My 2013 retrospective

 

The year 2013 has just ended. We have begun 2014. Some of us prefer to be prophets and seek a projection of what our collective fate as a nation would be in this New Year and subsequent years.

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But that projection will have, necessarily, to be based on what happened in the previous year.  So instead of trying to be a prophet charting unplumbed depths, I would want to divine and outline here what the historians of the future would agree were the most significant events of the previous year 2013.

Many who will engage in similar exercises will cite different markers of significance to them. The question for me to be answered in the future is which of the events cited will stand the test of time in the general sweep of events. Let me illustrate this question of permanence by reference to the impermanent that seize and hold us momentarily.

In July 2001 or thereabouts, a pro-NDC newspaper reported that President Kufuor would take a break from his busy schedule by going on leave. The publication was in the Friday edition, and I recall clearly that the Joy FM presenter on air reviewing the newspapers at the time lambasted the paper for spreading irresponsible rumours.

By the following Monday morning, President Kufuor had gone on leave and a statement had been issued praising the virtues of seeking periodic rest from one’s labours either as public servants or as private individuals. The Joy FM presenter never retracted his attack on the paper that had scooped the story or even acknowledged the paper.

A story like this has no permanence, and so it would be with the furlough of President Mahama in the Middle East.

By far the single most important event that will outlast any other event in the future consideration of the highlights of 2013 would be the election petition filed by the 2012 presidential Candidate of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) and two others seeking to have the Supreme Court overturn the results of the 2012 election and declare him as the rightfully-elected President of Ghana. This case was filed on December 28, 2012, hearing began in April 2013 and judgement was delivered on August 29, 2013.

The fact that this matter took up more than half the year to resolve, the enormous political energies expended by all the parties in it, and the universal attention paid to its stately progress in the Supreme Court guaranteed that nothing else would command comparable public interest. The political effects, I daresay, would be equally momentous for all of us in the coming years.

The decision by the NPP to go to court for the first time in the history of this country to have the courts decide the winner of a presidential election, spearheaded personally by the person who would have benefitted if the verdict had gone his way, was a cold-blooded, calculated political determination not only to mount an unwarranted attack on our electoral system, but a massive agenda-setting call fraught with many implications for the system of governance we have chosen to rule ourselves since 1992.

The case had no intrinsic merit. It is not difficult to divine this. It rested on the judges agreeing to annul the valid votes of nearly half of those who had voted in order to ensure the victory of the first petitioner. Logically, such a finding would have tainted the entire poll, and made a re-run inevitable, but that was not the remedy sought by the petitioners.

Rather, the petitioners sought to cancel some votes and retain others, implying a breathtaking jurisprudential audacity that was checked by the ultimate decision by our judges to prefer order to chaos. In this respect, the petition was a brazen abuse of the system of justice we have in Ghana.

The case was agenda-setting because it is now clear the aim of the first petitioner and his supporters in the NPP was to use the petition to retain his position as the Presidential Candidate of the party for the 2016 elections. This agenda, as I write, is on course. It is also fraught with many pitfalls for the party.

For the NPP, the principal actor in the petition was the 2008 and 2012 running mate, Dr Mahamadu Bawumia. If anybody is to benefit from this case, it should be Dr Bawumia, and not the older presidential candidate. Why should he be a running mate three or four times in his political career? 

This is the clearest statement that this acknowledged banker is seen as a palanquin carrier in his party. This assertion is quite different from the question of whether Dr Bawumia can be victorious over President Mahama in 2016 if he is chosen. Rather, it has everything to do with the general perception that for the NPP, the top prize is a preserve of the forest Akans in their party and all others have to submerge their ambitions.

Everybody seemed to be talking of electoral reforms right after the case, forgetting conveniently that the decision in the case was an emphatic statement of confidence in the electoral system of Ghana. I would have wished that the NPP would be leading the campaign now to put a cap on the number of seats in parliament, seeing that they took the matter of 45 additional seats prior to the elections to court and lost the case.

The fact that in the end, the party won more of those seats would have strengthened their moral position in seeking such a necessary reform. So what was all the opposition to the new seats about? Or, to quote President Limann in a similar dispute with the Electoral Commission in 1980, these were ‘mere flapdoodle’?

Come December 2016, the elections are held, and the NPP loses again.What would be their reaction? Dr Afari-Gyan would not be the chairman of the Electoral Commission because he would have retired.

He cannot be used as the bogeyman in any case that may arise in that event, even though by referring to him as his beloved roommate at Legon at the last NPP rally before the election on December 7, 2012, the first petitioner was implying he expected victory because the EC was headed by an ancient friend.

The party boasts  having the needed qualified personnel to run our affairs, and the lawyers therein never tire of warning that filing of cases in court implies an effective injunction on the matters in dispute, but they never agreed that they had enjoined the lawfully-elected government of Ghana with the petition.

The insincerity in the whole petition exercise would not go away any time soon. As I write, the much-condemned Electoral Commission is busy supervising internal elections in the NPP.   

 

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