Who actually won the 2012 Election Petition in Ghana?
In this issue of Amandla we have a synopsis of a report by a notable Nigerian legal expert on elections in Africa, Bamidele Aturu commissioned by the Ford Foundation on the petition hearings of the 2012 Elections in Ghana. In our view, Mr. Aturu’s expert review questions the sagacity and the judicial wisdom in the decision to dismiss the reliefs submitted for adjudication by Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo Addo of the opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP), the petitioner. The hearings of the petition that were brought home to Ghanaians through the electronic media were truly an act of education in how the legal system works. The hearings also demystified the law as we knew it. But … Mr. Aturu wondered aloud how the judgment went in favor of the respondents, John Dramani Mahama, the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and the Electoral Commission, even when the arithmetic went the other way. The decision of the panel of nine was upended, questioning the grounds on which the learned justices based the verdict. The decision challenges the principle that arithmetic as in natural law is knowledge a priori. One plus one is eternally two. Nothing can change that. Why would a five-four decision against the respondent be reversed? Mr. Aturu thinks the decision was predicated by the quest for peace in the country following a tense period of the hearings. But we dare ask, should peace precede justice in democracy? And does it necessarily strengthen democracy? The answer to the two questions above is a resounding NO. Four of the justices Atuguba, Adinyira, Gbadegbe, and Akoto-Bamfo dismissed the petition. Aturu observes: “The choice of words by … Atuguba, shows an overwhelming predisposition on the part of the “majority of the court” to sustain the outcome of the election. It is controversial, nonetheless, to say that the court should strive to sustain or salvage an election, as suggested by Atuguba, and to claim that this is always in the public interest. This has doubtless raised a number of issues.” What is the public interest? We agree with the Report and the issues it raises in the role of judges in determining who wins or loses elections. Which way democracy? The judiciary, in this case had the last say and like Aturu, we are also surprised at the response to the decision reached. Justice Atuguba, even before the court began sitting expressed sentiments that indicated his attitude toward the issues raised. It has become routinely characteristic that elections in Africa are always riddled with inconsistencies and controversies. An overturned people’s verdict in Ivory Coast engendered a protracted war that ended in the trial and imprisonment of one of the contenders. In Kenya in 2007 thousands died so others could have their way in the elections, while quite recently in Uganda, the leader of the opposition is in jail for claiming victory in an election that was described by the Commonwealth Observer Team as not strictly serving the people’s interest. Invariably a supreme court that is divided on ideological grounds would not likely deliver a judgment that is wholly acceptable. In the case of the 2012 petition did Ghana’s Supreme Court don political robes to pronounce a judgment that would stick out as more political than judicial?