Ghana: The Supreme Court will not jail Owusu Afriyie: True or False?
By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor
I stick my neck out upfront to say that the Supreme Court will not jail the NPP’s Kwadwo Owusu Afriyie when he appears before it tomorrow to answer for the contemptuous utterances for which he has been summonsed. Hopeson Adorye may have a different fate.
Both Owusu Afriyie and Adorye made utterances that have varying dimensions. While Owusu Afriyie’s utterances verge on “personal attack” mostly, those of Adorye are horrendous, verging on the genocidal. That will be where the line will be drawn to determine the fate of each as against the other.
Jailing Owusu Afriyie will definitely shake the NPP camp and shatter hopes; it will be the bated calm to precede the storm—the loss of their case on Election 2012. How will they take it, especially being wary of doing anything to “annoy” the panel of judges not to see them in a good light at this critical time in the hearing of their petition?
If Owusu Afriyie escapes “harm”, the NPP people will celebrate it as an act of God, considering the intense prayer sessions that they are reportedly going through for Owusu Afriyie’s sake. Will God listen to them or punish them for mocking him?
We note that Owusu Afriyie is a lawyer (although I don’t know which branch of law he specializes in, having come across through his incontinence and misguided public posturing and uncouth behaviour, not to mention unguarded utterances unbecoming of a professional lawyer) and shares a lot with the fellow “Learned Friends” on the 9-member panel. Will the commonalty become a mitigating factor to free him from the noose? Probably.
Or will we say that jailing Owusu Afriyie will speak volumes against the calibre of lawyers and that the judges may want to save the image of the profession by letting him off the hook? Probably.
Just a throw-back. Considering claims by retired Justice Kpegah that a “mafia” network exists in the Judiciary to protect lawyers being threatened with calumny if tried, will we say that Owusu Afriyie will be pardoned to protect the image of the “mafia”? Or will jailing him prove that the law is, indeed, no respecter of persons? We wait to see.
Now, to the main issues surrounding this case, one of its kind to keep in mind for many years for all that it entails.
Trapped under the weight of his own self-guilt, he has already capitulated even before coming face-to-face with the 9-member panel of judges who have accused him of crossing the “red line”. His effusions of self-condemnation and plea for mercy have filled our ears to the brim; and we will see whether it will influence the judges when he appears before them tomorrow.
Kwadwo Owusu Afriyie’s attempt at soaking up the pressure isn’t successful yet. The initial bravado with which he reacted to the news report stating that the Supreme Court had summonsed him to answer for his contemptuous utterances has clearly been replaced by some apprehension. We recollect his subdued response: “I haven’t received any summons from the Court but I will appear in Court tomorrow”.
Then, the matter was quickly hijacked by the NPP machinery and carried over into the spiritual realm. NPP supporters in Kumasi were reported to be organizing a vigil to intercede with prayers so God would step in to save him from impending doom. We also heard that the NPP supporters all over the country were being enjoined to join the vigil for that purpose.
Timidly on the sidelines, the Young Patriots of the NPP sought to create the impression that the Supreme Court should have taken a similar action against others (including President Mahama) whom they identified as culpable of the offence for which Owusu Afriyie is to face the Court. They were reported to have petitioned the Court and submitted a list of those to be dealt with. Wasted effort.
The Court doesn’t act on anybody’s instructions; right? Nor will it be at the beck and call of unrepentant characters manipulating public sentiments to prosecute their ill-fated political agenda. The judges know better how to strike and have so far sent very cold and nerve-wracking shivers down the spine of all the noise-makers, including Johnson Asiedu Nketiah, General Secretary of the NDC who acted swiftly to caution his party’s activists to be guarded in their utterances so as not to offend the Court. To him, the NDC leaders would not defend any activists falling foul of the “contempt of court” fiat.
Such is the power of the Supreme Court in this regard. I am very happy that the Court has begun cracking the whip—which was something that I had called for at the initial stages of the petition hearing when all manner of people were making prejudicial utterances everywhere in the public sphere to misrepresent issues and heighten tension in the country. Indeed, had the Court not acted swiftly, the situation might be more explosive than warranted by the form, nature, and substance of the petition itself.
So, Sammy Awuku cowered before it and was dealt with. Ken Kuranchie and Stephen Atubiga followed, spending some time in prison. Although Kuranchie fought his case with foolhardiness and a vain attempt to capitalize on his fate to court public sympathy, he has become wise after the fact and relented in his gimmicks. What happened to these people sent shockwaves through the system.
But what is yet to happen to Owusu Afriyie and Adorye will add a different complexion to the matter. Why am I saying so? Simple and short. These two seem to have been caught up in a more intricate web of their own misguided utterances verging on the personal and the creepy. Let’s know why, beginning with Owusu Afriyie.
On Oman Fm on June 24, Owusu Afriyie was captured making utterances that not only demeaned Justice Atuguba but that also caricaturized him. The summons quoted The Enquirer Newspaper of Friday July 5, 2013, reporting Owusu Afriyie as having described Justice Atuguba as a “hypocrite” and “a joker who pampers” the Counsel for the third respondent in the case, Mr. Tsatsu Tsikata, but “scolds” the counsel for the petitioners, Mr. Philip Addison.
He is also reported to have said that Justice Atuguba always wore a frown that made him resemble “a voodoo deity”.
The summons further quoted The Enquirer as saying that Sir John had said “Justice Atuguba, by his actions, was up to hypocritical antics that is intended to lead NPP not to get the opportunity to play a tape recording of the Electoral Commissioner, Dr. Kwadwo Afari- Gyan’s voice, declaring that ‘No verification, no vote’, so that the President can win the case.”
So, what the Court is asking Owusu Afriyie to do is simple: to come and “show cause why you should not be committed to prison for contempt of this court, thereby scandalising the court, lowering the authority and credibility of this court in the eyes of the general public, and exciting hatred and ill-will towards 1st and 2nd respondent herein.”
The question is: Why did Owusu Afriyie single out Justice Atuguba for this personal attack? Personal hatred or setting him up for other premeditated actions such as physical attacks after being blamed for the defeat of the NPP at the Court? Not inconceivable. I hazard the claim that isolating Justice Atuguba for this heinous personal attack has been the preferred method chosen by the NPP right from the very moment that the Chief Justice empanelled the 9 judges to hear their petition with Justice Atuguba as the President.
We recollect how the NPP’s legal team protested against his choice (but hid behind empty rhetoric to attempt covering it up) amidst allegations verging on his relationship with President Mahama’s executive Secretary (Dr. Raymond Atuguba), his being of Northern Ghana extraction just like President Mahama (meaning that ethnic ties would influence his role), and the outright hostility toward him concerning allegations that he was frustrating Philip Addison, counsel for the petitioners. Many more allegations were raised, one of which was that a delegation of chiefs from Northern Ghana had visited him to impress on him the urgency of not siding with the anti-Mahama elements to rule against him.
In other words, Justice Atuguba was set up as the bull’s eye for verbal attack. Thus, utterances coming from those controlling the affairs of the NPP and the ordinary party functionaries seemed to have been specially packaged to hurt Justice Atuguba’s personal integrity. He had been set up as the obstacle to overcome on the NPP’s way to winning the petition. Unfortunately, Owusu Afriyie has been reckless in going too far and his restless mouth has pushed him into the trap (“contempt of court”).
Realizing his folly, he could only say that he was “unhappy with the invitation” to appear before the Court. But happy or not, he can’t do otherwise. The Rubicon is waiting for him.
Now, to Adorye. He was quoted by the Daily Post newspaper (July 8, 2013) to have said on an Obuasi-based private radio station (Time FM, on June 26, 2013) that “the NPP will… go on a head cutting spree, cutting off the heads of NDC supporters should the Supreme Court declare President Mahama the winner.”
The summons said the newspaper also quoted Adorye as saying that “the claim by fellow NPP activist, Samuel Awuku, that the Supreme Court judges were biased and are hypocrites was an appropriate comment for which Awuku should not have apologized.”
Adorye later said that his ‘head cutting’ comment—which he claimed has been taken out of context—was actually made before the final touchline warning by Justice Atuguba.
But the Court will determine matters when he appears before it. His charges are straight-forward: to come and “show cause why you should not be committed to prison for contempt of this court, thereby scandalising the court, lowering the authority and credibility of this court in the eyes of the general public, and exciting hatred and ill-will towards 1st and 3rd respondent herein.”
The stage is set for us to know how the Court will kill three birds with one stone on Wednesday—seeking clarification from counsel for the petitioners and respondents, respectively, then moving on to put the fear of God in Owusu Afriyie and Adorye.
This decision to take on Owusu Afriyie and Adorye has strengthened the Court’s hands and reinforced my respect for the judges. They have proved to the cynics that they can clamp down on indecency in public discourse, especially by invoking the all-powerful “sub judice” clause—not to gag anybody as is being imputed to it by sympathizers of the NPP but to ensure that no one does its job for it in the court of public opinion. And that no one poisons the public sphere with damaging and prejudicial opinions on the petition being heard and those hearing it.
The judges have proved that the actual venue for the case is the dark chambers of the judiciary, where they are empowered to preside over proceedings according to what the Constitution mandates the Judiciary to do in matters of this sort. That is why summonsing Owusu Afriyie and Adorye is a foregone conclusion, especially after the Court had dropped the hint that it was studying the tapes capturing the contemptuous pronouncements made by them. I am not surprised that the matter has reached a head.
What will surprise me is what the Court will do to both. Although some voices have been heard pleading that the Court pardon Owusu Afriyie (little is said for Adorye, though), what happens when he appears before the Court will determine the line of action. Will he adopt Kuranchie’s unrepentant and rambunctious posture, standing his ground? Or will he crumble at the mere poke of a finger? I can’t wait to see how he will fare tomorrow. This is where unrestrained petulance has brought him. Erring on the side of political immaturity and mindlessness, he shouldn’t look anywhere for excuses or to blame anybody for his sad fate.
The fault, Kwadwo Owusu Afriyie, is within you!!
I shall return…
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