To Margaret Jackson: There are no scapegoats here

The NPP’s Mustapha Hamid waxed philosophical on Minority Caucus: “What is beneficial to the whole cannot be detrimental to the parts that make the whole.”

That is a truism. We are all in this together: NPP, NDC, CPP or PPP–in the election petition trial currently before the Supreme Court. It is Ghana on trial in the courts of the former Gold Coast. So, the scales of justice would best be weighed on our hearts than on judicial scales. For, whoever emerges winner in this case has only won it for those who lost. There are some wars that are won only because they were lost.

So far, it has been a collective bargain–of things that belong to brothers in a contest. However, we are not looking for scapegoats and victims in this exercise, as Margaret Jackson sought to assert in her recent publication regarding the cross examination of Dr Mahamadu Bawumia on and In that very eloquent writing (my favourite writers and thinkers have mostly been women) Madam Jackson queried why Nana Akufo-Addo, the man who is loudly touted as the finest legal luminary in the country, did not lead his own petition and pushed his economist vice presidential candidate to be sacrificed at the judicial alter. Jackson concludes that the former ADB country chief for Zimbabwe is politically finished if the NPP loses the case. She also predicts his doom because Dr Bawumia is a political “neophyte.”

These are exciting times in Ghana, and most people seem to be anxiously enthused that they are a part of this history. While pretending to steer clear prejudicial commentary, we have all contemplated various scenarios and outcomes of the case. Even as radio and TV panellists slug it out, we are also educating ourselves on court and judicial processes and procedures. The lawyers have admitted they are learning new things, the novel nature of the case notwithstanding. Most of us who didn’t know what caricature an affidavit looked like, now know that it is nothing to worry about. We may also have learnt that in cross examination, a lawyer should be asking questions whose answers he already knows or have a fair idea of, and that consistency and surprise are important in this examination. For others, the process is surreal, revealing and also boring. It’s an experience that the political savvy and the legal neophyte would benefit from tremendously.

It is an expensive process but we have chosen a much cheaper option compared with the price we would have paid if we had taken the quicker route. The sacrifice is too huge for one political tradition or politician to pay. We should even be prepared to lose investment money that would not come because international players may see the country as unsafe until the historic case is over. National productivity may suffer as we excitedly glue ourselves to our televisions and favourite websites on the internet, but we have agreed to bear the cost together and pay later. And one more thing: the NDC and the NPP would find common ground to work together when the case is over. For, nothing has brought the two this close at each other’s throats until election 2012, which the NPP alleges was stolen. With the spring wound up so tight in the nation’s highest courts, justice would uncoil of itself before our very eyes on our television screens. We all hope justice is well served.

We cannot, however, pretend that all is well with our political and democratic practice because we are patient enough to resort to long and winding court processes during electoral and executive disputes. We should urgently consider the recent proposals from legislator O.B Amoah and retired Supreme Court judge CVRAC Crabbe that the bane of our politics is the winner take all system we have had for so long. In MP Amoah’s thinking, we would be curing the problem if other registered political parties were encouraged and perhaps ably supported to make a better showing in elections, to compete for a respectable percentage of the electoral votes. That would encourage coalition governments where the president would be compelled to draw his team from a wider net, as is currently the case in Britain under Prime Minister David Cameron and Deputy Nick Clegg.

The Mahama government may have done well to engage professionals from civil society, other than typical politicians, for important ministerial assignments, but it is still an NDC affair. Justice Crabbe laments that from the management of public toilets to public corporation boards, party affiliates are rewarded with juicy offers whiles other Ghanaians are pushed out as though they were foreign nationals. Until we achieve genuine inclusiveness and proper social cohesion, we will always be divided on bitter party lines. Our democracy is mature enough to do this.

The next few months promise to be exciting and challenging, as we wait for the courts to finish their job. It is not only Bawumia who has put everything on the line; all 25 Million of us have put our souls and destinies on the line for the cause of country. If Dr Mahamadu Bawumia loses it all in the witness box, as Margaret Jackson predicts, he would have only succeeded in vindicating our collective confidence in the democratic process.
Kwesi Tawiah-Benjamin is a journalist. He lives in Ottawa, Canada