Principles matter

Author: Yaw Boadu Ayeboafoh

There is an Akan saying that “dee owo aka no da no suro sunsono”, which literally translates as the one who has been bitten by the snake fears a worm.

The formal English rendition is once bitten, twice shy.  In July 1982, the country was thrown into turmoil following the abduction and murder of three High Court Judges and a retired military officer. They were killed by overzealous agents of the state. To date we are unsure whether the full facts were established.

Whatever it was sentiments were assuaged when a member of the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) was sentenced to death and executed for the wanton and bestial murders. Thus, any threat to murder a judge must become our great oath, a taboo topic. That was indeed the frenzy with which the nation was stirred into when a few years back, the then National Chairman of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), Dr Kwabena Adjei , alluded to the possibility of dealing with judges whose judgements did not go a certain way. He was even clever and not crude. He made reference to the different ways of killing cats. Our venom was poured on him as many said he should have known better.  

Then there was the Presidential Election Petition during which trial some individuals who were seen to be undermining the independence and authority of the Supreme Court were cited for contempt, among them was one who had threatened that if the ruling did not go a certain way, heads could roll. While we, as Ghanaians , demonstrated our faith in freedom of expression and decried custodial sentences for those indicted for contempt of court, nonetheless, we were at one in condemning those who brought the integrity of the highest court of the land into disrepute. We agreed that something should be done to those deviants.

So for some Ghanaians to sit on radio and openly boast of their capacity to deal with Supreme Court justices, including the fact that they knew where the judges lived, on the eve of the 34th anniversary of that sordid past, to say the least,  is disappointing and shows what partisan politics could do if nothing is done to deal with the deviants involved in the latest outburst. 

There are those of us who see some of our political activists as lacking basic understanding of democracy and that to such people, democracy means they alone have the right to do what they want and that those who support them must equally be allowed to enjoy and benefit from the fruits of democracy. However, all others, especially those who do not belong to their camp must not benefit from democracy.

For heaven’s sake, why should any right-thinking person assume that the decision of the Supreme Court directing the Electoral Commission to delete from the [voters] register, people who used the national health insurance card to register, is against the interest of a political party? How can that be true that only members of a certain political party used the card to register and for which the party will suffer if those names were removed from the register, not discounting the fact that the Supreme Court tied the hands of the Electoral Commission to ensure that all such persons who otherwise qualified were enabled to register to exercise their franchise.

It is thus well that the government has come forward through the Minister of the Interior and the Attorney General to assure us all that our judges will be protected. But that assurance is not enough. Those involved must be made to face the full rigours of their action. They exercised their freedom of expression. As the legal maxim is, the philosophy is that no one should be denied the opportunity to express a view point, but after they have exercised their freedom, if their conduct affects another person, then they should be ready to pay the appropriate penalty. For far too long, we have tolerated buffoonery and bestialism in the name of partisan politics.  

 Since our re-entry into constitutional democracy, one destructive phenomenon has been the tendency to deviate from objective analysis , look for bad examples from the NDC and the New Patriotic Party (NPP) and square up for a balance. Once you get similar examples, the assumption is that whether the conduct is good or evil, once the two parties have some members involved, there is nothing wrong.

This is the time for the Attorney General to stand up and salvage the image and authority of the judiciary from party activists. Many of them assume that for as long as they protect the interest of their party, they would never be exposed to face the consequences of their criminal activities.