In releasing the Montie three from jail, Mr John Mahama has crossed a RED LINE that has several very serious implications. As a matter of fact, it is an ABOMINATION!
SEPARATION OF POWERS
This idea or philosophy called separation of powers heavily influenced the writing of the Constitution of Ghana, according to which the Legislative, Executive, and Judicial branches of this government are kept distinct in order to prevent abuse of power.
Separation of powers provides a system of shared power known as Checks and Balances. It is a political doctrine that must be fiercely protected. Mr Mahama has managed to tell the whole country and the whole world that he does not abide by this political doctrine.
DIMINISHED THE SUPREME COURT OF GHANA
First, he has thrown out a decision by the Supreme Court of Ghana, the same Supreme Court whose decision put him in the seat as President of Ghana. When the Supreme Court decided in his favour, I did not see him attempt to override that decision? With this action he has critically diminished the image of the Supreme Court of Ghana and has rendered himself a “Supreme President,” who assumes more powers than the other two branches of Government and has no regard for the balance of power that ensures the Rule of Law in this country.
A few cases in point: In November 2014, in the United States of America, President Barack Obama unveiled a plan to spare millions of illegal immigrants from deportation, through an executive order. The plan was challenged by lower courts in the state of Texas and 25 other states. In June the following year, Mr Obama’s decision was overturned by the Supreme Court of America. A divided Supreme Court (4 -4 decision) blocked President Obama’s plan but even with a split Supreme Court decision, Mr Obama simply said: “I will abide by the decision of the Supreme Court!” We are talking here about the President and commander-in-chief of the most powerful army in the world.
As a constitutional lawyer himself and motivated by common sense and basic ethics of the game, he knew that “he had to allow the decision of the Supreme Court to prevail!! The 4-4 decision was a major defeat for one of the president’s major policy initiatives but he said “I will live with the decision of the Supreme Court!” The Supreme Court’s ruling made the president’s executive action on immigration null and void. President Obama played by the rules and accepted the Supreme Court’s decision. Here in Ghana, Mr Mahama uses his Executive powers to overturn the ruling of the Supreme Court. Is Mr Mahama gone ROGUE on the constitution?
It is noteworthy that in this case of the United States, the Supreme Court was split on the issue, with four members agreeing with the president and four others opposed and yet their ruling keeps in place a lower court decision that blocked the immigration order. When the Supreme Court’s decision was released, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said the Supreme Court did the right thing. The court, he said, “Keeps in place what we have maintained from the very start: one person, even a president, cannot unilaterally change the law.” That is the rule of law!” In the case of the Montie three the Supreme Court ruling was UNANIMOUS! But that did not influence the thinking of President Mahama as Supreme President.
The other example worth drawing attention to is the recent referendum in the United Kingdom to leave the European Union (EU), popularly called “BREXIT.” Even though that was not a Supreme Court decision, but the population of the UK at large speaking through a referendum, is as strong as a Supreme Court decision. What lessons did we learn there? A referendum – a vote in which everyone (or nearly everyone) of voting age can take part – was held on Thursday 23rd June, 2016 in the UK, to decide whether the UK should leave or remain in the European Union. Those who wanted to leave won by 52% to 48%. The referendum turnout was 71.8%, with more than 30 million people voting.
When the voting turned out in favour of the block that was advocating to leave the EU the Prime Minister David Cameron decided that he would need to step down as Prime Minister because the way forward was “in conflict” with what he had advocated for during the campaign, leading to his resignation as the Prime Minister of the UK just a few months ago. When the new Prime Minister – Theresa May, the former home secretary took over from David Cameron who dramatically resigned on the day after the referendum, in her very first speech to the British people as newly sworn in Prime Minister, Mrs May made it clear that she will respect the will of the people. She said “Brexit means Brexit.” Oh how I wish that President Mahama and his Council of State could also have declared that “a Supreme Court decision is a Supreme Court decision” instead of rubbishing the decision of the Supreme Court.
CONFLICT OF INTEREST
With this decision, President Mahama has clearly placed his party politics above pragmatic decision making by a sitting President. In this specific case, even if he had to invoke article 72, basic ethics dictates that there was an issue of conflict of interest. These three gentlemen were clearly of his party; it is the understanding that one of them is on the payroll of Mr Mahama’s office; when the case was in court NDC activists paraded in front of the Supreme Court to protest. After they were sentenced, NDC ministers of state filed petitions to the President for their release.
The whole case clearly became that of the NDC party versus the Supreme Court of Ghana. With this decision therefore, Mr Mahama has made a statement that one party in this country – the NDC party – is more powerful than the Supreme Court. It would have been sensible for Mr Mahama to recuse himself completely from all forms of intervention in this specific case simply because of CONFLICT OF INTEREST! Now his decision seems to be clearly a partisan decision and even though a President is of a particular party and a particular tribe, he must in all matters demonstrate to be exercising NEUTRALITY in his decision making.
WHY DRAG THE NAME OF THE COUNCIL OF STATE INTO THE GUTTER?
By creating a semblance that the Council of State was involved in the decision making process (the decision had actually been on the cards from day one); Mr Mahama has reduced the image of the Council of State into a very little PARTISAN gathering of party cronies.
It begs for any rational person to now probe and question the composition of the membership of the Council of State; how independent or neutral a body is it; how many of them were appointed by the president and for those that were voted for, how many of them are RECOGNIZED STAUNCH NDC LOYALISTS? Did the Council of State have any business in meddling in decisions taken by the Supreme Court of Ghana? Was the Council of State set up to overrule decisions made by the Supreme Court of Ghana? Is the Council of State a body that has powers to overturn decisions made by the Judiciary as a whole and particularly the Supreme Court of Ghana? With this decision, the President has also managed to completely drag the image of the Council of State into the gutter.
WHY DRAG THE CHIEFTAINCY INSTITUTION INTO THIS?
Mr Mahama’s decision seemed to be a very carefully “choreographed ACT!” He even managed to get some traditional rulers to sign on the many petitions that were sent to him, to make it seem that some traditional rulers were with him in making this decision. With this single act, he has debunked the idea that TRADTIONAL RULERS SHOULD NOT INDULGE IN PARTISAN POLITICS! Now all chiefs in Ghana can wear party colours around their necks and parade around campaigning for one party or another? Why not? The President has set the pace.
These three gentlemen have been released by the President of the land, overriding the decision of the Supreme Court. WHAT ABOUT THE HUNDREDS OF PRISIONERS THAT WERE THERE IN THE PRISON at the time these “privileged three” went there? Who is seeking to bring compassion into the lives of these men and women? Does the President of this country care about the other people who are languishing in jail as I write? Has he initiated any action to have the Council of State review the case of every single prisoner in this country to ensure that they may be PARDONED as was done for these three? What makes these three gentlemen more important than other Ghanaians? Is it an action purely motivated by partisan interest?
IN YOUR FACE – THE POLITICS OF IMPUNITY
I was told that President Mahama has once indicated that “Ghanaians have short memory; that they will make a lot of noise and three days later they will move on and discuss something else.” And so Mr Mahama can play the political game with IMPUNITY, with no regard for the feelings of majority of Ghanaians because he is convinced that Ghanaians “are toothless bulls?” I even like it better the way my daughter puts it: “he knows that there are no men in Ghana!” Lo and behold, already the spin machine has succeeded in shifting the topic to Bishop Obinim!
WHERE DOES THE JUDICIARY GO FROM HERE?
“Justice for all” is a very important fundamental expression in human rights. In the declaration of Independence in the United States in 1770, President Jefferson made the famous statement that asserted “that all men are created equal” and has the rights “to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Where does this decision leave the credibility of the Judiciary in Ghana? Going forward, why should any judge on the bench send any Ghanaian to jail? Is it fair for anyone to be sentenced to several months or years of incarceration when the President of the land has just decided that “young Ghanaians cannot languish in jail and must not even be sent there in the first place?” Is Mr Mahama now creating different tiers of Ghanaians? Will the courts now have to determine in each single case whether the punishment they mete out will merit the President’s article 72 pardon and therefore have to seek clearance from the Presidency before they pronounce prison sentences?
As all the noises were being made on radio, I was VERY CONFIDENT THAT MR MAHAMA IS A SAVVY ENOUGH POLITICIAN NOT TO CROSS THIS ONE RED LINE. The world was watching; the international community was paying attention to this. This was a test for Mr Mahama’s “political gravitas” but Mr Mahama has indeed crossed this Red Line with impunity and I am simply very DISAPPOINTED IN HIS JUDGEMENT.
In my opinion, Mr Mahama has allowed partisan politics to blind his judgement in a situation of CLEAR CONFLICT OF INTEREST. In the process, he has dragged the image of three institutions in Ghana into the gutter – the Council of State and the chieftaincy institution and the Supreme Court of Ghana.
May we all be reminded that when in a very contentious political election outcome, it eventually befell on the same Supreme Court of Ghana to decide who became President, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of Mr Mahama against Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo. What did Mr Akufo-Addo say? Does anybody remember? He said “I will live with the decision of the Supreme Court.” Would Mr Mahama have conducted himself in a similar mature manner if he were to be in that situation? He has just demonstrated that he would not. Sad indeed!