, Victor and Paa Willie were moved to the Attorney General’s office and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs respectively. While Victor blamed Adade and Paa Willie for engineering his transfer, Adade also pointed the same fingers at  Victor”.

“They were both very good listeners and commanded respectable business practice of supervision and delegation to achieve the concerted result. In one aspect, however, there was a vast difference and this was timing. Adade was very particular about timing, while Victor, perhaps with his Agona Royal upbringing, had no respect for time but expected everybody to wait for him and sometimes, would offer no tangible explanation for his lateness. He would simply say: “I am sorry for being late”.

In the ensuing confusion, the “Pro Broad Base” group started to walk out led by Osei Duah, followed by Yaw Manu, R.R. Amponsah, N.Y.B. Adade and Darkwa Dwamena. At this juncture, da Rocha gave up his chairmanship of the meeting in favour of  Mr. William Ofori Atta, who declined it on some strange religious grounds. After a lengthy oration bordering on religion and politics, Paa Willie decided to walk away amidst protestation and pleadings from particularly Dr. Jones Ofori Atta, da Rocha, Victor Owusu and myself, but to no avail. After his departure, only four Senior Ministers of Dr. Busia’s were left behind. They were Kwasi Lamptey, R.A. Quarshie, J.H. Mensah and Victor Owusu. The latter was offered the chair, only for the meeting, which eventually decided to revive the Progress Party with a different name and symbol, yet to decided.

Soon after we came out with the name and symbol of our party, the so- called “Broad Based Party” also inaugurated theirs under the name of “United National Convention”- U.N.C. and surprisingly with Paa Willie as their presidential Candidate. Their party symbol of open hand was an innuendo of openness, transparent and cleanliness as against the uncleared and seemingly dirty Victor Owusu. The Popular Front Party at the time had not elected its Party Leader. Here Paa Willie had disabled his admirers in the party from pursing their clamours for him.

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The U.N.C.was essentially a combination of the Progress Party “Walk Outs” from da Rocha’s law office and most of the Gbedemah’s N.A.L. Party members notably Okudjeto, Osei Nyame, Dr. Obed Asamoah, Dr. Agama and few outsiders including Peter Ala Adjetey, Prof Adu Boahen, Harry Sawyerr and unbelievably General Afrifa. The battle for the dirty mud slinging had begun between P.F.P. and U.N.C.

The result was the second round Presidential election between Hilla Limann’s P.N.P and Victor Owusu’s P.F.P. As the U.N.C. came third with their political stalwarts of Paa Willie, N.Y.B. Adade, Prof. Adu Boahen, Afrifa, R.R. Amponsah,Yaw Manu, Ala Adjetey, Dr. Agama, Sam Okudjeto, Obed Asamoah and Harry Sawyerr, ignored their political roots of the Danquah/ Busia/ Dombo tradition and opted for the P.N.P. of the C.P.P. ancestry. This enabled Limann Win the Land slide victory over the PFP victor Owusu in Round Two.  Thus the Danquah/Busia/Dombo houses divided against itself fell in 1979 and the builder had to wait for over twenty years to put it back in 2001.”

Fortunately, Victor and N.Y.B, for the 20 years in the wilderness had learned to come together before J.A.K  was sworn in as the President of Ghana in 2001, a lesson not to be repeated by any member of the Danquah, Busia, Dombo Tradition. Fare thee well N.Y.B.     

By Akenten Appiah Menka / Daily Graphic / Ghana

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