One time Attorney General, Nii Ayikoi Otoo who acted as counsel for Kwadwo Owusu Afriyie, General Secretary of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) and Hopeson Adorye, a member of the Communication team of the same party, and masterfully saved them from the gallows, has disclosed that he was ill-advised not to befriend the media, that is why perhaps most people are to some extent not aware of his legal expertise.
This was in response to a question put to him by sit-in host of Peace FM’s morning show ‘Kokrokoo’, Nana Yaw Kesse. The host had sought to find out why prior to his five-star performance in court on Wednesday, his reputation as a legal luminary, appeared to be on the blind side of journalists and the public.
The two were charged with contempt and were a hare’s breath away from prison; but for the masterclass performance of lawyer Ayikoi Otoo.
In court on Wednesday, he argued that since the trial of the election petition was almost over and everybody was poised for the judgment and harping on about peace, a custodial sentence for the two may not augur well.
“My lords we are not in this court to justify anything contained in the summons. We have no doubt that the court has powers to deal with contempt and that even if it was not contained in the constitution, it is an inherent power given to the court”.
According to him, they were also aware of the provision in article 19 (12) which makes the exercise of that power almost arbitrary and that the practice in such matters was to render an unqualified apology. He said the practice has been to show remorse and apologise for what has been said and that was exactly what they were in court to do.
“At this stage we have not come to argue with the bench but to show mercy…We apologise unreservedly for whatever has taken place and to seek to purge whatever contempt he might have found himself.”
He further told the bench that the NPP General Secretary has already issued a 33-point guideline to all party communicators on avoiding contempt.
These, he said included not using insulting, threatening, abusive or rude words in describing the judges and not using words that are likely to be construed as provoking the judges, and not passing personal remarks about judges because they are only doing their job as representing the state in the dispensation of justice.
The now cult hero further pontificated that Sir John’s 33-point guidelines to communicators also urged them not to issue words or phrases to attack judges personally and not to describe a judge in a manner that will subject him or her to ridicule and defamatory words in describing a judge.
Lawyer Ayikoi Otoo added that the early parts and days of fire and brimstone are no longer heard on the airwaves and that his client was taking very decisive steps to purge himself of contempt.
So masterful was his defence that at a stage, he song the infamous Woyome song in the courtroom without being reprimanded.
Interlacing his tactics with humour, the former Attorney-General and Minister of Justice under the Kufuor administration said as the General Secretary of the NPP, and as usual when politicians get to the platform mood, they momentarily forget themselves and that personally as a politician, he (Ayikoi Otoo) has found himself on the platform singing, “Woyome! Woyome!, Gargantuaaaaan wonkye di”.
“When you find yourself on a platform like Oman FM, you let yourself go”, counsel said.
He pleaded and said what the court sought to stop was to ensure that during the hearing, language use was measured.
“Fortunately we’ve gone through the trial. One or two actions on your part (court) brought sanity. Those of us who were shouting at the rooftop said the power was yours (court) and that did not amount to gagging any free speech and that people should be measured”.
Counsel further added it was not that the judges wanted to show that they have power, indicating to the bench that his client has no feet to stand on should the judges decide to pick up judicial arms against him.
“That is a lawyer standing before you. He ought to know the law. Other considerations might have let him slip”, Ayikoi Otoo said refering to Sir John.
After he finished his submissions, one of the nine-member panel of judges, Justice Jones Dotsei asked him, “Ayikoi Otoo, have you sought any explanation from your client what might have entered him in the studio that day when he uttered those words?”
“My Lord Mrs Akoto Bamfo understand this better when she was sitting as a trial judge. We always in pleading say something entered him as your lordship rightly said. ‘Gbesie’. Some power for which we don’t have any control over. We call it ‘gbesie’, because my lords what other explanation do you have. When those things enter you and you begin to fly away and you even sometimes forget you are a lawyer,” Ayikoi Otoo replied.
But the former A-G appears not surprised by his artistry.
According to him, he has been practicing law for over 30 years but most people, especially the media, are unaware of his style in court because based on the advice of a friend, he ‘refused to talk to the press’.
“In all the things you saw only yesterday, if I had played to the press in those days anytime I went to court with Tsatsu Tsikata, arguing cases against the Commissioner of Insurance; in those days I usually went to court myself as Attorney-General and nobody commended me because I wasn’t talking to the press and so what you saw yesterday was nothing. It is the usual thing I have done over the years…For those of you especially the press that I refused to talk to the time that I was Attorney General; that is why perhaps you didn’t know me”.
He however expressed regret for not being media-friendly and somewhat impliedly asked for forgiveness for ‘hiding himself’.
“It was a big mistake I made because I followed a friend’s advice who said ‘look don’t talk to the press; they will raise you up and they are the same people who will let you come crushing down’ and so I said well, it will be better for me to keep to myself…All these things you are seeing now it is because I have started talking to the press; that is the difference. Now that I am talking to the press, people are beginning to know the kind of individual that I am…I have advised myself to talk to the press,” he said.
Answering to whether results would have been different if the tactics were changed, he said: “It was obvious…for Sir John and Hopeson coming to me, they advised themselves that they needed someone of my standing to go and plead for them and worked alright”.
Well, Ghanaians are grateful for the opportunity to watch on their television sets, the legal prowess of members of the country’s bar and bench.