The Nation on trial
So it did happen that Kwadwo Owusu-Afriyie, aka Sir John, the General Secretary of the opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP) and Hopeson Adorye, a member of the communications team of the NPP, walked out of the Supreme Court premises heaving sighs of relief after what could arguably be characterised as probably one of the most tense moments in their lives- the moment where many thought they would be walking into jail, considering the precedents that had been set earlier.
This was in the contempt cases involving some other political party functionaries which landed them in jail.
Thanks to the consummate and tactful manner in which their lawyer, Mr Ayikoi Otoo, presented their case, the two individuals returned to their supporters beaming with smiles and giving them reasons to rejoice, celebrate and thank God for answering their prayers.
The decision by the Justices to impose a non-custodial sentence but finding them guilty, to a large extent, reflects their desires to close the case without any sense of bitterness and acrimony on the side of the petitioners who had brought forward their grievances to be adjudicated upon.
In the course of the contempt proceedings, however, it was evident that the nation was on trial once again- as its values, way of life and indulgences were placed on the front burner in a manner that rarely happens.
Though the manner in which politics is conducted in this nation has been the subject of concern before the Supreme Court in times past, the Presiding Judge in the current petition had cause, again, to reiterate his displeasure.
As the eminent judge put it, ‘You see this is one of the worrying things in this country. The way some politicians play the game, they think they can dribble everybody, play political chess with everybody and get away with it.’
He went further to decry the glorified manner in which some politicians, acting under the guise of some supposed superiority, breach the law and hold innocent Ghanaians hostage in their bid to achieve political power.
Citing the 2008 elections as an example, he wondered why Ghanaians should be held hostage just because of the unbridled ambitions of a few politicians.
This sharp focus on some politicians and their modus operandi is not new. It was among these reasons that at a certain point in our history, attempts were made to knock political parties out of existence.
As our history has it, one coup after the other (with Nkrumah’s one-party Ghana being the first to fall) led us to the point where the appetite for entertaining anything associated with a political party and its operatives was considered as nauseating. Dr Busia’s Progress Party (PP) was also subsequently overthrown and a military government under the command of Colonel I.K. Acheampong was ushered in.
Taking advantage of the popular distrust for politicians and their parties and being very aware of the thin sheet of ice on which he was treading, he proposed an interesting mix, which if approved would serve as a substitute. This was to be called the Union Government or UNIGOV.
The deal was that the governance space would be shared between the military and police on the one hand and civilians on the other. This alliance by civilians, military and police was based on a charter which was hinged on some of these principles- (1) one nation, one people, one destiny (2) total manpower development (3) revolutionary discipline as it was believed that strict military drills would transform national life, (4) self-reliance (5) patriotism and international brotherhood (6) service to the people and so on.
On March 30, 1978 therefore, there was a referendum to put some of the above issues to a vote, culminating in the adoption of a constitution that is not premised on the party system but rather on the utopian mix as highlighted above.
General Acheampong claimed a resounding victory since the result of the polls indicated that 54 per cent of Ghanaians were in favour of the Union Government, while 46 per cent voted against the proposal.
Those who openly campaigned against the union government proposal of General Acheampong were dealt a heavy blow as the People’s Movement for Freedom and Justice, the Third Force and the Front for the Prevention of Dictatorship were banned from operating as political parties.
The proposal never came into fruition as the National Redemption which had become the Supreme Military Council was overthrown in June 1979.
This unsuccessful attempt at doing away with political parties was probably the last.
But it is fair to say that the election petition has for one thing gone to the extent of scrubbing some of the dirty stables of politics clean. And with a mix of time and continuous self-examination, the picture will be brighter and clearer.
By Samuel Alesu-Dzordzi / The Mirror / Ghana
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