We Need A Legal Revolution And We Need It Now!

Lecture delivered by Dr. Raymond A. Atuguba at the maiden Revolutionary Lecture Series, under the theme:
“Restoring The Values of Probity, Accountability and Truth in Contemporary Governance”,
in the College of Physicians and Surgeons Hall on 2nd June, 2017.

His Excellency Flt. Lt. Jerry John Rawlings, former President of the Republic of Ghana, all other protocols observed. Ladies and Gentlemen.
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Growing older, I have become a storyteller. My mother, the greatest woman who ever lived, would be a little surprised to see me on this platform. She was popularly called First Lady. As Regional Women’s Organiser of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), she was considered as the premier woman in the Region, hence the name. As her driver, I accompanied her to many party meetings and events. And I ran many party errands for her. Anytime I needed to find her in Accra, it was at the party headquarters near Paloma on Ring Road. I hear the location has now changed. And I remember she came quite often to that office and to other locations, mainly in the Achimota area, for meetings. It appeared to me that the NDC of that time made their regional and lower level executive officers central to their national level decision-making. During our periods of togetherness when she was on party business, we will argue a lot. Soon, because I was critical of President Rawlings and her NDC, she labelled me a member of the opposition.
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To date, there are three things I do not quite understand about my mother and her NDC. When my big brother, Frank, was due in Germany for a semester or so, as part of his medical studies, he did not receive any government or party support, although the family had no money to foot the bills. When I was admitted to Harvard, I did not receive any government or party support for my studies, although I applied for government support and good people like Mr. A. T. Konu, Dr. Seth Bimpong-Buta, and Mr. Kweku Ansa-Asare made strong representations on my behalf. I must add a footnote here. I wrote to the State Insurance Company Ltd, controlled by Government, insisting that as the Best Student in Commercial Insurance Law for my year, I deserved a plane ticket from them, and my former Lecturer, the late Mr. Albert Fiadzigbey, drove me one Sunday morning to the house of the then Managing Director and made it happen.
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So, the blood son of a Regional Women’s Organiser of the NDC, whose husband was a founding member of the NDC party in his region, left Ghana on board a Ghana Airways Flight GH 120 to New York, with only $225 in a leather wallet crafted in Sokabisi near Bolgatanga.
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And this husband of hers was not spared the ordeal. When he was unceremoniously uprooted from the Upper East Region against his will, and at a time he badly needed to be close to home to put his affairs in order ahead of retirement, and inappropriately transplanted in Accra, nothing was done by their party to reverse it. Try that on a low-level party “foot-soldier” in Ghana today, and see the “calls” that will come to you from Flagstaff House, and that is if you are lucky to escape with just angry phone calls.
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In summary, what I could not understand was why a high-ranking party official, who had access to party cash, would ensure that all the cash was used only for party purposes, and nothing else, whilst watching her blood children struggle and suffer to advance themselves educationally, a function which she herself constantly endorsed as a topmost priority.
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What I could not understand was why additional to sacrificing her life, health, time, and family, she would sacrifice the little resources she had for a party that did not seem to care about her; I do not remember that we filled the petrol tank of my Father’s car with party money on any of the trips we made.
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I got to know all the NDC party bigshots through her. So she knew them. She had access to them. Yet, she did not deem it right to use access to those big men and women to the selfish benefit of her children and her husband.
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For her and her husband, it was enough that President Rawlings, against all technical advice and political opposition, had insisted that electricity be extended to rural areas in Ghana, so that doctors up north will no longer have to perform surgery with lanterns and torchlights. It was enough that students will now have electric lights to prepare for their O and A Level examinations, and not have to inhale carbon monoxide from lanterns for hours on end, as their children had to do. It was enough that governance had been decentralized, so that services and responsibilities were within walking distance; and he, as a School Master, did not have to travel 1,000 kilometres every month to the Ghana Education Service headquatres in Accra to get the least thing done that was done.
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Today, party faithful and foot soldiers way below the position my mother held, may illegitimately garner State influence and positions, and millions of Ghana cedis for themselves, their husbands and wives, their children and cousins, their in-laws and outlaws, their boyfriends and girlfriends, their cats and dogs.
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I was born black, in rural northern Ghana, and left-handed. So for me, marginalisation is second nature. I have associated naturally with the marginalised, the oppressed, subalterns.
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The marginalization, disparaging remarks and insults we faced as northerners going to school in Kumasi prepared me for the marginalisation I was to face going to school in the United States as a black person.
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The marginalisation I face daily as a left-handed person reminds me perpetually of the need to organize against “the regular”, “the normal”, and in support of “the other”. In the tutorial rooms in Legon when I got there in 1993, all the seats with wooden writing pads were constructed with the pads to the right; none had a pad on the left.
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My Father kept detailed written records about each of his children growing up. I have read those about me. My favourite sentence in there is the one which says; “…This is Raymond’s third time of dying and coming back to life”. What he did not add was that the only reason I survived those times was because the Baptist Medical Centre was located only 8 kilometres from Nalerigu where we lived, 9 minutes by car and 1 hour 38 minutes by brisk walking, according to Google. What he also did not add was that in rural Ghana, by the second, hundreds of children died because they did not have a Baptist Medical Centre that near them.
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One of the images I have never been able to rid my mind of in over 35 years, and in respect of which I probably need to see a shrink is this: my Father’s 1974 Datsun 120Y car, which is still on the road, was often the only car in the village for many, many miles around. So our house was the first point of call when a health emergency occurred. So he hardly slept. He was the ambulance driver of the village and will make several trips to the hospital, many days of the week. But there were times that the good old Datsun would give up and await a mechanic, or a car part from the city. During these times, this news constituted a death sentence. Someone would rush to our home and announce that there had been a lorry accident, or a woman had been bitten by a snake, or was experiencing complications in labour far beyond the capacities and equipment of a Traditional Birth Attendant, and he would have to announce to them that the car was out of order. The images I still cannot get out of my mind are those of the relatives of these hardworking, tax-paying victims of political and economic mismanagement, as they descended the three steps from our varenda and burst out mourning, in a dirge, because they knew that their loved ones, their friends, their compatriots, would certainly die.
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What I have omitted in the above narrative is that the distance between Damongo, where we lived then and Canteen, where we had the West Gonja Hospital, was again just 7 kilometres. If my father had not been posted to work near the Baptist Medical Centre, and the Catholic West Gonja Hospital, two of the best rural medical centres in Ghana, I would have died as a child, from one of the disproportionate medical emergencies I experienced and would not be here talking to you today.
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I am essentially an accident of the political, economic, and social mismanagement of this country. The mismanagement of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah’s Ghana sought to kill me, but I managed by sheer accidents of history to survive. So forgive me, when I take the mismanagement of this country personal. It is personal and it is personal for you too.
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Having narrowly escaped the gallows of political and economic malfeasance, it is sensible for me to work against injustice, in all its forms. I hate injustice. Injustice freaks me out. It sends my body, soul and spirit into a riveting stupor, responsive only to the pain that injustice creates.
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I have reflected on why President Rawlings asked me to speak today. I still do not know why. I have not asked him why. As a radical constitutionalist, all I need to remember is that the June 4th Revolution was a real revolution of the people, supported by almost all, and toppled a regime that had wrested power from the people. Whatever the reason for the invitation, I am happy to be associated with today’s panelists. For example, Dr. Benjamin Bewa-Nyog Kunbuor, Ben-K, or “Landlord”, as we call him, is one of the finest policy and legal brains this country has. In 2004, he and I and Prof. Mrs. Ellen Bortei-Doku Aryeetey of Legon did the Right to Development report for Ghana. It was during this time of putting together ideas for moving Ghana forward developmentally, and to avoid the social and economic murder that goes on in this country, that I encountered Dr. Kunbuor’s effortless intelligence and overall love for this country.
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I have also reflected on the theme for the Maiden Revolutionary Lecture Series. It is a tricky one. “Truth” is “a whore of a word”. What truth? Which truth? Whose truth? In 1998, one of my mentors deleted a sentence I had written in my first article. Very displeased, I protested, arguing that the sentence was the truth. Very quietly and calmly he said to me: “It is not all the truth the we say”. I have not been able to forget that statement. In my more recent history, working at the Office of the President for 5 years, first for President Mills, and then for President Mahama, I was confronted many times with the equivalent of the following statement: “Can you handle the truth?”
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And so the question I have for all of you this afternoon is whether you are able to handle a version of the truth that I am about to say. Seeing that you are not entirely sure of your capacity to imbibe truth, I will limit myself to only three such truths.
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TRUTH NUMBER ONE:
Thanks to President Rawlings and Prof. Adu Boahen, Ghana returned to constitutional rule a quarter of a century ago. The “culture of silence” was replaced first by “criminal libel”, then by “Radio Eye”, then “kan namin kan bi”, followed quickly by a cacophony of FM Stations-with excellent Community Radio Stations gasping for air, and ending with the “Muntie 3”.
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Political and civic action evolved from the consultations of the National Commission for Democracy, the Consultative Assembly of butchers, hairdressers and nightsoil carriers, through “Kumi Preko”, the repeal of the Public Order Decree and the Committee for Joint Action, to “Delta Forces”.
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Economic liberation, or is it liberalization, was at once more complicated and incredibly simple in its evolution. Historically complicated, it started with the economic nationalism of Nkrumah, notched up by the economic defiance of “Yentua” and interspersed with periods of economic cluelessness and disintegration. Yet the story of economic evolution from 1992 is simple: the inherited Economic Recovery Programmes of Structural Adjustment simply changed faces with each President; a human face, a Presidential Special Initiatives face, a Chinese face, an infrastructure face, and now a private sector face. The rest of the body, and more importantly, the spirit and the soul, remain ever the same. And each era had their “Faroe Atlantic”, “Balkan Energy”, “Ghana Telecom”, “CAN 2008”, and now the “The Eurobond”, all of which ended with judicial, or quasi-judicial processes.
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International relations was forced into the mold of economic liberalization, in which it “lived and moved and had [its] being”, but like all the others, it ended straight up in the courts of Law and Justice, some have said of lawlessness and injustice: such as the suits against the privatization of Ghana Telecom, the suit today about the ECG (the Electricity “Corporation” of Ghana) and of course, the suit against the hospitality offered to the “GITMO 2”, and in respect of which the Supreme Court has just ordered additional arguments to be filed before they will deign to give judgment.
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One thing stands out in the evolutionary stories of the key domains of our national life. They all ended up in the courts and with the law. As Ghanaians, we have, fortunately or unfortunately, dumped our survival, our national aspirations, the essence of our being, our faith, at the altar of the law and the courts, for better or for worse.
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By doing this, Ghanaians have constructed a two-faced governance and legal architecture and infrastructure: what happens in the courtrooms and what happens in the common sphere; on radio, on television and on social media. In other words, in the last 25 years, two domains of law and justice have evolved. Law and Justice in the corridors of the courts, and Law and Justice in the public domain.
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Part of the problem with our governance infrastructure is that it fails to recognise the evolution of these two different domains of law and justice, and is therefore, ill-prepared to moderate them. What is worse, public commentary on the law and justice dimensions of our governance continue to conflate the two domains. And opportunistic commentators have moved stealthily, easily, unchallenged and almost inconspicuously from one argumentative domain to the other, as if the two are no different. This fundamental faultline in our analyses of our governance issues needs to be exposed and remediated.
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The two opposing domains of law and justice are not hard to reconcile. They indeed converge. The relationship that should exist between law and justice in the courthalls and in the byways is that of servant and master. The purpose of the former is to serve the latter. So Law and Justice in the courthalls must serve Law and Justice in the public sphere. The reason for this is simple. The former depends on the latter for legitimacy, resources, its very existence and is infinitely less powerful. The two should not be allowed to clash, but where they do, the weaker always suffers dire consequences. My fear is that the “Muntie 3” and the “Delta Forces” sagas are harbingers of an imminent clash of the two domains that will leave everyone worse off. We must arrest the trend.
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Arresting the trend is easy. Our 1992 Constitution has shown the way. When that butchers and hairdressers wrote in their Constitution that: “Justice emanates from the people and shall be administered … by the Judiciary” they knew exactly what they were saying. They had effectively located the source of “Justice” in “We the People”. “The People” are the fountain from which “Justice” emanates, and the “Judiciary” is merely to “administer” that justice. The judiciary is not to determine the substantive content of justice, that is the preserve of “The People”, but once determined, the judiciary then administer it.
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The butchers and hairdressers did not end there. They additionally wrote in the Constitution that “Citizens may exercise popular participation in the administration of justice through the institutions of public and customary tribunals and the jury and assessor systems”.
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For as long as the Judiciary, the Judicial Council, the General Legal Council, the Board of Legal Education and kindred bodies continue to usurp the function of “We the People”, a growing gulf expands between Law and Justice in the courthalls, and Law and Justice in the byways. The result is Muntie 3, Delta Forces, Galamsey, Instant Justice and all the other ills we all complain about on a daily basis.
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What Ghanaians want by way of Law and Justice is not difficult to provide. The public complaints about Law and Justice sing a unique and constant chorus:
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ONE: Entry into the Faculties of Law and the Ghana School of Law for our kids is too laborious; the processes conduce to preferential treatments, weed out the poor and marginalized, and what they are taught there is of doubtful utility for our Nation at this point in time.
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TWO: It takes too long to get to court. It costs too much when we get in there. Its ultra crowded when we get there. The principles of Law and Justice applied to us in there are alien to us (some imported from the Brits many centuries ago). We are lost in a maze of procedures and jargon whilst we are in there. It takes too long to get out. The results we get from the courthalls are often spiced with corruption and flavoured with politics and our relationships are damaged after we get out.
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THREE: There are alternative systems of justice at the Chief’s Palaces and at the CHRAJ offices, but the regular courts have pulled out the teeth from these alternative systems.
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To bridge Law and Justice in the courthalls and Law and Justice in the byways, a lot has to change. We need a simpler structure for legal education, where law faculties independently prepare students for a law degree and to write a Bar Exam set by a Board of Legal Examiners-there will be no need for a Law School in this scenario. We need a complete overhaul of the teaching methodology in our law faculties so that law students learn about our Nation, “not as an idea, but in its profound reality”, preparing themselves for a life of service in nation-building, not a life of national destruction at the service of local and foreign clients whose mission is to milk Ghana dry.
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In 2010, a colleague and I, working with an army of law students and statisticians, and some World Bank cash, sampled 320 case dockets in our courts. The unique thing about this exercise was that we examined the dockets from cover to cover, tracking everything about the case: who are the parties; why did they come to court; what did they ask the court to do; when was the case filed; how many witnesses were called; how many adjournments were given; why were the adjournments given, how long did the case last; and many, many, more questions. The process opened my eyes to the profound reality of our Law and Justice system for the very first time. The report made some startling revelations. For example, contrary to the body of learning then making the rounds, we found no correlation between taking notes in longhand, court automation, court refurbishment, and all the other paraphernalia and the rate of disposition of cases. Significantly, we found a correlation between the rules of court and the rate of disposition of cases. There are many other findings in this report and much more data on our laptops showing the real causes of our Law and Justice malaise and the options for reform. There are also many options in the report of the Constitution Review Commission on the types of Constitution-trailer laws and administrative procedures that need to be instituted to this end.
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It is completely unacceptable for us to wait for over a hundred and fifty years for our British masters to switch to a Witness Statement in place of laborious, resource intensive and timewasting oral testimony by countless witnesses in a case, before we do same. It is still unacceptable to continue to wait for the British to adopt a Defence Statement before we do same. The immediate adoption of a Defence Statement, a Reply Statement, inquisitorial processes, and Written Concluding Statements, additional to the Witness Statement, could reduce the time for the disposal of simple cases from 3 to 5 years to 3 to 5 months. Always remember that those who opposed the adoption of Witness Statements until the British showed us the way are the same people who will oppose the adoption of these other Statements, and they will continue doing so until another 150 years, when the British, known for their conservatism, again show them the way. You listen to them at the Nation’s peril.
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The key to addressing the second set of public complaints about Law and Justice lies in the immediate adoption of revolutionary rules of court that move court processes closer to the truth through the incorporation of inquisitorial mechanisms; that makes the courthalls more efficient through the reduction of the time and related cost of rolling the wheels of justice; and that audit the judgments and orders of courts for corruption; monetary, political, or otherwise. This cannot be done unless the making of the rules of court are wrested away from incestousness. Self-regulation is inherently problematic. Internal revolutions are near impossible. External agents are badly needed. Agents other than judges and lawyers must be central to the Rules of Court Committee, if this revolution is to happen.
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It is not my proposition that our Law and Justice systems have not experienced reforms in the past. Good reforms have taken place in the last two decades. However, those reforms have missed three things:
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1. The real causes of the problem have often been missed, and only the symptoms addressed; automation addresses symptoms, changes in the Rules of Court address the root causes;
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2. Secondly, the wrong reform agents have been identified for the task: as already noted, self-regulation is inherently problematic as interested constituents will merely fiddle with the existing system and leave it intact at its core, because it is advantageous to them.
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3. Third and lastly, the reform locus has been misplaced: making the court system electronic must first be located outside of the courts, not inside of it; electronic filing of cases and electronic notifications of court processes reduce the human agency that court officers love, improve efficiency and speed, and will reduce human and vehicular traffic in Accra Central!
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I get quite angry with those who pile up mountains of excuses for obstructing simple reforms of this nature. To those crying themselves hoarse about how illiterates and rural folks will be disadvantaged by new rules such as these, I have one question: how do these illiterates and rural folks apply for United States and other visas that depend 100% on electronic processes of the kind I am proposing. The cost of using the slow track non-electronic processes to these illiterates and rural folks is hundreds of times higher than renting a computer and a computer literate to process court documentation. And believe me, there is greater and more sophisticated internet traffic in the “sakawa” dens of Nima than on the high streets of Accra.
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The last set of concerns about Law and Justice relate to alternative justice; justice without lawyers and judges. Just as we spoilt urban kids have our own conception of justice, every community out there has their own too. There is absolutely no reason why we should seek to lower these higher community standards of justice to conform with our own. No matter how many times the Supreme Court says that certain sanctions may not follow a person’s refusal to answer the summons of a chief, community folks will still carry a sense of obligation and respond to such calls, prostrating full length before the Chief on arrival at the palace. Support for and incubation of alternative systems of community justice, as encouraged by and within the boundaries of our Constitution, are essential for bridging the yawning gap between Law and Justice in the courthalls and in the byways.
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TRUTH NUMBER TWO:
Having achieved political citizenship, the broad majority of Ghanaians are yearning for economic citizenship. They were smart enough to sow the seeds for this a quarter of a century ago. Those seeds are found in our fundamental law, the Constitution. One hot afternoon in 1992, and given that the Ghana Bar Association and many other highly revered and highly placed authorities of the law had boycotted the entire constitution-making process, the butchers and hairdressers wrote the following beautiful words into the Constitution:
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“The State shall, in particular, take all necessary steps to establish a sound and healthy economy whose underlying principles shall include…the recognition that the most secure democracy is the one that assures the basic necessities of life for its people as a fundamental duty.”
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Today, the average Ghanaian is yearning, crying, groping, fighting, maiming, killing for economic citizenship. Given the “lawfication” of the political, economic and social discourse in Mother Ghana, ordinary folks are seeking after the capacity of Lawfare to aid them achieve economic citizenship. And the law and lawyers stand clueless. Unless the Law can aid them to achieve economic citizenship, there is a Constitutional implosion and they will have to find other means of achieving it. It was the June 4th Revolution that for the first time squarely equalized political citizenship with economic citizenship. Those who still doubt that these are equal need to read and meditate on Festus Iyayi’s book on Economic Violence.
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Inimical footsoldierism, galamsey, armed robbery, instant justice, are popular reactions to an oxymoromic legal duplex: the hegemony of Law that crushes people second by second, minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day, instead of liberating them; and the lameness of Law as it remains clueless in the face of a popular cry for lawfare in aid of economic citizenship.
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In the circumstances, and at the very least as a stopgap measure, an intelligent framing of Law and Justice in today’s Ghana cannot but recognise radicalism as an option, sometimes as a necessity, and institute mechanisms for containing it when it happens. Denying that it is an option, insisting that it should not be an option, is playing the ostrich. The thirst for all forms of Justice, political, economic, social, is more dire than the thirst for water. Like Poverty, it “is like heat, you cannot see it, you can only feel it”. Anyone who has never experienced poverty, never experienced injustice, will never understand the rise of footsoldierism, galamsey, and the other matters of concern in Ghana today. What the butchers, hairdressers and nightsoil carriers in the Consultative Assembly said to us in 1992 is the same as what the footsoldiers and galamseyers are telling us today. Our democracy is not secure, we are not secure until we recognize “that the most secure democracy is the one that assures the basic necessities of life for its people as a fundamental duty.”
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One reaction to the above is to say that I am justifying anarchy and praising wrongdoing. So we close our eyes, and continue to sentence persons who engage in petty thievery to 10, 20, 30, 40 years in jail, whilst rewarding those who pillage millions and billions of cedis with a few years of jail term, and we don’t even blink. A smarter reaction is to wonder how a tiny, under resourced, embattled, deprecated Electoral Commission in Ghana could organize one of the best elections in the world; covering every inch of the entire Country, reaching millions of voters with ballot papers, ballot boxes, indelible ink, and hundreds of other logistics; whilst many Ministries put together, with billons of Ghana cedis in their names, working with all the security agencies, and with full political support have not been able to engage with just a few communities, agree modalities for legal mining, develop alternative livelihoods for those who must exit mining, reclaim lives and property, and end the menace of galamsey.
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TRUTH NUMBER THREE:
It is fashionable in Ghana today to talk against corruption. A good way to play mischief against someone is therefore to say that such a person supports corruption. At the risk of being misunderstood once again or being made a victim of mischief, I have to say that I am unable to support the type of anticorruption crusades we launch and fight in Mother Ghana.
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Where anticorruption is reduced to targeting a few persons from the opposing party, rushing them through a trial, locking them up in jail, satisfying a donor trigger for release of funds that measures our corruption index by the number of government officials jailed for corruption, then the anti-corruption crusade becomes a real joke.
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When we turn a blind eye to the billions of dollars that, as ISODEC has recently found, are leaking out of Ghana as illicit financial outflows resulting from the theft of our natural resources, trade misinvoicing, tax evasion, and similar high crimes, and focus on petty thievery by a small set of political appointees, we are doing exactly what someone wants us to do; keep chasing each other’s tail every 8 years, while they rape and milk us dry of our resources perpetually.
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Fight corruption, we must. Fight it the way we are fighting it now, we should not. I have previously delivered a paper on new ideas for fighting corruption in Ghana, and would not want to repeat them here.
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President Rawlings, Ladies and Gentlemen. In conclusion, I will like to recall the central role of Law in our national life. The greatest force of Law is the power to define. The Law defines everything. The Law defines what truth is for us as a Nation. The official truth is the truth according to the Law. It does not matter who truthfully won the 2012 elections. What matters is who the Supreme Court said, in their estimation of the truth, won the elections.
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I will also like to recall the evolution of our civil liberties, our political activism, our economic management, and our international relations over the last quarter century, and the discovery that all these key domains of national life are moderated in the final analyses by the Halls of Law and Justice.
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Finally, I will like to recall the three truths: the need for revolutionary law reform; the need for lawfare in aid of economic citizenship; and finally the need for a more sophisticated lawfare against corruption.
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Having discovered the centrality of law to our governance, to our democracy, we need to do one more thing before we leave here. We need to remember that in the adversarial system of law and justice we practice in Ghana, the party who has better lawyers, more resources, a greater capacity to influence judges and court officials, has truth on her side, at least temporarily. In such a system, “moneyed justice” is dispensed, and the values of truth are often sidelined. This cannot continue.
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A Revolution, from the Latin revolutio, simply means “a turn around”. We are not asking for all the Lawyers to be killed. Given the central role of Law and Justice in Ghana’s governance today, we are asking for a “turn around” in the way we conduct our Law and our Justice, as a measure to save our Democracy.
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We need a Legal Revolution. And we need it now!
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Thank you for coming, and may God Bless our Homeland Ghana, and make our Nation Great and Strong …
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Reproduced with minimal editing for typos and clarity. 

On Being Ghanaian – Delta CORE

The fourth and final shared attribute of our Ghanaianess; Neighbourliness.

Miriam Mann of NASAThere goes Mariam Mann again, strutting along with that air about her; all self possessed and self confident, as if there’s something important the world is waiting on her to do. The truth of the matter is, in her time, there was something the world was waiting on her for. Mariam was part of that core of bright women hired by NASA’s precursor organisation; the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). They were subsequently maintained by NASA to continue doing men’s stuff in the segregated and black-hostile United States of America. She and colleagues like her formed a critical part of the intellectual prowess which enabled the US to gain an edge over the USSR in the space race. They constituted the human equivalent of a supercomputer in that age; a truth dramatized in the Oscar nominated movie, Hidden Figures.

Miriam Mann was black, 36 and had 3 children aged 6, 7 and 8; no, I’m not kidding. She heard about an opportunity to do maths related work for NACA in 1943. She took the recruitment exam, as she was qualified to do by virtue of her Chemistry degree, passed the exam and went on to do her Creator proud, if quietly.

Her daughter, Miriam Mann Harris, wrote in 2011: “My early memories are of my mother talking about doing math problems all day. Back then all of the math was done with a #2 pencil and the aid of a slide rule… She would relate stories about the ‘colored’ sign on a table in the back of the cafeteria. She brought the first one home, but there was a replacement the next day. New signs went up on the bathroom door, ‘colored girls’.”

(SOURCE: http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-39003904)

Yet Miriam Mann was black. No, I don’t mean coal black, but black black; racially black, that is. So it doesn’t take rocket science to guess her ancestry, right? She was of Sub-Saharan African descent; born in 1907, only half a century after slavery’s abolition. She must have been of Ghanaian descent, right? Indeed, since she was Miriam Mann and not Akosua Gyima, she must have been Fanti; an Allotey from Saltpond in Fanti land in fact, because proficiency in maths is an identifying attribute of the Alloteys only and no other family or ethnic group in the world. Naah, I’m being deliberately facetious to illustrate a point and mean no offence to our Fanti cousins, nor indeed the Allotey family, who are wonderful people, I’m sure. Ingenuity and talent isn’t the sole preserve of any race, or ethnic group, or family, which is why its impossible to tell where Miriam’s ancestors came from by merely knowing that she was proficient in maths. That indeed, is the reason we ought to be welcoming and supportive of each other, irrespective of ethnicity.

Religious persuasion doesn’t fare any better either, when it comes to ingenuity and talent of the kind which changes the world for the better. Bill Gates was famously agnostic, during his years in Microsoft and Steve Jobs appears to have been atheist, or Buddhist all his years. Yet that didn’t stop God, working through nature, from endowing them with marvelous talents and remarkable ingenuity. Need I carry on with the roll of achievers of diverse religious persuasion to prove that no one religion has a monopoly over ingenuity and talent?

In a direct manner of speaking, unless you have evidence to the contrary from the scriptures, or from scientific and therefore verifiable observation, you have to admit that ingenuity and talent are not the sole preserve of any one extant ethnicity in the world today. Why deprive yourself of what others are endowed with for contributing to your well being? When you insist that your world be defined to include persons of your own ethnicity only, that in fact, is exactly what you’re doing. If you lie dying on a hospital bed and learn that Obnoxious I happen to be the only person on hand who is capable of preventing your imminent death, are you saying that you will gladly let your loved ones down by declining to take advantage of my services, for the only reason that I don’t share ethnicity, or religion or any other delineator of community with you? Oh come on, you’re better than that. God, acting through nature, isn’t discriminatory, or tribal in gifting humans with exceptional abilities for the benefit of all.

Your colleague who shares the office with you may not speak flawless Hausa, Nzema, Dagbani, Ewe, Ga, or Asante Twi, depending on what your mother tongue is, yet by nature’s dictates, she may be that one person who carries the talent needed to make Ghana Great Again (ahem). Give her the help she needs when she needs it. What she accomplishes will rub on you, because it will improve your quality of life in some way. Consider how much more informed you can be, if you choose to use your smartphone and data plan wisely. Yet the leader of the team which first offered us this package of technologies was of Syrian descent and not Grusi. Steve Job’s biological father was a Syrian immigrant to the US!

And there is another reason why it makes a lot of sense to offer your colleague the help and support she needs, rather than attempt to snuff out the light she brings to your immediate community and to humanity. Just focussing on the smartphone we’ve most of us grown so dependent on; the portable devise we use for accessing information and staying in touch with family and friends … avoid giving your number to your boss, if you can help it. Just revisiting the smartphone for a moment, we’ve come this far in telecommunications technology by the incremental contributions of many designers and engineers, not by the efforts of a single individual only.

The architecture for the first iPhone was framed by a group of visionary designers working to meet Steve Jobs’ poorly articulated hope. Once he’d agreed the form and functionality of the package, it was the responsibility of engineers at Apple to work out the technical solutions which would make the package work as desired. Of course, they didn’t themselves invent all the technologies needed to achieve that goal. Apple made legal use of many patented technologies, besides what it developed in its own labs, to arrive at an affordable and viable solution. An example of third party technologies embedded in their solution is the scratch resistant and sturdy, but thin gorilla glass cover developed by scientists at Corning Glass over a 48 year period.

In other words, great strides in human endeavour are accomplished by incremental contributions from many. We share a proverb among a number of ethnic groups in Ghana which says it pithily; if you won’t allow your neighbour to cut the ninth, you shall not cut the tenth. Be supportive and help your colleague make the progress she’s working hard to accomplish. (Yes, you read right; I deliberately include the other and much neglected 50+% of our talent pool). Her feat just may be the step needed to create an opportunity for you to achieve something great too; perhaps by building on her gains, like Apple did with the iPhone. Don’t be preoccupied with who gets the credit for the progress made today, or you’ll miss out on your own turn tomorrow.

Celebrate the accomplishments of your neighbour. That’s the way great societies build themselves up and achieve remarkable feats. They pool and exploit their most valuable resource; the talent of their people, to great advantage in addressing the challenges they face. Social scientists refer to it as the capitalization rate; how efficiently a group makes use of its pool of talents. Great societies don’t get where they do by their members tearing each other up and destroying whatever is good and commendable about each other, or by simply selling whatever they can extract from their surroundings; which includes our neighbour, in our case; to properly characterize our role in the hideous and tragic Trans-Sahara and Trans-Atlantic slave trades. Don’t deprive Ghana and all humanity of the benefits your neighbour is gifted to impart, because of your pesemkuminya or ahuoryaa. Success isn’t a zero sum game in which your neighbour’s gain is your loss. Members of successful societies add to, or leverage what their neighbours achieve, to reach higher levels of accomplishment than they could otherwise reach individually and then the sum of the whole society’s effort far exceeds the sum of each person’s.

There’s in fact, incontrovertible evidence of the benefits of such corporation in the scriptures. Here’s what the Hebrew scriptures say about ancient man; Then they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They had brick for stone, and they had asphalt for mortar. And they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.” But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. And the LORD said, “Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them. (SOURCE: Gen 11:3-6; NKJV).

Nothing which we purpose to do corporately and by incremental effort shall be impossible for us while we remain one. By corollary consideration, we can accomplish little while we remain divided; which perhaps explains why we’re unable to build truly corporate business entities, or make remarkable technological and social progress. (Rwanda is famously reported to have studied our earlier practices in cleaning up urban communities and improved those practices, even as we characteristically discarded them). For 60 years, we appear to have been living to undermine our neighbour, interfere with his progress in whatever way we can, spread evil reports about him, discard or destroy whatever good surrounds us and betray each other for immediate, often paltry personal gain, or the sheer thrill of being disruptive. As we move forward beyond 60, let’s try something different; let’s surprise our Creator by taking advantage of the benefits of good neighbourliness (if its at all possible to surprise Him).

Which brings us to the fourth and final attribute advocated here; the Delta CORE attribute, the demonstration of neighbourliness towards fellow Ghanaians at all times, because that’s what we, being Ghanaians, pledge ourselves to do. It ought to be that important to us; a defining part of what it means to be Ghanaian, if we are to make meaningful progress in building a secure and supportive homeland for ourselves:

I promise on my honour to be faithful and loyal to my fellow Ghanaian.
I pledge to defend his right to remain different.
I pledge to uphold his constitutional rights at all times.
I pledge to treat him justly and equitably at all times.
I promise to assist him in every legitimate way, in his pursuit of life, liberty and happiness.
So help me God.

Slide1

So there you have it; four attributes we can make and maintain as the CORE of our Ghanaianess. For 60 years we’ve been trying to relate with the abstraction called the nation-state without notable success. Its an idea introduced from a foreign culture and using equally foreign tools. If we’d had a common ancestry like the Jewish people, it shouldn’t be this hard to build a nation together. If we’d had a common deity, perhaps it mightn’t have been this hard. If we’d had a common monarch, we might swear allegiance to him or her, like citizens of the United Kingdom and then get on with it (well … they too have their moments, because of unresolved injustices and inequities).

We don’t have any such natural advantages for nation building, but we do have our selves and our ingenuity. (Oh, by the way, I have it on authority from an unimpeachable source that, when President Paul Kagame attended the funeral of the late President John Atta Mills, he was so affected by our unity in grieving the demise of and honouring our President that he remarked that if Rwandans had a fraction of our unity, they would have made impressive progress. Perhaps we should carry on as if we were everyday grieving and honouring the passing on of the Gold Coast … just saying. Hey, hey, don’t carry on as if we’re kindergarteners and I’d just insulted the memory of your grandmother).

It is of course, standard Ghanaian fare to ask who the hell this writer is; what are his credentials, to be calling for a change of the National Pledge? What is his pedigree? Which political party or political tradition does he align with? What’s his ethnicity anyway … and on and on. That’s been the Ghanaian way hitherto and its gotten us quite far in developing a coherent, stable and prosperous nation, or (ahem)? Rather than do same and yet expect different results, take a moment to consider the merits of what I’m suggesting here and ignore tempting thoughts about who gets credit for what and so on. If this vessel for change looks and feels like it can sail, then its worth a try, rather than clinging to the rudderless, leaky boat we’re trapped in.

Let’s do differently in building our nation and wow the world around us, as we’re perfectly capable of doing when our crablike nature is in remission. (You know how crabs in a basket behave, right)? Let’s pledge to each other and hold each other accountable to plant our feet where our tongues go. Then, we can reasonably expect a different outcome from what we have gained from 60 years of effort and we will be able to relate with each other more meaningfully, irrespective of ethnic and other differences. If you agree with me on that, then for starters, take about two minutes to read and sign the online petition below. It requires that our President, being the servant of we the people and not our monarch, offer us his service in this regard, by completing whatever steps are necessary and at the earliest opportunity, to change our National Pledge to conform with the one proposed above (and let Parliament beware; we the people are watching):

https://www.change.org/p/the-president-of-ghana-a-new-more-relatable-national-pledge-for-ghana

As we require this of our President, may we the people likewise offer our services to one another by sharing this link to the online petition liberally and encouraging as many as we can to sign it. Let’s build community together in love, or we stand to lose the benefits of what nature has invested in our neighbour. Remember, Lom na va, otherwise Onaapo. ©

Glossary


Pesemkuminya : Akan word for an attitude of selfishness and malice. The attitude is summed up in the phrase, what cannot come to me must not go to my neighbour;
Ahuoryaa : Akan word for malicious envy; an attitude of envy, resentment and jealousy expressed in malevolence towards the subject, purposely to undermine or disrupt his progress.

On Being Ghanaian – Gamma CORE

The third of four shared core attributes of our Ghanaianess; the Rule of Law.

GH crestOne of the symbols of our nation, our coat of arms, bears two key words; FREEDOM, JUSTICE. I think it most thoughtful and visionary that both words were included in the design of our coat of arms. The FREEDOM part is pretty much covered under the Alpha and Beta CORE attributes.

No, we don’t exactly go to war for trivia like Yor ker gali anymore, for the most part (bet you didn’t know that Gameh call gari gali). It used to be quite fashionable to war over an indignity, but that’s fallen out of favour, for most of humanity. Nevertheless, men have been known to leave their wives behind to be impregnated by the Gyasehene, as they go to war over unresolved injustices, or inequities. Therefore, to deliberately build a nation out of the collection of peoples from the former Gold Coast and Trans-Volta; a viable, coherent, peaceful and prosperous community desirable for living and thriving in, let us aspire and strive to deal justly and equitably with each other, just as we proclaim in our coat of arms.

Again, just for emphasis, peace isn’t evidenced by the mere absence of war, but also and more importantly, by the pervading and sustained presence of goodwill. The will that is good deals justly and equitably with the subjects of its attention. That will leaves no room for bitterness and resentment to fester, because of ignoble conduct. So, rather than busy ourselves attempting to put out fires we start through insensitivities, let us commit to one another in our National Pledge, to deal justly and equitably with each other at all times and to be held accountable to plant our feet where our mouths go, as our Gamma CORE attribute.

Now, that’s easier said than done. Its hard to uphold that with any degree of consistency in Ghana. Let me illustrate with an experience I had in a foreign land. You have a minute? Get yourself a drink and let’s chill.

On Thursday Sept. 1st, 2016 I walked through one of those experiences which sadly, I can’t look forward to in Ghana. I received a partial refund on an item I’d purchased on Aug. 8th; an item which I continue to possess and use. A sales clerk at Best Buy made the refund to me under her company’s Price Match programme. In simple terms, Best Buy has voluntarily committed to refund the difference, if the price of purchased merchandise falls during the 30 day return period. Price discounting usually occurs during promotional sales. Thursday Sept. 1st was 24 days from when I’d grudgingly purchased a new shredder, so I matched to the shop with intent, as my former headmaster once charged two consorting students with.

For background, I went to Best Buy on the morning of Aug. 8th purposely to buy a shredder and was greeted at the entrance by a sales clerk of Sub-Saharan African descent. Now, knowing as I do that there’s an isolation quotient attached to skin pigment in that country, I responded warmly, accepted the discount sales flyer he was offering and for small talk, asked whether they stock paper shredders in the particular shop. When I’d selected the model I wanted and was proceeding to the checkout area, I again run into the same sales clerk, which prompted me to ask somewhat pointlessly, “When are you guys going to place this model on sale? I’ll use it infrequently and don’t want to spend this much to acquire it?” He answered very properly that he wasn’t privy to information on their promotional sales programme, but there certainly would be a big sales event on Sept. 1st. I could check online to find out if the item was being discounted on that day and bring my receipt with me for a refund under their Price Match policy, if I chose. I decided not to forget that precious bit of information.

Come Sept. 1st, I happened to need an ear phone from the same shop and remembered the precious bit of info, but for the life of me, couldn’t recall where I’d saved the receipt for my disdained shredder. Well, I matched to the shop anyway and after I’d settled on the earphone I wanted to buy, I walked up to a sales clerk at the checkout counter and asked if I might return with the shredder’s receipt at a later date for a Price Match refund and how late that date could be.

“Its best to settle that today, because none of us know for how long an item will be offered at a discounted price. Do you have the payment card you used in purchasing the shredder?”
“I do.”
“Well then, let’s first settle the transaction on your new purchase and I’ll see to your refund.”

And true to her word, when I’d paid for my new purchase, she again swiped my card to retrieve and reprint the receipt for the dreaded shredder and proceeded to refund the price difference, simply because it was the company’s policy to make such refunds on demand. Now, shops don’t offer Price Match policies in Ghana, whether voluntarily or otherwise and if they did, I’d argue anyone any day and at anytime of that day, that I’d enjoy the benefit of the Price Match under special circumstances only, because Ghana isn’t founded on the rule of law; Ghana is founded on a regime of patronage. Ah ah; don’t pout now. Remember, its chill out time.

The notable effects of the rule of law on my visits to Best Buy started when I encountered the Sub-Saharan African sales clerk on Aug. 8th. He was under obligation to disclose relevant and authorised information which would make my visit rewarding and, in conformity with his employment contract, he didn’t hold back. The Ghanaian sales clerk might have given me an Ntsu, unless in his eyes, I was somebody, but more on somebody-ness in a moment.

The sales clerk I met on Sept. 1st was of South-East Asian descent, probably Pilipino. Her ethnicity has no relevance to my shopping experience in the foreign country where I was, but is in every way relevant to our shopping experiences in Ghana, as I’ll demonstrate in a moment. Like the 1st sales clerk, she too was under obligation to disclose all authorised, relevant information and assist in making my shopping visit rewarding and like the 1st sales clerk who happened to be Sub-Saharan, this presumably Pilipino lady applied herself to meet the terms of her employment contract.

Now, here are some of the special conditions under which I may, just may have received comparable service in Ghana (assuming of course, that the employer is implementing a Price Match policy):

  1. I’m a known relative of the sales clerk;
  2. I’m a known schoolmate, or fellow church member of the sales clerk;
  3. I’m a friend of one of the sales clerks, or a known friend of their own friend or relative;
  4. I’m known to the sales clerks as sharing ethnicity with them by birth, or less favorably, by marriage;
  5. One or more of conditions 1 – 4 apply and importantly also, I’m in the good books of the sales clerk;
  6. I offer a monetary incentive to them, or have been known to tip sales clerks generously during past visits and am therefore a favoured customer;
  7. I’m known to be a person of influence (somebody of influence) who might dispense patronage to them in a different setting; such as a Lecturer who might put in a word to have their ward admitted into the tertiary educational institution where I work;
  8. I’m known to be a medical doctor, or official of high standing (somebody to be feared), who might dispense patronage to their person or relative at some future date, or cause them extreme discomfort, if I’m displeased with their service;
  9. I spoke to them in their native tongue, however falteringly, as soon as I knew their ethnicity;
  10. The sales clerk saw me walk in and simply took a liking for me;
  11. I was extremely and hypocritically polite in addressing them, using such appellations as Chief, Master, Madam, Sister, or Ma;
  12. Now, here’s my favorite by far; I took on the fight in their behalf, in a dispute with another shopper, even though the sales clerks were in the wrong. I did, because the shopper was doing something too much.

I’m certain you get the drift of ways in which we procure patronage in Ghana and can add to this list till Christ comes, but the list isn’t the point of my rant on this matter. Irrespective of what protestations we make, this is how our society operates; this forms the foundation of our interaction with each other. It defines the fabric of our society. We may have solemnly declared and affirmed our commitment to the rule of law in the preambles of our Constitution. Parliament may enact what laws it wills. Local governments may script what by-laws and regulations they please. Employers may insert whatever conditions they fancy in employment contracts. All of those are but opportunities for the persons charged with implementing the laws, regulations, or terms to dispense patronage to who they please, or extract rent (a bribe) from persons they provide services to. If you happen to be a nipa boni, too bad for you. If you happen to be Mrs. Nobody, who cares? And you are doing something too much, ah, if you insist on your rights as a customer, or citizen. We’ll make certain obaa fo la.

Yet that too isn’t the point of my rant on this subject. So what is this about? When God …; of course, I was going to come round to the Beginning. When God created the nation Israel, one of the 1st things He did was to give them a body of laws; laws which have since become the foundation for modern liberal jurisprudence. That must be because He designed man to live in communities governed by the rule of law, not by patronage, because He pointedly taught Israel to deal justly with both the Jew and the sojourner among them without differentiating who is and who isn’t entitled to justice.

“He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8; NKJV)

Including the rule of law as a CORE attribute of our Ghanaianess is asking much. The rule of law doesn’t come to us naturally. Indeed, we resent it, because it introduces a rigidity which inhibits the flow of our 10%, kalabule, ways and means, cola, something for the chief, noko fioo for the boys, kpakpakpa …; you know what I’m referring to, don’t you? Or perhaps you’re not Ghanaian enough. I’m of course, alluding to those activities which are in fact, our preferred ways of maintaining ourselves. Call them anything you please, except the bribes and corrupt means that they are. How else shall a man remain competitive in maintaining his daughter’s peer as his mistress in a local university, while paying the fees and maintaining his daughter and son in universities abroad and all the while, financing the construction of his mansion without a mortgage loan, if he’s prevented from collecting facilitation fees? As the saying goes, no one works for Kingsway, yet collects his pay from UTC! Where you work is where you chop, both formally and informally.

Yet look around you at the nations of the world today. Which ones are achieving sustained and stellar performance in economic growth, social welfare, etc; measures which progressively enhance the dignity of their citizens and visitors? Almost invariably, its the likes of Singapore, South Korea, UK, Germany, Denmark, Finland; those nations which emphasise certainty by promoting the rule of law. Its not the likes of Italy, Greece, Ghana; the so-called soft states, where the rule of law is at best, restrained. The regime of patronage won’t get us anywhere near becoming a functional and high performing nation-state. We’re up against the grain of nature and we’re losing. Our regime of patronage cannot compete against the rule of law, so we’ve been losing by choice.

Let’s begin by owning our failure, start the engine of our drifting ship of state and turn her around, because it hasn’t exactly been going any place at any pace. Let’s begin to pledge to ourselves and strive to uphold the rule of law in all things, at all times and in all circumstances:

I promise on my honour to be faithful and loyal to my fellow Ghanaian.
I pledge to defend his right to remain different.
I pledge to uphold his constitutional rights at all times.
I pledge to treat him justly and equitably at all times. ©

Glossary


Yor ker gali : a dish of boiled beans, gari and spicy sauce or palm oil;
Nipa boni : literally, a bad person; an antisocial person (an Akan phrase);
Obaa fo la : literally, tears of blood; tears of frustration (a Ga phrase);
… doing something too much : Ghanaian phrase for a fusspot;
Kalabule : devious dealings, especially overcharging for goods and services;
Noko fioo : a tip, or bribe of low value (a Ga phrase);
Kpakpakpa : same as kalabule.

On Being Ghanaian – Beta CORE

The second of four shared attributes of our Ghanaianess; Constitutionality.

Ghana-FlagI’m Ghanaian, because the Constitution categorizes me as such and I, of my own volition and following accepted practice, subscribe to the supremacy of the Constitution on the matter. Now, just for the benefit of us the ordinary and mortal, I’ve reproduced the third chapter of our 1992 Constitution below in its entirety. Its the portion of the basic law of the land which defines who is Ghanaian. Oh, its my pleasure and you are very welcome. This service should keep us all equally informed on the subject during this conversation.

The Constitution imposes specific obligations on me, defines rights I’m entitled to by reason of being Ghanaian and indicates basic privileges I can enjoy for the same reason. The community of Ghanaians is right in expecting me to discharge those obligations without fail while I identify as a Ghanaian. By corollary reasoning, I’m entitled to expect the community of Ghanaians to uphold all my constitutional rights and privileges, at all times. Let us aspire to and make every effort to keep faith with each other by virtue of our common citizenship, as our Beta CORE attribute. It will profit us immensely. In large part, we won’t have to guess what our neighbour will, or will not do in specified circumstances but rather, can insist that he adhere to the unequivocal provisions of the Constitution he pledges to uphold.

I promise on my honour to be faithful and loyal to my fellow Ghanaian.
I pledge to defend his right to remain different.
I pledge to uphold his constitutional rights at all times.

Our Constitution certainly isn’t a perfect compendium of basic laws for Ghana. No constitution is, which is why they get amended from time to time to reflect altered circumstances, changed attitudes and so on. Thankfully, the Constituent Assembly which framed the 1992 Constitution included provisions for amending this basic law of the land. Therefore by implication, we have agreement on specific procedures for amending the basic obligations required of me as a citizen of Ghana, as well as curtailing, or augmenting my basic rights and privileges. The procedures are specific and clearly expressed in the document. There’s no uncertainty about when and to what extent my obligations, rights and privileges as a citizen should apply. In any case, we are agreed in promulgating the Constitution, that the Supreme Court shall have the final say, where clarity is needed in interpreting the document.

That offers me certainty in the specific matters covered by the Constitution, if I wish to carry myself about proudly as a Ghanaian, following as it were, the example of our President. However, I can possess that certainty only if members of the community of Ghanaians keep their part of the bargain, by upholding my right to be treated as a bona fide Ghanaian within the framework of the Constitution. And that is the reason why I should pledge to uphold your constitutional rights at all times and you, mine. There can be no uncertainty, for example, as to whether you are indeed a Ghanaian and therefore, entitled to vote in an upcoming election. To the extent that you satisfy the conditions for citizenship defined in the Constitution, I must stand ready to defend your right to be treated as such. Equally, there can be no uncertainty about my citizenship on the basis of the shape of my nose, or the amount of skin pigment I’m endowed with by nature, when the Constitution says nothing in regard to those physical attributes.

The Constitution
CHAPTER THREE
CITIZENSHIP

6.

(1) Every person who, on the coming into force of this Constitution, is a citizen of Ghana by law shall continue to be a citizen of Ghana.

(2) Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, a person born in or outside Ghana after the coming into force of this Constitution, shall become a citizen of Ghana at the date of his birth if either of his parents or grandparents is or was a citizen of Ghana.

(3) A child of not more than seven years of age found in Ghana whose parents are not know shall be presumed to be a citizen of Ghana by birth.

(4) A child of not more than sixteen years of age neither of whose parents is a citizen of Ghana who is adopted by a citizen of Ghana shall, be virtue of the adoption, be a citizen of Ghana.

7.

(1) A woman married to a man who is a citizen of Ghana or a man married to a woman who is a citizen of Ghana may, upon making an application in the manner prescribed by Parliament, be registered as a citizen of Ghana.

(2) Clause (1) of this article applies also to a person who was married to a person who, but for his or her death, would have continued to be a citizen of Ghana under clause (1) of article 6 of this Constitution.

(3) Where the marriage of a woman is annulled after she has been registered as a citizen of Ghana under clause (1) of this article, she shall, unless she renounces that citizenship, continue to be a citizen of Ghana.

(4) Any child of a marriage of a woman registered as a citizen of Ghana under clause (1) of this article to which clause (3) of this article applies, shall continue to be a citizen of Ghana unless he renounces that citizenship.

(5) Where upon an application by a man for registration under clause (1) of this article, it appears to the authority responsible for the registration that a marriage has been entered into primarily with a view to obtaining the registration, the authority may request the applicant to satisfy him that the marriage was entered into in good faith; and the authority may only effect the registration upon being so satisfied.

(6) In the case of a man seeking registration, clause (1) of this article applies only if the applicant permanently resides in Ghana.

8.

(1) Subject to this article, a citizen of Ghana Shall cease forthwith to be a citizen of Ghana if, on attaining the age of twenty-one years, he, by a voluntary act, other than marriage, acquired or retains the citizenship of a country other than Ghana.

(2) A person who becomes a citizen of Ghana by registration and immediately after the day on which he becomes a citizen of Ghana is also a citizen of some other country, shall cease to be a citizen of Ghana unless he has renounced his citizenship of that other country, taken the oath of allegiance specified in the Second Schedule to this Constitution and made and registered such declaration of his intentions concerning residence as may be prescribed by law, or unless he has obtained an extension of time for taking those steps and the extended period has not expired.

(3) A Ghanaian citizen who loses his Ghanaian citizenship as a result of the acquisition or possession of the citizenship of a country other than Ghana shall, on the renunciation of his citizenship of that other country, become a citizen of Ghana.

(4) Where the law of a country, other than Ghana, requires a person who marries a citizen of that country to renounce the citizenship of his own country by virtue of that marriage, a citizen of Ghana who is deprived of his citizenship of Ghana by virtue of that marriage shall, on the dissolution of that marriage, if he thereby loses his citizenship acquired by that marriage, become a citizen of Ghana.

9.

(1) Parliamentary may make provision for the acquisition of citizenship of Ghana by persons who are not eligible to become citizens of Ghana under the provision of this Constitution.

(2) Except as otherwise provided in article 7 of this Constitution, a person shall not be registered as a citizen of Ghana unless at the time of his application for registration he is able to speak and understand an indigenous language of Ghana.

(3) The High Court may, on an application made for the purpose by the Attorney-General, deprive a person who is a citizen of Ghana, otherwise than by birth, of that citizenship on the ground.

(a) that the activities of that person are inimical of the security of the State or prejudicial to public morality or the public interest; or

(b) that the citizenship was acquired by fraud, misrepresentation or any other improper or irregular practice.

(4) There shall be published in the Gazette by the appropriate authority and within three months after the application or the registration, as the case may be, the name,. particulars and other details of a person who, under this article applies to be registered as a citizen of Ghana or has been registered as a citizen of Ghana.

(5) Parliament may make provision for the renunciation by any person of his citizenship of Ghana.

10.

(1) A reference in this Chapter to the citizenship of the parent of a person at the time of the birth of that person shall, in relation to a person born after the death of the parent, be construed as a reference to the citizenship of the parent at the time of the parent’s death.

(2) For the purposes of clause (1) of this article, where the death occurred before the coming into force of this Constitution, the citizenship that the parent would have had if he or she had died on the coming into force of this Constitution shall be deemed to be his or her citizenship at the time of his or her death.

(SOURCE: https://www.google.ca/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&url=http://www.ghana.gov.gh/images/documents/constitution_ghana.pdf&ved=0ahUKEwiTutbEubHSAhVIyGMKHSUlCl4QFgg3MAg&usg=AFQjCNFjoJu7bS8b_Y5sBUEgdR4HWcC4cA)

On Being Ghanaian – Alpha CORE

The first of four shared attributes of our Ghanaianess; Diversity.

Ghana-FlagIn large part, we’re accepting of each other. We know we’re different in terms of language and other cultural traits and don’t mind too much. In truth, we prefer to tease each other about our differences, rather than go to war over them. Would you really kill and maim and destroy, because your neighbor wraps his piece of cloth on his bear torso and not on a jumper shirt, or because he opts to wear a smock, rather than wrap a piece of cloth around his body? Or more delicately, shall that attitude of his towards another mortal of your choice be the basis for your leaving town to go to war? Come on, let’s get real. Who cares that I eat Waatse every morning and not Komi ker kenagn? Fetredetsi may not be my thing at all, perhaps because I simply don’t get the navigating bit right and unfailingly soil my shirt, much to Davi’s annoyance. I may call Fufuo Fufui, but why should such trivia form the basis for schisms between us, rather than options to chose from and impress visitors with?

Last time I looked, some Fantis were holding their own on a verandah of the third floor, in the Ministry of Finance, there in Accra and didn’t seem too concerned that there’s a whole world around them. And if an Ewe sought to join in, he was welcome, even if he spoke faltering Fanti, Pidgin or Queen’s English, or some intelligible combination of them. Who cared? All they required was that Apetor have a sense of humour and therefore, be able to give and take at short notice. This defining attribute has held true over the years for many, in spite of ourselves. Indeed, come to think of it, the lyrics of Yen araa ye asaase ni was written in Twi by an Ewe, Ephraim Amu, who also composed the music! We’re accepting of our diversity and that’s a good thing; a thing to be cherished and nurtured, because its a source of strength and not weakness.

We cherish diversity in the flora and fauna around us, because it makes for beauty and the different species occupy different niches in a delicately balanced ecosystem which wouldn’t work otherwise. We’ve learnt that diversity within and between populations work to the advantage of a species of plant or animal life forms. The population as a whole is better positioned to survive changes in its ecosystem, when there is sufficient diversity in it. What constitutes strength in an individual specimen of the population today may become a weakness tomorrow, because of an extreme and challenging change in the ecosystem. With diversity, there just may be other specimens within the population who possess what have been weaknesses hitherto, but constitute the right traits for surviving the challenges of the reconfigured ecosystem. Diversity of itself introduces strength in any population, so let’s cherish and take advantage of it and not be fearful of otherness.

How then shall we manifest our Alpha CORE attribute through daily conduct? In the last 60 years, we’ve been vowing to do honourably with regard to our collective called Ghana, through the National Pledge in its various iterations. When we’re able to stumble through its lines at all, we congratulate ourselves as very knowing, forget what we just pledged and then get on with our lives as if nothing significant had happened. I’m certain you’ve seen and perhaps been entertained by clips on TV, or on the Web in which an interviewer presses a subject to recite the National Pledge, with ridiculous, even hilarious results. Just so that we both know what I’m referring to, here is the current iteration of our National Pledge:

I promise on my honour
To be faithful and loyal to Ghana my motherland.
I pledge myself to the service of Ghana
With all my strength and with all my heart.
I promise to hold in high esteem
Our heritage, won for us through the blood and toil of our fathers; and
I pledge myself in All things to uphold and defend the good name of Ghana.
So help me God.

(SOURCE: http://www.ghana.gov.gh/index.php/about-ghana/the-national-pledge)

So there; no need to continue fumbling and mouthing nothings when asked. Four beautifully phrased and undoubtedly, noble promises and pledges which ought to guide our everyday decisions. Yet do they really guide our choices? I suspect that if an interviewer cared to ask, he’d receive some pretty weird and inexplicable responses about why we call Ghana our motherland, rather than our fatherland. Worse than that, I strongly suspect that we most of us are unable to relate with the somewhat abstract entity called Ghana as intimately as the word motherland elicits. As a result, a disturbing discord between the pledge and the choices we make pervades our way of life in … yeah, our motherland.

Indeed, I suspect that if we tried, we many of us would have a really hard time assembling sufficient evidence to convince our grandchildren that we’ve been faithful and loyal to our motherland, rather than our fatherland; that we’ve rendered service to the nation with all our strength and heart and not to our own selves only; that we’ve held our heritage in high, rather than low esteem and, or that we’ve upheld and defended the good name of Ghana consistently and nobly, rather than pursued personal well being first and only. No, I’m not making accusations here, though I may sound that way. Rather than take a guilt trip after 60 years, let’s turn this ship around and head somewhere, by pledging to our neighbour from now on. The nation-state is an abstraction introduced to us by the European colonizers and we’ve been struggling to own the concept for 60 years with ahem results. I don’t suggest we throw the concept away altogether, but rather, that we take a different approach to building that larger and diverse community called Ghana.

Permit me to pledge to you, fellow Ghanaian and do pledge to me in return, as we live together in the region called Ghana and beyond. Let’s pledge to each other to conduct ourselves in a particular way and hold each other accountable for the pledges we make. That way, we can have community together, however diverse we are ethnologically, in religious beliefs, or in any other measure of sameness. That way, we can have a common CORE which transcends the provisions of our Constitution in fact and differentiates us from other nationalities. Here’s what I suggest we pledge to each other, with regard to our Alpha CORE attribute:

I promise on my honour to be faithful and loyal to my fellow Ghanaian.
I pledge to defend his right to remain different.

Let’s keep it simple and straight forward. In pledging to defend our Alpha CORE attribute, we’re pledging to stay together and reassuring each other that we have nothing to fear about our neighbour’s otherness. If he holds fast to that promise daily, then he’s not going to rise up in the middle of the night and come at you, merely because you’re of a different ethnic background, or religious persuasion; which more likely than not, you are. And since you have the same disposition towards him, hey, you enjoy community together. Of course, it takes more than reciting a pledge to build a nation from people of such diversity. We’d have to teach our grandchildren from kindergarten upwards how rewarding it is to belong to a common nation and how disadvantaged they would be without nationhood, using role playing games and other devises. And there are a plethora of additional instruments we’d have to employ to assure success in deliberate nation building.

By the way and just for the avoidance of doubt, an Alpha CORE of the sort I’m suggesting has nothing to do with xenophobia. Being accepting of each other does not require or imply hostility towards non-Ghanaians. Indeed, it is in our best interest to remain welcoming and hospitable to friendly foreigners. For, which of us doesn’t have a nephew, or niece; an auntie or uncle; a brother or sister resident in a foreign country, who sends money from time to time in response to our pleas and text messages asking for immediate help in paying school fees, settling hospital bills, discharging bloated funeral debts, or reroofing the dilapidated ancestral home? It cannot go well with our expatriate communities across the globe (and I mean across the whole globe), if we are perceived to be xenophobic. We had a good record of hospitality towards foreigners until promulgation of the Aliens Compliance Order (1969). Its inhumane execution in 1970 arguably earned us the equally inconsiderate Ghana Must Go expulsion from Nigeria in 1983.

Pledging our Alpha CORE attribute is intended to help us be more deliberate in building community of a specific kind with our neighbour who is identified as Ghanaian by our Constitution. That doesn’t prevent, or excuse us from building other kinds of community with the rest of humanity. ©

Glossary of terms:


Waatse : rice boiled with beans and served with spicy sauce and other condiments;
Komi ker kenagn : fried fish and chilli, served with boiled, fermented thick corn dough pressed into a ball;
Fetredetsi : rich, spicy okra sauce, served with boiled, fermented soft corn dough;
Fufuo / Fufui : boiled cassava, plantain or other starch source mashed into a thick, smooth bulb. Served with rich, spicy soups;
Apetor : affectionate Ewe title for an adult male;
Yen araa ye asaase ni : the title of a patriotic song. It translates to ‘This is our land’.

On Being Ghanaian

What common attributes make us distinctively Ghanaian, when we’re so different ethnically, by religious beliefs and other expressions of culture?

Two months ago at my inauguration on these grounds, I urged that we renew the sacred compact that comes with being able to call yourself a citizen. I am proud that I am able to say without equivocation, I am a Ghanaian citizen” – President Nana Akufo-Addo, Independence Day address, Mar 6, 2017.

Ghana-FlagThis is a good time to reflect on who we are, as we bask in the 60th anniversary of the founding of our nation, Ghana. Sixty years is a short time with respect to nation building, although some may hold the view that we’ve long come of age and ought to be much further down that path than we are today; that there really is nothing worth celebrating. Whichever view you hold on the matter, one fact remains; that we, being different in significant and diverse ways, have held together for 60 years and that is worth celebrating. Considering that we never sat to initiate a union, but were amalgamated as a colony for the administrative convenience of a foreign people who had no understanding of what divides us, I’d say we’ve done pretty well in maintaining the fragile union called Ghana.

Data from our 2010 census indicates that, taking ethnicity and religion for illustration’s sake, we are quite a hodgepodge of peoples. Akans made up 48% of the population, Ga-Dangme 7%, Ewe 14%, Guan 4%, Gurma 6%, Mole Dagbani 17%, Grusi 2%, Mande 1% and various others (including naturalised Ghanaians) 1%. Looking at our demographics from the perspective of adherence to religious belief, 5% professed no belief in particular, 13% identified as Roman Catholic, 18% as Orthodox Protestant, 28% as Pentecostal or Charismatic Protestant, 11% as adherents of Other Christian beliefs, 18% adhered to Islamic beliefs, 5% to Traditional Religious beliefs and 1% to various other beliefs; such as Buddhism (see diagram).

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Our being able to hold the union together for 60 years despite this degree of diversity among the 27 million who regard themselves as Ghanaians is noteworthy, particularly in this age of revived fascism (now fashionably reconfigured under the banner of Identity Politics). Yet the absence of open and sustained hostilities cannot pass for the presence of unity, as the UK’s vote to exit the EU demonstrates. So, as we reflect on the 60th anniversary of our independence (or, as I suggest here; the anniversary of our union), let’s take a moment to consider the CORE attributes which make us one people, despite pronounced diversity in ethnicity, religion and other indicators which now serve as qualifiers for inclusion, or exclusion in some countries.

Clearly, outward measures of sameness like common language, common traditions, common garments, common foods won’t cut it, in defining our CORE. We’re commonly different in all of those outward expressions of culture. Indeed, I’ve often heard compatriots speak of the Ghanaian accent, in reference to our country’s official language; the foreign English language. Yet when we care to listen to each other, we invariably acknowledge that there isn’t one Ghanaian accent in speaking English, but rather many, because we’re able to discern the ethnicity of a speaker to a good degree of accuracy by his accent and that, without linguistic expertise.

What then makes us distinctively Ghanaian, other than the geography of our birth place, which is entirely accidental, because it was appointed by a foreign power for its own ends? (Even then, we‘d need some tweaking of the description, because persons who are born elsewhere may legitimately demand inclusion as Ghanaians, because of descent, or choice through naturalisation, for example). What is that CORE which qualifies us as Ghanaian and won’t go away, even when we choose to adopt additional, or substitute nationalities? I suspect we’d argue about the nature of our CORE attributes till the cows come home, if we tried and then lose it all and call each other names and go to bed no better off than we were the day before yesterday, or when the third chapter of the 1992 Constitution was written; the chapter which defines who are citizens of Ghana. So, rather than take that route, let’s maintain the constitutional definition as sacrosanct and keep the peace between us.

Of course, carrying a copy of the Constitution about is somewhat clumsy, so I’ll suggest four distinguishing CORE attributes; some factual, some aspirational, in the four posts which follow and then leave my fellow Ghanaians room to become totally annoyed or otherwise, just as we tend to become when discussing local politics, the prospects of our preferred soccer club, or in the worst case, the performance of the national soccer team; the Black Stars. Just take a deep breath and hold it for four seconds. Now exhale slowly. See? The world didn’t end when you paused for a moment. So chill out and be entertained, then get mad at me after the four attributes if you will. Lom na va, otherwise Onaapo, which I prefer to render in English as, come if you will, or the blessings I carry will continue to elude you. ©


An earlier version of this post and portions of what follow on the same subject were published on modernghana.com on March 4 & 5, 2017.