Feature Article of Wednesday, 17 April 2013
Columnist: Ata, Kofi
By Kofi Ata, Cambridge, UK
My first reaction to the responses to my article on Nana Akufo Addo’s call to the English Bar at the Middle Temple was, OMG!, have I disturbed the hornet’s nest? (see “Akufo Addo was called to the English Bar”, Ghanaweb, April 13, 2013). It was unfortunate that Ghanaweb posted the incomplete which I recalled so I was compelled to use the comment section indicate that the article did not contain all the evidence. The article with all the evidence which Ghanaweb is yet to post was published on ModernGhana.com on Tuesday April 16, 2013 with two pdf documents as attachments (see “Mr William Addo Dankwa Akufo Addo was called to the English Bar”, ModernGhana.com, April 16 2013). This article is a contribution to the ongoing debate on the matter.
I will take this opportunity to address some of the questions posed by readers on the above mentioned article. Let me assure both supporters and opponents of Nana Akudo who levelled various allegations against me that I carried out the low key investigations on my own volition. I had no ulterior motive for my actions, similar to what I did in 2012 by submitting Freedom of Information Request to Oxford University and subsequently making my findings public, though, I was accused of being anti Akufo Addo and a paid agent of NDC. I know my conscience is clear that on both occasions I acted in the best interest of Ghana and not for any individual or political party. Those who follow my articles know that I am not a fun of Akufo Addo but that does not mean he is an enemy. I am political but not necessarily party political.
Readers are free to hold whatever views about me but that would not distract me from finding out the facts for myself and share them with the public, if necessary. Whether I am anti or pro this or that, what I know is that, I am rational and objective enough to know what is wrong and vice versa. For those who also questioned whether I could obtain information on a third party without his or her prior consent under the UK Data Protection Act 1998, the answer is, yes, depending on a number of factors, such as, the sort of information being requested, public interest, protected information or not, etc. The information I requested from both Oxford University and the Middle Temple were not protected and if they were, both met the public interest test (though I did not use the Freedom of Information Act to request information from the Middle Temple).
Others queried if I provided the date of birth of Nana Akufo Addo to the Middle Temple. I can confirm that in both cases, I provided the date of birth of Nana Akufo Addo as advertised on his campaign website. In the case Oxford University, I did not know at the time that Nana Akufo Addo was once called Mr William Addo Dankwa Akuffo Addo. It was Oxford University which provided that name to me. In the case of the Middle Temple, I provided both names. For those who claimed that Nana Akufo assumed the name WAD Akufo Addo and that the true WAD Akufo Addo was murdered, the questions we must find answers to are: when was that person murdered and when did Nana Akufo Addo begin using WAD Akufo Addo? As far as I am concerned, I know from my correspondence with Oxford University that in 1961, Nana Akufo Addo was admitted into the university as Mr William Addo Dankwa Akufo Addo.
Let me take this opportunity to clarify that, my intention was not to give Nana Akufo Addo, the all clear. It was only a contribution to establishing some of the facts on this matter. In other words, I am not saying that Nana Akufo Addo has no questions to answer. In fact, I also have some doubts and that was why I took the trouble to contact the Middle Temple. For example, I do not understand why Nana Akufo Addo asked for those documents from the Middle Temple and the General Legal Council in 2007 when he was the Foreign Minister of Ghana. When did he realise that his certificates were missing? I do not follow blindly but analyse issues and ask questions as well as seek answers to them.
There were two main reasons why I decided to contact the Middle Temple. One was to try and redeem the image of Ghana that is being damaged before the international community by the allegations. The other, of course, was to establish whether Nana Akufo Addo qualified as a lawyer and was called to the English Bar through the Middle Temple. I must make it abundantly clear that I did not seek to confirm whether Nana Akufo is qualified to practice law in Ghana or was called to the Ghana Bar.
Those who do not understand or under estimate the implications of this case on Ghana’s international image should take a closer look at themselves in the mirror. I sometimes wonder if Ghanaians are not their own worst enemies.
Across the world and in most democracies, citizens need not have any educational or professional qualifications to enter politics or hold political office except one cabinet position. Even the position of President or Prime Minister has no requirement for educational or professional qualifications. However, the position of Attorney General MUST be occupied by someone who is a qualification lawyer and often but not always, must be able to represent the government and the state at court. This is because the post holder is the Chief Attorney and legal adviser to government and the state.
For the above reason, it would have been suicidal for any government to have appointed a person who is not a qualified lawyer to the position of Attorney General as was in the case of Nana Akufo during Ex-President Kufuor’s government. The civil suit against Akufo Addo and the allegations that he is not a qualified lawyer is not only damaging to him alone but has caused irreparable damage to the international image and reputation of Ghana. If proven to be true, Ghana would be a joke in the international community for various reasons. The second reason was that I sought to establish that he was called to the English Bar and to satisfy myself that he was qualified to be the Attorney General of Ghana at the time of his appointment.
Last week was a bad week for Nana Akufo Addo in the propaganda war. Even his lawyers fumbled badly denying that Nana Akufo Addo’s Law Certificates were missing only for them to confirm what they had denied a day earlier. Sometimes, I wonder if Nana Akufo Addo receives good counsel from those around him and if he does, he listens and acts on them? Again, I wonder if those around him know him that well.
For example, until I confirmed that Nana Akufo Addo attended Oxford University, those around him were claiming that he was never admitted to the world renowned university. After I made public documentary evidence that proved beyond doubt that, indeed, Nana Akufo Addo attended Oxford University in the 1961/62 academic year but did not complete his studies and as a result, questions were raised on the reason/s why he left Oxford without completing his course, those around him came out with all sorts of excuses why he left Oxford. One was that his father wanted him to have a taste of educational experiences in both UK and Ghana and so that was why his father withdrew him from Oxford University to continue his university education at University of Ghana, Legon.
It was also claimed that his father had problems with the Nkrumah government and was sacked as Chief Justice so it was possible that his father could no longer finance his university education at Oxford at the time. This reason to me was not only more plausible but could also have been to the political advantage of Nana Akufo Addo in the last days of the 2012 presidential campaign. This was a candidate that had been painted by his opponents as someone who was born with a silver spoon in his mouth and never experienced hardship in his entire life, out of touch, etc. If such a person was withdrawn from university by his father for financial reason/s, that was a powerful ammunition to defend himself and to tell voters that after all, he had also faced real life challenges as any other Ghanaian. Yet, this golden opportunity was not seized upon. Instead, ‘Kwaku Ananse’ stories were concocted as a panacea. What a political immaturity and a missed opportunity, NPP?
Second, I could not believe my ears when on the evening of Saturday March 30, 2013, the Minority Leader in Parliament who was a guest on Obimanso Radio in Atlanta, Georgia in a response to a female caller from London suggesting that Akufo Addo should make his Law Certificates public as the Vice-President did when his qualification was questioned, said that, her suggestion could be considered. This made me wonder if the NPP or Nana Akufo Addo had not considered such an option or even if the Minority Leader was convinced or knew for certain that Nana Akufo Addo is a qualified lawyer.
In the same way that people around Nana Akufo Addo gave a number of versions on whether Akufo Addo attended Oxford University or not and the reason for his sudden disappearance from Oxford, the Minority Leader’s response to the London caller gave me the impression that, perhaps, those close to and around Nana Akufo Addo do not really know him that well or they talk on his behalf without finding out the facts from him. In other words, is Mr William Addo Dankwa Akufo Addo or Nana Akufo Addo an enigma to Ghanaians?
I suspect why Nana Akufo Addo is often subject of these damaging allegations is the open secret that he has got to where he is by using his father’s or family connections. Let’s be honest, who in Ghana would not have taken advantage of his or her family connections? This is not new and it happens all over the world. The level of hatred against him that is sometimes displayed on the electronic media reminds me of people rejoicing over the death the former British Prime Minister, Lady Thatcher. I asked myself if some Ghanaians would jubilate if they heard the unexpected about Nana Akufo Addo (may God forbid)? I hope as Ghanaians came together to mourn the late President Mills, the same respect would be accorded Nana Akufo Addo when that day comes (in decades from now), irrespective one’s political persuasion.
I am aware that the correspondence from Middle Temple is not conclusive that Nana Akufo Addo is qualified to practice law in Ghana. In any case, that is not what my contact with Middle Temple was meant for. I am also fully aware that not all those who have seen all the e-mails and the two pdf documents from the Middle Temple will be persuaded beyond any reasonable doubt that Nana Akufo Addo was called to the English Bar. I say so because of the response from the Head of Education Services of Middle Temple on the authenticity of the Note from Middle Temple which formed part of Nana Akufo Addo’s evidence presented to the court by his lawyers.
The Head of Education Service responded, “when a member of the Inn is Called to the Bar, the Inn issues a Call Certificate. The original Call Certificate would be signed both by Master Treasurer and by the Under Treasurer. Members of the Inn may request copies of their own Call Certificates at any time after the original Call. Such copies will be signed by the Under Treasurer only. I can confirm that copies of Call Certificated would be in the style of document which you have sent us. I CANNOT comment on the authenticity or otherwise of this particular document”. Notwithstanding this response, the pdf record of Nana Akufo Addo’s admission and graduation sent to me by the Head of Education Services at the Middle Temple is credible proof that he is a qualified lawyer and was therefore right and proper for him to have held the position of Attorney General of Ghana.
I am not holding brief for Nana Akufo Addo and as I always say, for me, what is wrong is wrong. It does not matter whether it is about NPP or NDC. In the same vein that I contacted Transparency International in Germany when false publication was put on the internet claiming that President Mahama and his wife had $170 million in a secret bank account (see “Is NPP or NDP behind the £170 million Mahama Corruption?”, Ghanaweb, October 30, 2012), I will do the same if I suspect and have information that what is being alleged against Nana Akufo Addo or nay Ghanaian politician is false. This is not about politics, let alone partisan politics of NDC and NPP equalisation. It is neither about Akufo Addo/NPP nor President Mahama/NDC but rather, the truth, the public interest and Ghana.
Nana Akufo Addo, I know silence is golden. However, my personal view is that, silence could also be taken for either concern or contempt. May be, you should learn from President Obama and kill some of these damaging allegations against you by speaking up and making the evidence available even if allegations keep coming your way. Perhaps, these allegations may never stop as far as you continue to be a leading political figure. I suspect this is so because some Ghanaians suspect that Nana Akufo Addo might have got to where he is through his family (father’s) connection. What is wrong with that, even if it is true?
Perhaps, Ghana should take a new approach to the questions of qualifications and public office as well as certain professions across board. To avoid such allegations in the future and to save Ghana further embarrassments, I propose that all public workers and starting from the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary must be required to produce originals or certified copies of their educational and professional qualifications, particularly, those that are stated on their CVs or they claimed to have gained and for they secured their positions, were employed or engaged on that basis. The same should apply to all professionals such as doctors, engineers, lawyers and others in the private sector.
Kofi Ata, Cambridge, UK