The Executive Director of the Danquah Institute has cautioned the general public, especially the two main political parties, against peddling rumours that attack the integrity of the nine justices sitting on the presidential election petition trial.
The Statesman has learnt that all manner of unfounded rumours are being peddled about and against the judges, including allegations of bribery as the nation braces itself for the decision of the court expected to be delivered by 29th August, 2013.
But in an exclusive interview with The Statesman, Asare Otchere-Darko, alias Gabby, who was first reluctant to even offer a comment on the matter, did not mince his words in condemning the rumours when he agreed to speak.
“It is totally disrespectful, needlessly tasteless and counterproductively insane for people to spread that kind of unfounded rumours against any judge in this case,” he said.
The Statesman has picked up information making rounds in certain circles across the big cities, especially that some leading members of one of the political parties involved in the election petition are going around claiming, for example, that they have “managed to get 6 out of the nine judges on their side.”
Others are also boasting that they are winning the case by a 5-4 majority. Even more worrying is the fact that certain individual judges are being singled out, with allegations that they are being influenced to vote one way or the other.
We put this to Gabby for his view. “Well, I’m very reluctant to speak about this matter for fear of pouring oil on it. But I guess it is out there, and it must stop and if I can help to stop it, then I’ll gladly do so,” he said.
The head of DI, who is also the publisher of this paper, acknowledges the general cynicism in our country when it comes to litigation or, specifically, contestable issues between the two main political parties, the National Democratic Congress and the New Patriotic Party.
He explained, “We cannot just run away from the fact that, like in many court cases in Ghana, you cannot legislate against the likelihood of people on both sides raising concerns about the possibility, however remote, of the bench being influenced or compromised. But when we raise a bare, imagined concern to the level of an allegation, and spread it as if we know it to be a fact, then, I am afraid, we are not being fair to the judiciary and, particularly, to the men and women who have worked their way very hard and remarkably to the top of the judicial hierarchy. They deserve our respect.”
Gabby believes the “Atuguba Court” has done “more than enough to win the respect and confidence of the entire nation in the course of this trial, and we have all seen and heard the trial proceedings thanks to the historical decision by the Chief Justice and the Court to allow television cameras to cover proceedings live.”
In defence of the nine-member panel, Gabby argued, “There is nothing in the course of the last seven months of this case to suggest to any objective observer that this is not a court that is committed to delivering justice without fear or favour. So, why should anybody be doubting the integrity of the Court at this stage?”
He added: ‘Those of us who have had the benefit of studying transcripts of court proceedings of this case cannot but admire the professional and impartial manner that the Court has handled this historical case. What they need now is our prayers as they retire to prepare to give their final ruling.”
On his expectations as to the final declaration of the court, Gabby, who is also a barrister, said the duty of the court is not as complicated as we may see it. “It is simply to apply the law.”
He continued: “If our democracy is to grow, it must be allowed to take the next bold steps in sending a clear message, first to the good people of Ghana — especially the youth on whose shoulders the destiny of our democratic society stands — and, by extension, to the rest of the continent, that here in Ghana we are determined to allow the rule of law to work to protect and promote our democratic society.”
Gabby stressed: “This is Ghana and we are not known to shy away from taking the lead in Africa’s quest for freedom and justice. Elections in Africa must not be defined by a different set of rules. Democracy must not be reduced to a contest of who can get away with it.”
Has this case not disturbed Ghana’s role as a model of democracy in Africa?
“Not at all,” said Gabby, adding, “The platform upon which Ghana is raised as a model of democracy in Africa will not be dismantled by this election petition. In fact, it can only be made stronger if we take the necessary legal steps to strengthen that platform with the needed brick and mortar of integrity, truth and justice.”
Concluding the interview, the head of the policy think tank said: “The whole nation is watching. A whole continent is looking up to the nine honourable men and women of the highest court of our land to give a ruling that will strengthen democracy and the rule of law in Ghana and Africa, as a whole.”
Gabby, however, cautioned Ghanaians, “But, in saying so, let us also remind ourselves constantly that justice is not what you or I say it is but what the Court holds to be so and in compliance with the Constitution, the relevant laws and the evidence before it. Our commitment to rule of law must not be conditional. It must be genuine and principled.”