By Atty Philip N. Wesseh (PNW): When I received a call last week from a senior professional brother Ben Asante, requesting for my e-mail to send an article for publication, I found it very unusual because he has not asked me for such before. However, I deduced at the time that it was something very important he wanted to share with the Liberian audience. It was all about the atmosphere about a pending decision of the Supreme Court of that country into complaints of irregularities filed by the opposition regarding the country’s past elections. In short, the piece sent by brother Asante, was all about the concern among Ghanaians about keeping the peace in that country.
Even those in the opposition were also praying for peace. The fear was that there would be a chaotic situation should the court rule in favor of the opposition or in favor of the ruling party. Besides Ghanaians, upon reading the article and being fully aware of the Liberian experience in the last two elections, I began to wonder what would be the situation in Ghana, a country that is now considered peaceful and a major transit point for many major flights.
Intuitively, by reading the headline of that article, one would immediately realize the feelings and apprehensions of Ghanaians for a peaceful country, judging from the experiences of election conflicts in other countries like Kenya and neighboring Ivory Coast, just to name a few that saw those countries in a state of chaos and insecurity for months. Noticeably, those conflicts resulted to unimaginable deaths and wanton destruction.
With the headline: “Ghana’s Rival Politicians Call For Peace As Supreme Court Deliver Judgment On President Mahama,” brother Asante began the article by saying, “in an event never seen before, the chairman of Ghana’s ruling National Democratic Congress NDC party, Dr. Kwabena Adjei, has spoken at the rally staged by the main opposition NPP party which is challenging President John Mahama’s last December election as president at the country’s Supreme Court. Judgment on the court case lasting eight months is expected this week, something which is causing anxiety in some circles. There have been calls for peace and non-violent reactions to the expected judgment while the police have deployed against any public disturbance and the military announcing it would forestall any move against the peace.”
The issue of the election results went to the nation’s highest court after the opposition presidential candidate Nana Akufo- Addo refused to concede defeat and has approached the Court to annul the election results. According to Ben Asante’s article, the opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP) petitioners, led by Nana Akufo-Addo, are asking the court to annul the results of the 2012 December polls in which the Election Commission (EC) declared President John Mahama the winner and instead should declare him (the opposition presidential candidate) the winner. The opposition’s evidence had largely been based on election result sheets (the pink sheets) from the EC.
Indeed, the fears of many about the country being plunged into chaos dissipated as what people had foreseen did not happen because of the way and manner in which the opposition presidential candidate Nana Akufo Addo, behaved following the court’s opinion. In the December polls, Ghana’s electoral commission said Mahama took 50.7 percent of the vote over ex-foreign minister Akufo-Addo’s 47.7 percent. In its ruling the court said, “The first respondent (Mahama) was validly elected and the petition is therefore dismissed,” presiding judge William Atuguba said, reading from the verdict issued by the nine-justice panel. Reports said some of the judges found merit in certain NPP allegations, but as a group they declared Mahama’s win legitimate.
Immediately following the court’s decision, the opposition leader Nana Akufo-Addo conceded defeat, and said he would not seek further review of the decision. “Whilst I do not agree with the court’s decision, I accept it,” Akufo-Addo told journalists at his home in the capital Accra as dozens of supporters gathered outside. “We shall not be asking for a review,” he said, adding that he had spoken to Mahama and congratulated him. The incumbent who was expected to address the nation later said on his Twitter account, “this is a victory for Ghana’s democracy.” It is said that “Thursday’s decision ended months-long saga that had riveted the West African nation of 25 million people seen as a rare beacon of democracy in the turbulent region.”
The situation in Ghana will spark out positive reactions, as the peace of the country remains unshaken. In its reaction, the United States deputy State Department spokeswoman, Marie Harf said the United States “commends Ghana’s commitment to a peaceful resolution of the 2012 presidential election dispute through a legal process”. She added: “Ghana remains a model for democratic governance, rule of law, and stability.”
For me, I am deeply touched by the attitude of the Ghanaian main opposition leader by conceding, and also for accepting the ruling of the court. As he said that while he does “not agree” with the court’s decision, he would “accept it,” thus, allaying fears that were harbored by many that any denunciation or rejection by the opposition to accept any ruling in favor of the incumbent, could lead to chaos. This is a show of nationalism, patriotism and maturity because this gentleman and others would have acted differently as a result of ego, but they were aware of what would be the consequences should they continue to express disagreement over the results and selfishly refuse to concede. Obviously, this could have caused supporters to get into the streets, as we have seen in other countries and even in this country during the last two elections, one of which resulted to the death of a Liberian.
As I said on the LBS Super Morning Show last Friday, there is no elections that is problem free. Even in the most developed and advanced democracies, there have always been problems, but they always consider the general good of society and then move on to the next level for the peace and stability of the country. We should learn from that and not unnecessarily remain adamant and unreasonable even if the problems do not warrant the nullification of the results.
More importantly, I am happy for the Ghanaian opposition for its respect for the rule of law. Being unhappy over the results, it resorted to the use of the rule of law by going to court, instead of taking the laws into their hands at the detriment of society. Laws are made to guide our conduct and behavior. This is why it is necessary for people who feel offended or feel deprived of justice and fairness, to always resort to court action rather than using illegal and arbitrary means as a panacea to their problem. Also, the Ghanaian opposition leaders have shown that by being in the opposition does not necessarily mean unreasonably and selfishly just opposing.
By rule of law, simply means using legal means to get redress in a particular situation, as everyone has the right to seek justice in the court of competent jurisdiction. The use of violence and arbitrariness, as means of finding solutions to whatever is seen as injustice or unfair is wrong, as this path is antithesis to the principle of rule of law.
Many times, in this country we speak of Liberia being “a country of law and not men,” but sometimes our behavior and attitude show the opposite of this so-called country of law. In recent times, some citizens have resorted to lawless action by blocking roads because of land dispute, instead of resorting to court action. This was seen just last week for the second time over the Susan Berry School property in Congo Town, because of family feud. These ugly or lawless acts obstructed the free flow of vehicles and human movement. Unarguably, it caused unnecessary delays for some people and others to miss appointments. This is not what freedom is intended for. Freedom does not mean tramping on the rights of others, as it is said, “Where one’s rights end, another person’s rights begin.” Therefore, let us be careful not to trample on the rights of others, as we try to exercise our rights. We should always make use of the due process or the rule of law as the Ghanaians did over the elections.
As we hail Ghanaians, particularly the opposition for this show of nationalism, patriotism and maturity, we should learn that whatever the situation is, it is prudent to resort to the rule of law, instead of arbitrariness. Frankly, this will always happen when those who find themselves in leadership position, or are opinion leaders act properly in the interest of their countries and not themselves. Gone should be the days when leaders would invariably say, in the “interest of the people,” and conversely engage in activities that threaten the existence of the very people and society.
Incontestably, from what had been exhibited by Ghanaians, they have all rights to always say, ‘We Ghanaians, are the best.” I Rest My Case.