Tribute to Justice V.C.R.A.C. Crabbe- On behalf of the Walakataka family of Osu, Accra

BY: Prof. Mike Oquaye
Justice Professor Vincent Cyril Richard Arthur Charles Crabbe
Justice Professor Vincent Cyril Richard Arthur Charles Crabbe

Maternally, the respected Justice Professor Vincent Cyril Richard Arthur Charles Crabbe (V.C.R.A.C Crabbe) hailed from Osu, Accra; and specifically Nii Walakataka We. His maternal grandmother was a beloved daughter called Ashiokor Oquaye, being a second daughter of her father.

Ashiokor’s daughter gave birth to three children, one of whom lived longer than the other two and later appeared like an only child known as V.C.R.A.C Crabbe. His initials were particularly long and he lived long for 95 years less one month.

V.C. was closely attached to his mother all his life (his father having died one year after his birth) and by virtue of that he became a binding glue between the Crabbe family of Ga Mashie and his entire maternal family.

At every Homowo Festival celebration, he played a leading role by exhibiting loyalty, love and commitment to his two sources of ancestry. He was an illustration of the saying that those who are wise provide well for plantain, yet do not ignore banana, for you never know when famine will strike and you will need banana to survive.

From the cradle to the grave, Prof. Justice Crabbe epitomised the ideal child who learnt hard, was of good character, principled to the pith and marrow of his being, feared God and loved Jesus Christ whom he accepted as his personal saviour.

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At a stage in his life, this committed vegetarian took to Yoga, not for spiritual reasons but to acquire the strength of a body tamed and hammered by the discipline and meditation Yoga offered.

Uncle Charles, who actually was my senior cousin, was so inspirational that when I wrote my first book “Politics In Ghana 1972 – 79” in 1980, I requested him to write a foreword to the book, which he graciously did.

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He made frank and serious observations on the politics of the era which perpetually remain useful food for thought.

Several years later in 2001, when our father E.G.N. Oquaye passed on at age 93, “Uncle Charles” was the person that the family appointed as his customary successor.

So it was that my siblings and I inherited a very worthy, wise, talented and illustrious gentleman as our father till his death.

We are rendered orphans by this departure and wish we had him for more years to come.

Indeed, the old boy had been around for so long that after we had all gone to celebrate his 90th birthday in grand style five years ago, we perceived him as the age-less, ever-lingering Metusellah, whose longevity and perpetuity we could always take for granted. Alas, it was not to be.

On  March 6,1957, Ghana was poised for independence. Feverish preparations were being made for the grandest political celebration in black Africa as we were first to be independent.

Schoolchildren were ironing uniforms to shine as glass; soldiers and policemen were rehearsing for an unprecedented parade; politicians and their followers were all excited to the teeth.

But a lot of legislative drafting had to be done in the background.

From the records, 80 pieces of legislation had to be produced – 40 Ordinances and 40 Acts of Parliament. Two gentlemen were in charge – A New Zealand crack lawyer called Fred Boyce, aged 57 and a Gold Coast young man aged 34 years – Charles Crabbe.

From 1957 to 2018, this man never retired from drafting laws for Ghana and Africa and served his nation and continent with exceptional brilliance, commitment and unmatched prowess.

If a man can live forever, he will be doing so till this day.

Which family will not be peacock proud of a son who distinguished himself with such excellence as a lawyer and a jurist; who as a lawyer wrote most laws for our nation; who as a judge rose to the highest Court of the land; who became the first Ghanaian head of the Electoral Commission of Ghana and conducted the 1969 Elections with detached excellence and formalistic impersonality; who, when forced into exile at a time revolutionaries persecuted the Judiciary in Ghana and he narrowly missed death just because he was on an international assignment on the night judges were captured and murdered; (His ailing mother was shocked by soldiers who ransacked his bungalow in his absence to kill him and who sent a message to her son, never to return to Ghana even if she died.

I will never forget how the poor old lady came to my father’s house at Osu R.E., shaken to death, wretched and miserable); who later surfaced at the University of West Indies, Barbados,  where he became a professor of law; who at the age of 95 was  still a professor of law at Mountcrest University College in Accra; who, having passed his Bar exams in U.K. in two years was made the first African Assistant Crown Counsel responsible for legislation and progressed to Parliamentary Counsel; the expert who progressed to Senior Instructor at the International Law Development Centre in Rome; Advisor to the Ugandan Government on Law and Legislation; who became Director of the Commonwealth Secretariat Scheme for Legislative Draftsmen for the whole of West Africa; the gentleman who was made Special Commissioner and Advisor to the 1968 Constitutional Commission; Legislative Draftsman to the 1969 Constituent Assembly which drafted the 1969 Constitution of Ghana; the man who became the Chairman of the 1979 Constituent Assembly and drafted the 1979 Constitution of Ghana; the tireless trojan who worked on the Constitutional Review Commission of Ghana and the Leader of the Group of Draft persons who drafted the Kenya Constitution; our son who established the Zambia Constitutional Commission; who was appointed as Special Advisor to the Fiadjoe Committee for Review of the 1992 Constitution; the perpetual jurist who worked with Justice Kayode of the Supreme Court of Nigeria and Justice Bhagwati, Chief Justice of India, to set up the Constitutional Court of South Africa; the one-man-thousand who when we all agreed that our laws were in  a mess, scattered about and nebulous in many directions, was made the sole Statute Law Revision Commissioner of Ghana, and he revised the Laws of Ghana from 1852 to 2004; the man of Gold, gift of God, we are proud of you.

We salute you.

Justice Crabbe’s beard has been a subject for speculation for long. It is directly related to his unbridled penchant for hard work and bookishness.

In the 1960s he was engaged to work on the constitutional and other perspectives of the Uganda crisis.

Milton Obote and others were all waiting on him. In the months ahead, he developed a beard which was rather unkempt.

At the end of the resolution, he said to himself: “If I don’t shave so what?” And that is how it all happened even after.

Two months ago, I led the leadership of Parliament to request Justice Crabbe to set up a Legal and Legislative Drafting Department for us in Parliament.

He agreed without hesitation, having asked with dismay “you don’t have a legal department here?”.

An office was set up for him instantly and he was given the mandate to recruit a legal team at once.

He actually started work on the ground floor of the Speaker’s Block. We were not lucky. The old man was soon on his way to answer to a higher calling from his Maker and Master.

Justice Crabbe was careful to write an authoritative book on Legislative Drafting.

He has given 20 copies to Parliament of Ghana’s Library. He also gave lengthy interviews to the writer of his published biography, Kwesi Amoak. These and other publications of his are a living treasure for Ghana.

On the occasion of celebrating him, may I urge public figures and others who have attained great heights in various areas of human endeavour to please write their memoirs or dictate for others to write.

You owe it to posterity and national development.

Let me give you one good example of the need to record events for posterity. Prof. Crabbe’s Biography recounts the event of declaration or proclamation of independence.

It was done at the National Assembly of Ghana not Old Polo Grounds and it was done by the Duchess of Kent on behalf of Queen Elizabeth II of England as by law established.

Our son Crabbe, we cannot help recounting what Ghana, Africa and the world would have missed, if evil soldiers had succeeded in burning you in 1982 together with other judges that fateful night! These things must be said so that Ghanaians will continue to say: Never Again!  

Your family in Osu cannot forget the time your sweet mother died and her only surviving son could not attend her burial.

You lamented, wailed and fretted beyond degree in Barbados where you had been forced to flee for your dear life.

You said on many occasions this was the real pain of your life. You also said in the end that you had forgiven them all.

To God be the Glory.

Even though uncle Charles’s journey on earth has ended, his contributions to the nation still live on.

The critical question to answer is what legacy will we leave behind when we are no more.

What contributions have we made to society, however little they might seem? Is it not possible to serve our nation and eschew corrupt practices?

Uncle Charles lived just like the oak tree and the family members both of Ga Mashie and Osu sought abode under his “branches”.

He was a family man by all standards; very caring, affable, generous to a fault, ensured that all family members lived in peace with each other and contributed in diverse ways in resolving various family issues that were brought before him.  

Vincent, Cyril, Richard, Arthur, Charles (VCRAC) Crabbe, Rest in Perfect Peace.

Thou good and faithful workman. The labourer’s task is ended indeed.

The writer is the Speaker of Parliament.