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September 2010

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A lot has been said and done since Dr. Kwabena Adjei’s mad effusions about the judiciary. The magistrates and judges association (I didn’t even know there was such a thing) have made it clear that politics is often the last thing on their mind. They also told Kwabena Adjei off and advised the government that a “lawyer is as good as his brief”. That is to say that you can’t expect a judge to help you make a good case out of a bad one neither can a judge be forced to make a bad case out of a good one.

Then came President Mills who had only nine words to say in response to a question about whether he was going to follow up his party chairman’s words with some dreadful, undemocratic deeds.
“The judiciary is independent,” he said. “I have no such intention”.

Just about the same time the president was speaking at the airport, the judge hearing the Ya Na murder case, was reading out a statement in court, lashing out at deputy attorney general, Ebo Barton-Odro. The deputy AG had a few days earlier suggested that the judge was biased because he had made prejudicial comments about the case in a drinking bar. The judge insists that he has never been to a drinking bar and is challenging Barton-Odro to prove his allegations or render an apology.

Mr. Barton-Odro says he will never apologise and has vowed to make his evidence available soon. What he calls ‘evidence’ happens to be a recording of a woman who claims to have heard the judge make the so-called prejudicial comments about the Ya Na case.

Listening to Barton-Odro, I realized why government keeps bungling up its cases in court. The evidence he claims to have against the judge is as flimsy as a worn-out rag in a mortuary. If he takes it before any judge, it would be thrown out and he will be flying after it through the window. Is Mr. Barton-Odro saying that if there is a recording of me alleging that he had stolen someone’s goat, that would be good enough evidence that he is indeed a thief? Barton-Odro must be one hell of a terrible lawyer.

I am quite happy with the manner the judge forcefully stated his views on Barton-Odro’s behavior, which, as he rightly said, is unbecoming of any lawyer – much less the deputy attorney general. The judge essentially said Barton-Odro was acting like a stooge, allowing politics and propaganda to cloud his legal judgments.

Meanwhile, instead of acting to prove the judge wrong, Barton-Odro’s boss, Betty Mould-Iddrisu, decides to take on the judge, describing his words against Barton-Odro as “reprehensible”. Meanwhile, she wasn’t ashamed to tell us that as she responded to the judge’s remarks, she hadn’t actually read his statement. All she had was what she had heard.

That wasn’t the first time she spoke about a document she hadn’t read. When Wireko-Brobby and Mpiani were discharged the Attorney General condemned the judgment outright, honestly conceding that she hadn’t read the document.

Most of the bad lawyers I know would never comment on a document they have not read. Our AG, sadly, comments before she reads – often (and very sadly) with politics clouding her legal judgment.

I am even tempted to think that politics had something to do with the botched decision to prosecute Enoch Lamptey-Mills for rape. Maybe, they had lost so many high profile cases that the AG’s Department decided that they should pick someone (anyone) and have him jailed to make a point that they are also capable of winning some cases. They picked Lamptey-Mills. But in their haste, they didn’t even bother to speak to the ‘star witness’ – the alleged victim of Lamptey-Mills’ rampant libido. It took one interview on Joy FM for the case against Lamptey-Mills to unravel. When the station got in touch with the so-called victim, she insisted that she wasn’t raped and that she actually enjoyed the sex and she’s even quite happily married to the man the AG intended to prosecute.

So the case is dropped.

At least, we have to be thankful that common sense prevailed in the case of Lamptey-Mills. After bearing a child with one of his students, that man should have the national medal awarded him by John Kufuor withdrawn. If I had my way, I would crash his balls with a sledgehammer for sleeping with his student. He deserves to be punished one way or another. But a case like what the AG was contemplating against him would have ended in yet another legal embarrassment.

And what would they have said? That the judges are biased? Perhaps, they may even have said that the supposed victim, who insists she was never raped, is an NPP supporter who doesn’t want the NDC to win a court case.

There is something very wrong with government’s legal team. They keep making the same petty mistakes over and over again and to cover their mistakes, they have resorted to a dangerous tactic, executed on the altar of shameful propaganda. It’s a tactic which is very typically NDC – give a dog a bad name to hang it. Just to have their way, they like to go all out to use lies and concoctions to forcefully discredit anything or anyone they can’t control.

Before the elections in 2008, the NDC went on the offensive accusing the Electoral Commission of a plot to rig the polls for the NPP. If they had lost, the elections they would have blamed the EC for their defeat. When they won they kept quiet.

Leading members of the NDC who want William Ampem-Darko sacked from his position as director general of the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation, have called him by all sorts of names. They have even tried to demonise Kabral Blay-Amihere because they don’t like the fact that he is chairman of the National Media Commission.

Recently, they were all over the place saying all sorts of vile things about me and Joy FM, just to discredit me and the station. This was after some unseen hands had foolishly tried to manipulate people to have me charged with a criminal offence. They couldn’t push it any further because many discerning Ghanaians saw and spoke out against what was going on. I am still walking a free man, hoping and praying for my day in court. When that day comes, Barton-Odro may be the one leading the prosecution.

Kwabena Adjei’s recent effusions and the double-speak from government is therefore just in keeping with an NDC tactic. It is a deliberate psychological battle being waged against the judiciary in the NDC’s misguided belief that propaganda will make up for where they have fallen short and, to an extent, force people who won’t kowtow to them to cower. But they are wrong. It is not working and it will never work.

People have learnt to read between the lines. Propaganda is not as useful as it used to be. With so many platforms for so many divergent views, Ghanaians are slowly but surely (faster than the Atta Mills style) becoming informed, sifting the wheat from the chaff and making up their own minds. There are also several individuals and groups which will not sit down for government (or any political party) to run roughshod over us and go scot-free. They may not speak out as often as they should but if the government steps out of bounds, the dissenting voices will speak and the propaganda machine will yield nothing.

This explains why Kwabena Adjei’s comment about cleansing the judiciary caused such an outrage. No amount of glossy propaganda-induced clarification will change the minds of those who believe that Kwabena Adjei was dead wrong. In the same vein, the deputy Attorney General cannot convince anyone – except those whose world view is as politically-tainted as his – that the voice of a woman alleging that she heard a judge making prejudicial comments about a case is not good enough evidence.

It goes without saying, therefore, that the NDC and the government must focus on doing the right things and doing them well. The propaganda and the ‘bugabuga’ tactics will not help anyone. This is the time for the leader of the party – I suppose it is the president – to call everyone to order.

But President Mills has proved to be almost as ineffectual as predicted.
Speaking nine words in response to Kwabena Adjei’s lunatic effusions is not quite good enough. If the president is really not in on this plot to force the judiciary into submission, he should say and do more. For starters he should call a news conference – like Kwabena Adjei did – and speak to Ghanaians, assuring us and our judges that he completely disagrees with every silly thing Kwabena Adjei said about the judiciary. He should publicly chastise Kwabena Adjei in the strongest of terms. Then the president should organize an open meeting with the top-brass of the judiciary to personally assure them that he will not under any circumstance do anything to manipulate any case in his government’s favour.

The president should also sack Ebo Barton-Odro for failing to provide a shred of evidence to support his allegations against the judge. The time has also come for the president to seriously start thinking about re-assigning Betty Mould-Iddrisu. I like her in government. But I don’t think she’s been a good AG so far. An AG is as good as the number of cases she wins. She’s lost one case too many and the fact that she speaks about judgments without reading them baffles me. I wouldn’t even expect that of the information minister but if she’s all about speaking off-the-cuff, I guess the information ministry is where she should be.

If the president, doesn’t do any of these, we can all start assuming that his words about the independence of the judiciary are as hollow as Barton-Odro’s head and that contrary to what he may want us to publicly believe, he is in cahoots with the likes of Kwabena Adjei to strike fear in our judges and get them to kowtow to the NDC’s whims and caprices.